Claude Ptolemy (AD150)
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.
Claude Ptolemy (1)
- Title : Nona Asiae Tabula
- Ref #: 92609
- Size: 22 1/4in x 16 1/2in (565mm x 420mm)
- Date : 1478
- Condition: (A+) Fine Condition
The first printed book, with maps, was published in Bologna, Italy in 1477. The maps were engraved by Taddeo Crivelli (active 1451 - 1479) after the text of the famous 1st century Alexandrian cartographer Claude Ptolemy. Only 26 editions of this atlas were printed with all remaining editions, today, in institutional hands.
In the following year 1478, the second atlas was printed, again after Ptolemy, in Rome by Konrad Sweynheym & completed by Arnold Buckink. These maps are considered far superior in detail and quality to the 1477 1st edition and are the earliest maps available to the modern day collector.
This map of what is today Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of India, the 9th in the Asian series of Ptolems 27 maps, was published by Arnold Buckinck in Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini philosophi Geographiam Romae after the death of his predecessor Conrad Sweynheym.
Considering this is one of the earliest books ever published the typeface and characteristics of these maps and text are extraordinary. Of the engraved editions of Ptolemys Geographia the maps in the Rome edition are some of the finest and only beaten a 100 years later by Gerard Mercator in his 1578 edition of Geographia.
This large map is in fine condition, on strong sturdy and stable paper the printing is heavy and clear. The colour is original, clear and bright. There is some light discolouration to the paper, along with some light soiling two thirds down the center of the map with some show-through on the verso. Overall in fantastic condition and a unique addition to any collection.
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy and stable
Paper color : - off white
Age of map color: - Original
Colors used: - Yellow, green, blue, pink
General color appearance: - Authentic
Paper size: - 22 1/4in x 16 1/2in (565mm x 420mm)
Plate size: - 22 1/4in x 16 1/2in (565mm x 420mm)
Margins: - Min 1/2in (12mm)
Margins: - Light soiling, age toning, old neutralised tape mark bottom right
Plate area: - Neutralised tape mark bottom right
Verso: - Soiling, age toning, old neutralised tape mark
The first published edition of Ptolemys Geographia with maps, engraved by Taddeo Crivelli, in Bologna, 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 publishers, this atlas was not a commercial success, and today only twenty-six examples of the atlas are recorded.
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 Ptolemys Cosmographia the maps in the Rome edition are the finest fifteenth century examples, and second only to Mercators 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.
Ptolemy, Claudius 90 A.D.-168 A.D.
Claude Ptolemy 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 Ptolemys 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 Ptolemys 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 Ptolemys disregard for Eratosthenes extremely accurate estimate of the earths 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 earths surface not drawn on the map. Columbus and his contemporaries based their exploratory ventures on Ptolemys 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.
Ptolemys Geographia The first published edition of Ptolemys 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 Cosmographia the maps in the Rome edition are the finest fifteenth century examples, and second only to Mercators 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.
Konrad Sweynheim & Arnold Pannartz were two printers of the 15th century.
Pannartz died about 1476, Sweynheym in 1477. Pannartz was, perhaps, a native of Prague, and Sweynheym of Eltville near Mainz. Gottfried Zedler believed (Gutenberg-Forschungen, 1901) that Sweynheym worked at Eltville with Gutenberg in 1461-1464. Whether Pannartz had been connected with Sweynheym in Germany is not known. It is certain that the two brought Gutenbergs invention to Italy.
The Benedictine abbey of Subiaco was the cradle of Italian printing. Probably Cardinal Giovanni of Turrecremata, who was Abbot in commendam of Subiaco, summoned the two printers there. They came in 1464. The first book that they printed at Subiaco was a Donatus; it has not, however, been preserved. The first book printed in Italy that is extant was a Cicero, De oratore (now in the Buchgewerbehaus at Leipzig), issued in September, 1465. It was followed by Lactantius, De divinis institutionibus, in October, 1465, and Augustines De civitate Dei (1467). These four impressions from Subiaco are of particular importance, because they abandon the Blackletter of the early German books. In Italy, Roman characters were demanded. Pannartz and Sweynheym, however, did not produce a pure but only a half Roman type with Blackletter-like characteristics.
In 1467, the two printers left Subiaco and settled at Rome, where the brothers Pietro and Francesco Massimo placed a house at their disposal. The same year, they published an edition of Ciceros letters that gave its name to the cicero, the Continental equivalent of the pica. Their proof and manuscript reader was Giovan de Bussi, since 1469 Bishop of Aleria in Corsica.
The works they printed are given in two lists of their publications, issued in 1470 and 1472. Up to 1472, they had published twenty-eight theological and classical volumes, namely, the Bible, Lactantius, Cyprian, Augustine, Jerome, Leo the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Cicero, Apuleius, Gellius, Virgil, Livy, Strabo, Pliny, Quintilian, Suetonius, Ovid, etc., in editions varying from 275 to 300 copies each, in all 12,475 volumes. But the printers shared the fate of their master, Gutenberg; they could not sell their books, and fell into want.
In 1472, they applied to Pope Sixtus IV for Church benefices. From this we know that both were ecclesiastics: Pannartz of Cologne and Sweynheym of Mainz. The pope had a reversion drawn up for them, a proof of his great interest in printing. In 1474, Sweynheym was made a canon at St. Victor at Mainz. It is not known whether Pannartz also obtained benefice. Perhaps the pope also aided them; at any rate, they printed eighteen more works in 1472 and 1473. After this they separated. Pannartz printed by himself thirteen further volumes. Sweynheym took up engraving on metal and executed the fine maps for the Cosmography of Ptolemy, the first work of this kind, but died before he had finished his task.
Please note all items auctioned are genuine, we do not sell reproductions. A Certificate of Authenticity (COA) can be issued on request.