Skip to product information
1 of 1

JOHANNES RUYSCH (ca 1460-1533). Universalior Cogniti Orbis... 1508

JOHANNES RUYSCH (ca 1460-1533). Universalior Cogniti Orbis... 1508

Regular price $ 325,000.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $ 325,000.00 USD
Sale Sold out

Johannes RUYSCH (1460-1533)

Universalior cogniti orbis tabula ex recentibus confecta observationibus
Rome: Bernardinus Venetus de Vitalibus, 1508
First edition, Shirley state 5/McGuirk 3-C (Shirley 25)
Two sheets joined (sheet: 17 7/16” x 22 3⁄4”, framed: 35 9/16” x 30” )

Engraved conical-projection map. Float-matted with a window verso, demonstrating water-marks (crossed arrows).

Until the late 15th Century European cartography was built on the framework of Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus), a second-century philosopher living in Roman Alexandria in Egypt. Ptolemy wrote in Greek, which was the administrative language of the Roman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the Greek tradition 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. In this respect, he was the precursor of a long line of 16th Century mapmakers.

No manuscripts of Ptolemy’s work “Geographical Guidance” survive from before the Thirteenth Century, but some examples survive with maps that likely resemble 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.

Ptolemy was still Europe’s cartographic authority at the dawn of the era of European exploration to the East. For example, Columbus assumed he had found the East Indies because of Ptolemy’s calculations and assertions about longitude. The existence of the Americas required modification and ultimately a reordering of Ptolemy’s disposition of the globe.

The first printed map of the world including the new discoveries was one drawn by Giovanni Contarini and engraved by Francisco Rosselli, published in Florence or Venice in 1506. This fan shaped map depicted Greenland and Newfoundland as extensions of Ptolemeic Asia, and stated that they were discovered by the Portuguese. The West Indies were shown, with a legend describing their discovery by the Spanish. Only one example of this map exists today, in the British Library. A second map, also existing in only a single copy, was a very large wall map published in Strasbourg in 1507 by Martin Waldseemuller. Uniquely for its era, Waldseemuller posited the existence of North and South America as separate from Asia. This was also the first map to use the name “America.”

It was against this background that Johannes Ruysch (Johan(n) Ruijsch, ca. 1460-1533) published his Universalior cogniti orbis tabula ex recentibus confecta observationibus [A more universal illustration of the known world made out of new observations]. Ruysch was a cosmopolitan figure. Flemish or German or Netherlandish by birth, he lived in Cologne, Rome, England and importantly, in Portugal. From England, it is claimed, he himself sailed west as far as the American coast; thus he is the first mapmaker to have traveled to America.

Like Contarini’s, Ruysch’s map is in a coniform (cone or fan-shaped) projection. The New World is connected with Asia: Newfoundland adjoins Tibet, and Japan (Zipangu) is identified with Spagnola (modern Haiti and the Dominican Republic). In other ways, however, his map is cutting-edge in its modelling of Asia --here the triangular form of India appears for the first time -- and the Caribbean. Much of what is new and enhanced over previous maps was derived from his access to Portuguese sources.

The map’s date is sometimes given as 1507, and indeed it does appear in some examples of the 1507 Rome edition of Ptolemy (colophon 8 September 1507) although there is no reference to the map in the text. The vast majority of copies, however, appear in 1508 editions, which have the addition of a commentary of Marcus of Benevento (Marcus Beneventanus) based on the findings depicted in this map. The tacit suggestion of most bibliographies is that the map was not completed until very late 1507 or early 1508, and its inclusion in 1507 editions is the work of owners rather than the publisher. Although the Contarini/Rosselli and the Waldseemüller maps are earlier, each survives in a single example. The Ruysch map is thus the earliest obtainable depiction of the New World.

A census by Donald McGuirk in 1989 counted 64 extant examples, of which 14 were in private collections (plus one on the market in 1986). The present example was purchased from a private collector in 2008. Rarely seen in the market, the map is a landmark in the cartography of the world.

References: Shirley 25. McGuirk, Donald L. “Ruysch World Map: Census and Commentary.” Imago Mundi 41 (1989) 133-141. Peerlings, R.H.J., F. Laurentius and J. van den Bovenkamp. “The Watermarks in the Rome Editions of Ptolemy’s Cosmography and More.” Quaerendo 47 (2017) 307-327. Burden 3 (p. xxiii); Harrisse 56; Sabin 66476 (Ptolemy).

View full details