MUNSTER, Sebastian (1488-1552) and HOLBEIN, Hans, the Younger (1497-1543). Typus Cosmographicus Universalis. Basel: Johannes Hervagius, 1532
2 sheets joined (16 x 22 4/8 inches, full margins). Fine woodcut world map on an oval projection, the cartography ascribed to prominent cartographer Sebastian Münster and the engraving to the celebrated German artist Hans Holbein the Younger, notably with an ANGEL AT EACH POLE WITH A CRANK TO TURN THE WORLD ON ITS AXIS, with sea monsters adorning the waves of the oceans, exotic animals and landscape views with curious classical architectural structures around the margins, along with less benign scenes depicting acts of cannibalism and animal sacrifice.
First edition, published in Johann Huttich (ca 1480-1544) and Simon Grynaeus's (1493-1541) "Novus orbis regionum ac insularum veteribus incognitarum", 1532; the issue with "ASIA" in small letters and "Tropicus Capricorni" printed below the tropical line.
This early modern map of the world was the result of a unique collaboration between a celebrated cartographer and a world-renowned artist. Sebastian Munster was a German cartographer who enlisted Hans Holbein--one of the foremost artists of the Northern Renaissance--to add ornamentation to this stunning map of the world. Holbein's striking decorative additions include elaborate, flawlessly rendered animals and foliage, while vivid vignettes surround the oval outline of the map. Within the borders of the map, enormous sea monsters, mermaids, and sailing ships embellish the oceans. The imagination and superb draftsmanship visible in Holbein's decoration are arguably unequaled in 16th-century maps. These nightmarish fantasies of terrible creatures and terrifying customs in distant places surely reflect the flights of imagination that contemporary geographical discoveries inspired among western Europeans, and one might go so far as to say that Holbein inflected his rendering with a distinctly medieval sensibility.
However, with an ANGEL AT EACH POLE WITH A CRANK TO TURN THE WORLD ON ITS AXIS, which at the time of the first edition was a visual representation of the thoroughly modern controversial Copernican theory, predating by 11 years publication of his "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium". Munster was the first cartographer to incorporate into his maps the revolutionary theories of Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who theorized that the earth orbited the sun (and not vice versa), and also rotated once daily on its axis. Copernicus was a contemporary of Munster and Holbein, and his ideas were considered highly radical and, by many, almost blasphemous. Until Copernicus, the 2nd-century theories of Ptolemy were held as law. As the first to embrace the ideas of Copernicus and to put them into practice, Munster and Holbein ushered in a new era in mapmaking. Illustrating one of the most successful marriages of art and science in cartography, this world map is exceedingly rare and represents an excellent opportunity for collectors. Lloyd Arnold Brown, The World Encompassed, exh. cat. (Baltimore, 1952), n. 65; Rodney W. Shirley, The Mapping of the World (London, 1983), n. 67.