Macrobius' miniature world map
"Macrobii Ambrosii, Aurelii Theodosii, Viri Consularis Et Illustris", Macrobius, Ambrosius Aurelius Theodo
Subject: Ancient World
Period: 1560 (dated)
Publication: In Somnium Scipionis
Color: Black & White
3.4 x 5 inches
8.6 x 12.7 cm
This work, written by Ambrosius Macrobius, is a commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio. It includes a rare woodcut map of the world illustrating Cicero's interesting theories. This diagrammatic map shows two distinct regions of the earth. The inhabited Afro-Eurasian continent was balanced by an unknown, and relatively equal, landmass (Temperata Antipodunobis Incognita) on the other side of an impassable torrid zone (Perusta) and a great boiling sea (Alveus Oceani). It was this notion of antipodean balance and landmass equivalence that continued to attract Renaissance minds to the otherwise outmoded geographical ideas of Macrobius. Distinguished cartographers like Mercator and Ortelius would later incorporate Macrobius' model into an immense southern continent (Australis Incongita) to balance the known lands of the world, and the division of the world into climactic zones is still in use today.
Macrobius was a 5th century Roman neoplatonic philosopher. His commentary on Cicero’s Somnium Sciponis was of great influence in the Middle Ages and gained popularity with the advent of printing. First published in Brescia in 1483, numerous editions appeared throughout the 16th century. His commentary includes several chapters dealing with his own conception of the world and the universe. It also contains references to many facets of the scientific knowledge of his time, including references to physics, astronomy, and mathematics. This edition was published by Sebastian Gryphius, the notable 'Prince of the Lyon book trade'. His famous griffin devise is engraved on the title page. Title page, 745 pp. (map at p. 191), and extensive index. The volume is bound in presentation leather with extensive hand tooling and gilt, four raised banks on spine. Fore edges with gilt (T.E.G.) and fully engraved in a circular pattern. Book plate of Edward Arthur Lee, dated 1901, on front endpaper. Second, 18th century book plate after title page (Bibliotheca Bartholdi Nicolai Krohn).
References: Shirley #13.
Map and text lightly toned. The beautiful binding has been expertly rebacked, circa 1900 based on the dated book plate. Some ink notations on first end paper. Title page with ink and small area of loss away from text. The contents and binding are tight with all pages sound with light even toning. As is usually the case, there are a few pages with old ink underlining and the occasional comment in the margin.