Catalog Archive
Auction 145, Lot 835

Apianus' Popular Book on Cosmography

"Cosmographia [with] Charta Cosmographica, cum Ventorum Propria Natura et Operatione", Apianus, Peter Bienewitz

Subject: Atlases

Period: 1564 (dated)


Color: Black & White

10.8 x 7.8 inches
27.4 x 19.8 cm
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Included in this complete Latin edition of Apianus' popular Cosmographia is a very interesting world map based on the now lost world map of Gemma Frisius, which is significant in the history of the mapping of America. The continents are broadly based on Mercator's globe gores of 1541, but North America is shown as a long slender landmass labeled Baccalearium in reference to the cod fishing region off the coasts of New England and Canada. It employs a cordiform projection and depicts a distinct northern passage to Asia over the top of North America. There are few geographical features other than the prominent twin lake sources of the Nile in Africa. The heart-shaped border of the map contains signs of the zodiac within a cloud background filled with mythical figures and wind heads. One of the deities at top sports the design of the Holy Roman Emperor's double eagle on his breastplate and the three cadaverous wind heads at bottom represent plague-carrying winds of the south. This is an example from the second of three woodblocks, issued with Latin and Dutch text.

The Cosmographia of Petrus Apianus was one of the most popular books on cosmography ever published. It covers a multitude of subjects including the climatic zones, the uses of parallels and meridians, the determination of latitude and longitude, map projections, etc. One of the reasons it was enormously popular is the inclusion of volvelles that enabled one to solve practical mathematical problems relating to time telling, the calendar, astronomy and astrology. There are five of these ingenious paper devices included, and numerous other interesting diagrams and illustrations. In addition to the world map, there is also a small map of Greece, and one of the volvelles is constructed on a map of the northern hemisphere. This edition, corrected and augmented by geographer and mathematician Gemma Frisius, contains Gemma's important treatise on triangulation, which first appeared in 1533. The treatise was the first instance of triangulation being proposed as a means of locating and mapping places. Small 4to, quarter-calf in brown leather and green vellum covers.

References: Shirley #96.

Condition: B+

The covers have a few small cracks and the edges are bumped, but still sound. Pages are tight and with some toning, and a few pages have some damp staining. The map is in good condition with one tiny fold separation and a few short splits confined to the blank margins. One of the volvelles is missing the pointer, the others are fully functional.

Estimate: $7,000 - $10,000


Closed on 6/12/2013