Ptolemy, ed. & M. Waldseemüller,... Claudii Ptolemei viri Alexandrini Mathematic... 1513. First edition.

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Ptolemy, ed. and illust. Martin Waldseemüller, trans. Matthias Ringmann. Claudii Ptolemei viri Alexandrini Mathematicę disciplinę Philosophio doctissimi Geographię opus nouissima traductione e Gręcorum archetypis castigatissime pressum: cęteris ante lucubratorum multo pręstantius. Strassbourg: Johann Schott, 1513. First edition.
Folio (17 ½” x 12 ½”, 444mm x 317mm).

With 47 woodcut maps by Martin Waldseemüller, 45 double-page, 2 single (the final map printed in three colors).

Bound in contemporary paneled dark calf (rebacked) over wooden boards with red silk ties. On the boards, two broad borders of emblems blind. In the central panel, fleurons with two sets of initials: “T. C.” and “T. A.” On the spine, seven raised bands with blind fleurons in the panels. Presented in a felt-lined clam-shell box by Brockman.

Rebacked. Conserved by James and Stuart Brockman (full report available on request). Ties perished. Lacking the final blank. Small dampstain to the lower fore-corner, with some additions and repairs. Ownership signature on the title-page: “Su[m] Jo(hannis) Bourne”. With scattered early (Bourne’s?) ink marginalia to the text and to the plates. Bookplate of Thomas Winthrop Streeter (his sale, Parke-Bernet 25 Octover 1966, lot 6) to the front-paste down, between a lot description of the volume and the armorial bookplate of York Minster. Gilt bookplate of Lord Wardington (his sale, Sotheby’s London 10 October 2006, lot 399) to the rear paste-down.

Claudius Ptolemaeus was a second-century philosopher living in Roman Alexandria in Egypt. In the Greek tradition (Ptolemy wrote in Greek, which was the administrative language of the Roman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean), philosophy — the love of wisdom — bridged what we now divide into the humanities and the sciences; he was a mathematician, natural scientist and geographer-astronomer. No manuscripts of the Γεωγραφικὴ Ὑφήγησις (Geographical Guidance) survive from before the XIIIc, but some XIIIc examples survive with maps that bear some relation to those Ptolemy himself drew. Thus, with the exception of some excavated carved maps, Ptolemy is the source for ancient cartography as well as its culmination.
Florence was the port of entry for the Greek text in Europe (ca. 1400), and almost immediately it was translated into Latin, which was much more widely understood. Various translations circulated, but Ringmann’s is generally regarded as superior to his predecessors’. In the XVc, the Geographia was the core of ancient knowledge of the world, extending from the Canary Islands in the West to China in the East (though not quite to the Pacific), Scandinavia in the North and beyond the Horn of Africa to the South. It was crucial to explorers; Columbus expected to find the East Indies because of Ptolemy’s calculations and assertions about longitude.
As the world expanded beyond its ancient bounds, discoveries were integrated into the Ptolemaic maps, distinct with their trapezoidal frames. With funding from René II, Duke of Lorraine (which explains the polychromy of the map of Lorraine), Walter Lud, canon in St-Dié-des-Vosges, gathered a group of humanists to knit together the new knowledge coming from Christopher Columbus and other early explorers with a new translation (Ringmann) and new maps (Waldseemüller). Together they revolutionized cartography, and were responsible for the coinage of “America” as the name of the New World.
The provenance of the present copy befits the importance of the work. (The pairs of initials to the binding yield no insight, much as they might intrigue.) Sir John Bourne (ca. 1518–1575) was, until the accession of Queen Mary (1553), a rather minor parliamentary figure. Probably due to his support of Mary’s claim in the succession crisis, he was knighted, given a manor (Edmonton in Middlesex; he would go on to buy several more) and elevated to a principal secretaryship on the Privy Council. Having grown quite rich — he was a founder of the Russia (or Muscovy) Company, perhaps the source of his geographic curiosity — Bourne was a significant book-collector (he had time after the death of the Queen, whereupon he retired to his country estates), and more than a dozen of his volumes (in Greek, Latin and Hebrew) are to be found in institutional libraries.
Eight of Bourne’s books remain in the collection of York Minster, most having been acquired by Toby Matthew, Archbishop of York. Doubtless our volume entered the library of the cathedral in the same way. Long afterwards, the book was bought privately by that greatest of all booksellers, A.S.W. Rosenbach, who sold it to Thomas W. Streeter, whose sale of Americana — doubtless it was the treatment of America (Terre Nove) for which he acquired the book — was epochal. Charles W. Traylen — himself a force among booksellers for some eight decades — bought the volume at that sale on behalf of Christopher Henry Beaumont Pease, Lord Wardington, in whose collection it remained until his death. His landmark sale of important atlases and geographies in 2006 included some 20 copies of Ptolemy’s Geography.
Fairfax Murray German 348 and 348A; Harrisse 74; Phillips 359; Sabin 66478; Shirley 34; Streeter I:6.
For the life of Bourne see L.M. Hill, “The Marian ‘Experience of Defeat”: The Case of Sir John Bourne” in The Sixteenth Century Journal 25.3 (Autumn, 1994) 531-549.
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