After CLAUDIUS PTOLEMAEUS, Duodecima Asiae Tabula, 1486.

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Duodecima Asiae Tabula
Ulm: Johann Reger, 1486
Woodcut with original hand color
Paper size: 16" x 22 1/4"


Single sheet (16 x 22 4/8 inches, image size 11 x 10 2/8 inches). Fine woodcut map of the island of Taprobana, or Ceylon, surrounded by 19 imaginary islands, and erroneously located to the southwest of India, on one side of the sheet, the other being letterpress descriptions of the climate zones, with EXCEPTIONALLY FINE ORIGINAL HAND-COLOUR in full (central vertical fold, but not crossing the map). This beautiful woodcut map of Taprobana, was the final map in the second edition of Ptolemy s "Cosmographia", published in Ulm in 1486. The island was often overlarge because of its importance to the spice trade between Europe and Southeast Asia, and because of Marco Polo's false claim that the island had a circumference of 2400 miles. There are two mountain ranges that appear on the island, one running vertically in the north with two rivers flowing out of it, and another, perhaps the Knuckles Range, near the center of the island with three rivers emerging from it. Cities and settlements are located as well. The second Ulm edition of Ptolemy's "Cosmographia", was reprinted from Holle's first Ulm edition of 1482. In this edition Reger made certain additions: his Registrum alphabeticum, and an anonymous "De locis et mirabilibus mundi". They must have been popular as they were also inserted in the Rome editions of 1490 and 1507 and 1508. The text of Claudius Ptolemy's "Cosmographia" was translated into Latin from the original Greek by Jacobus Angelus and was first published, in Renaissance times, at Vicenza (1475), Bologna (1477) and Rome (1478). The sumptuous editions published at Ulm in 1482 and 1486, as here, however, far surpassed all earlier efforts and remain two of the most important publications in the history of cartography. They were the first redaction of the 'Geography' to be printed outside of Italy, the earliest atlas printed in Germany, the first to depart from the classical prototype to reflect post-antique discoveries, the first to be illustrated with woodcuts rather than engravings, and the first to contain hand-colored maps, the design and execution of which were ascribed to a named cartographer, and the first to incorporate the five modern maps by Nicolaus Germanus. The Ulm editions, moreover, were the first to depart from the classical prototype by expanding the atlas to reflect post-antique discoveries about the size and shape of the earth. To the canonical twenty-seven Ptolemaic maps were added five "modern maps" of Spain, France, Italy, the Holy Land and northern Europe. The world map is of particular interest as it is the first to be signed, by Johannes Schnitzer of Armsheim, who in trade mark fashion has reversed every capital N, and inadvertently provided two Tropics of Cancer. This map is the first to be based on Ptolemy's second projection, in which both parallels and meridians are shown curved to convey the sphericity of the earth. Schnitzer, furthermore, updated the Ptolemaic world picture by incorporating improvements that were probably based on a manuscript of the 1470s by Nicolaus Germanus (ca 1420-1490), a Benedictine monk of Reichenbach Abbey in Bavaria, who is depicted in the first illuminated letter of the atlas presenting his book to the dedicatee Pope Paul II. Claudius Ptolemy was an Alexandrine Greek, and a dominant figure in both astronomy and geography for more than 1500 years. "He compiled a mapmaker's manual usually referred to simply as the 'Geography'. He demonstrated how the globe could be projected on a plane surface, provided coordinates for over 8,000 places across his the Roman world, and expressed them in degrees of longitude and latitude. No maps drawn by Ptolemy himself are known to survive, but maps compiled from his instructions as outlined in his 'Geography' were circulated from about 1300.