1552 Africae Tabula IIII

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By: Sebastian Munster 

Date: 1552 (Published) Basel

Dimensions: 10  x 13.4 inches (25.4 cm x 34 cm) 

This marvelous woodcut map of western North Africa is from Munster’s 1552 Latin edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia.  The map is presented in a trapezoidal border, and the verso features descriptive text in Latin with an elaborate border of decorative details and scenes of fierce battles being waged. The woodcut border surrounding the text on the verso is the work of Hans Holbein.

The map features primarily topographical features of northern Africa in its entirety, starting from the Pacific Ocean and extending to the east as far as Arabia and the Persian Gulf. It also extends northward well into Europe including Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor and the Black Sea.  The Alps are depicted in their place, as are the Pyrenees between Spain and France.

In Africa, the source of the Nile is shown as three lakes whose drainage systems are related to a mountain range labeled ‘Montes Lunae’, or Mountains of the Moon. Ptolemy took the reports to be accurate and thus they are depicted in countless maps over the course of several centuries.  Many exploratory expeditions have been made since the mountains were first described by ancient Greeks. The true location and identity of these fabled mountains is still in question. Three insets on the map provide additional information. 

Ptolemy (c. AD 100-170) was a Greek native of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, and a Roman citizen who is credited with the authorship of numerous works of mathematics, engineering, astronomy, astrology, philosophy, and geography. His most famous works provided the basis of Byzantine, Arabic, and European science for the next thousand years. His Geography in particular was of import and was reprinted numerous times in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with Christopher Columbus becoming its most famous devotee for using a manuscript of the Geography to plot his course to Asia, the journey which resulted in the discovery of America. The work was also a major inspiration and cartographic resource for Munster, Mercator, and Ortelius.

Sebastian Münster (20th January 1488 - 26th May 1552) was a German cartographer, cosmographer, and theologian. A gifted scholar of Hebraic he was appointed to the University of Basel in 1529, and published a number of works in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. His most celebrated works are his Latin edition of Ptolemy's Geographia in 1540, and the Cosmographia in 1544. The Cosmographia was the earliest German description of the world, an ambitious work of 6 volumes published in numerous editions in German, Latin, French, Italian, and Czech.

Condition: This hand colored map is in B condition with toning at the centerfold. Worm damage and minor separation at the centerfold have been repaired with archival material on the verso.

Inventory No.  10836

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