Claude Ptolemy (150AD)
The earliest printed atlases were editions of the geographical text of Claudius Ptolemy (or Ptolemaeus), a Greek astronomer and geographer working in Alexandria, circa 150 A.D. Such was the importance of Ptolemy’s work, and the wide influence it held over future geographers, that many of his errors were perpetuated by subsequent mapmakers. The most important of them was a miscalculation of the circumference of the earth. Ptolemy, himself, under-exaggerated the circumference if the earth, by calculating each degree of longitude as 500 stadia, instead of a more accurate 700 stadia. He then exaggerated the length of the Mediterranean by about 30%, and also that of Asia, thus greatly reducing the distance between the western tip of Spain, and the east coast of Asia. This had important consequences, for all future explorers including Columbus who was know to own the 1478 edition of Ptolemy Geographia.
Re-discovery of the Ptolemy Texts:
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Ptolemy’s text was lost to western geographers. The earliest extant manuscript version of the ‘Geographia’ is Arabic, and probably dates from the 12th Century. Subsequently, the text was translated into Greek, and circulated through the Greek World. In about 1400 a Greek manuscript came into the hands of the Byzantine scholar, Emanuel Chrysolaras, who was working in Italy. Chrysolaras undertook a translation of the text into Latin, and completed by his pupil Jacopo d'Angelo, in 1406. The Greek manuscript that Angelo translated was apparently lacking maps, but the data in the text contained the information to construct a set of maps, and numbers of scholars set about such work. Of them, the most influential, was Donnus Nicolaus Germanus, a German cartographer, active in Italy from the 1460’s to 1480’s. He was a prolific editor of the text and maps, and his work formed the basis for three of the four sets of Ptolemaic maps printed in the fifteenth Century, with the fourth, accompanying Berlinghieri’s ‘Geographia’, “strongly influenced” by him .
The first printed versions of Ptolemy’s Text:
The first published edition of the ‘Geographia’ with maps, which were probably engraved by Taddeo Crivelli, was issued in Bologna in 1477. Conrad Sweynheym was also working on an edition of Ptolemy in Rome in the same period. After his death, Arnold Buckinck, saw the atlas through the press, in 1478. Of the engraved editions of Ptolemy’s ‘Cosmographia’ the maps in the Rome edition are the finest fifteenth century examples, and second only to Mercator’s maps, from his 1578 edition. The atlas proved popular, and three successive editions (to 1508) followed. In 1482, Nicolas Laurentii published a set of Ptolemaic maps to illustrate Francesco Berlinghieri ‘Geographia’. The first edition of Ptolemy’s ‘Geographia’ printed outside Italy was published by Lienhart Holle, in Ulm, also in 1482. Holle’s maps were printed from woodcuts, and are characterised by heavy wash colouring for the sea areas, typically a rich blue for the 1482 edition, and an ochre for the 1486 edition. These bright colours, and the greater sense of age that woodcuts convey, make this series the most visually appealing of these various sets of maps.
Later Editions of Ptolemy:
Next in chronological sequence, and the most unusual of the editions of Ptolemy, was that published by Jacobus Pentius de Leucho in Venice in 1511, edited by Bernardus Sylvanus. Martin Waldseemuller’s edition of Ptolemy, first published in 1513, is the most important of the sixteenth century editions. Waldseemuller’s edition was reprinted in 1520, and then the maps were re-drawn by Lorenz Fries on a smaller format, for editions published in 1522, 1525, 1535 and 1541. The next to produce an edition of Ptolemy was Sebastian Munster, who worked in Basle. Munster was one of the leading geographers and cartographers of his period, and he diligently set about revising and improving the maps. Giacomo Gastaldi, one of the leading cartographers of the sixteenth century, composed a set of maps for an edition of the ‘Geographia’, published in Venice in 1548. Of all the editions of Ptolemy, that prepared by Gerard Mercator, and published in 1578, is technically the finest, with the World map being a particularly fine engraving. This atlas is, also, noteworthy for its longevity, the original printing plates were still in use in 1730, over one hundred and fifty years after they were first engraved. (Ref: Shirley 5; Stevenson; Tooley; M&B; MapForum)
Claude Ptolemy (1)
- Title : Germaniae Magnae Tabula ex mente Ptolemei
- Ref #: 50525
- Size: 19in x 12in (485mm x 305mm)
- Date : 1650
- Condition: (A+) Fine Condition
This is a unique and rare opportunity to acquire a hand drawn hand coloured manuscript Ptolemaic map of Germany.
The map was drawn from Ptolemy's map of Germany and is drawn on heavy cable laid paper with a Bunch of Grapes watermark, which denotes paper made in France in 1616. This does not necessarily mean the map was drawn in 1616 as paper was held for years sometimes before being used. But I would surmise from the colours, faded ink and age of the paper that the drawing was done sometime by the mid 17th century.
The map was once part of an atlas containing a range of 17th & 18th century maps with the margins being extended top and bottom to fit into the atlas.
Background of Ptolemy's Geographia: The first published edition of Ptolemy's ‘Geographia’ with maps, engraved by Taddeo Crivelli, was issued in Bologna in 1477. Unusually, this edition contained 26 maps, with one of the Asia maps divided up among three neighbouring sheets. With the exception of Palestine, these are the first regional maps of any of these various countries.
Unfortunately for the undertakers, this atlas seems not to have been a commercial success, and today only twenty-six examples of the atlas are recorded, with all but one in institutional libraries.
One explanation of the failure is that the publishers do not seem to have been fully mastered the intricacies and problems of engraving, and printing from, copper-plates, an art, which, after all, was very new and experimental. These problems were more successfully addressed by a German printer, Conrad Sweynheym, who was working on an edition of Ptolemy in Rome in the same period. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the volume appear, but his successor, Arnold Buckinck, saw the atlas through the press, in 1478.
The Rome Ptolemy contained 27 maps, with the same geographical coverage as the 1477 Ptolemy. Of the engraved editions of Ptolemy’s ‘Cosmographia’ the maps in the Rome edition are the finest fifteenth century examples, and second only to Mercator’s maps, from his 1578 edition. One explanation for this was the use of individual punches to stamp letters onto the printing plates, rather than engraving them. This allowed much greater uniformity than lettering-engravers were able to achieve, and gives a very pleasing overall effect. The atlas proved popular, and three successive editions (to 1508) followed, although only about forty examples of the first edition are recorded today.
Claudius Ptolemy(90 A.D.-168 A.D.) was a celebrated astronomer, mathematician, and geographer who lived in Alexandria in the 2nd century AD. Although his thinking influenced contemporary Arab geographers, little was known of his work in the West until manuscripts from Constantinople reached Italy in about 1400. These manuscripts were written in Greek and contained the names of every city, island, mountain and river known to the many travellers interviewed by Ptolemy. In addition, the latitude and longitude of each of the resulting eight thousand locations were also recorded. They were translated into Latin by 1401 and appeared in print by 1475. The earliest Byzantine manuscript maps, drawn by analysing the Ptolemy figures, date from the twelfth century. A number of hand-drawn copies were made in Italy throughout the early fifteenth century to accompany Ptolemy's text.
Ptolemy stressed the importance of accurate observations in order to calculate latitude and longitude, and laid down the principals of systematic cartography that remain to this day. Obviously there are many errors in Ptolemy's maps, due to the limited extent of basic geographic information at that time and the lack of a method of determining accurate longitudes. Judged by modern standards, the basic shortcoming of the Ptolemy world map is the small area it portrays. The Mediterranean is fairly well depicted, but is greatly exaggerated in length (Longitudinally). The effect of this, combined with Ptolemy's disregard for Eratosthenes' extremely accurate estimate of the earth's circumference (c. 200 B.C.) and the use of a Posidonius' much smaller flawed estimate (c.50 B.C.) implied a much shorter distance across that part of the unknown earth's surface not drawn on the map. Columbus and his contemporaries based their exploratory ventures on Ptolemy's calculations and, like him, had no idea of the vast New World to the west, interposed between Europe and Asia.
Work on the first “printed” atlas from the text of Ptolemy was started in 1473 and finally published in 1478. A crude copy of this atlas was produced and published by some dissident workers in 1477 in order to be ‘first’.However, the plates for the 1478 were done prior to the pirated issue and thus the 1478 atlas holds the title of the first Atlas of the world. There are very few surviving examples of this atlas and individual maps. (Ref: Stevenson; Tooley; M&B)
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy and stable
Paper color: - off white
Age of map color: - Original
Colors used: - Yellow, green, red.
General color appearance: - Authentic
Paper size: - 19in x 12in (485mm x 305mm)
Map size: - 13in x 11 1/2in (330mm x 295mm)
Margins: - Min 1/4in (6mm)
Margins: - Top and bottom margin extended outside of image
Plate area: - None
Verso: - Light soiling