Catalog Archive
Auction 146, Lot 713

One of the Earliest Obtainable Maps of Southeast Asia

"[Title on Verso] Tabula XI Asiae", Ptolemy/Fries

Subject: Southern Asia

Period: 1535 (circa)

Publication: Claudii Ptolemaei Geographicae…

Color: Hand Color

16.1 x 11.3 inches
40.9 x 28.7 cm
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Claudius Ptolemy was a mathematician, astronomer and geographer who worked in Alexandria, then a part of the Roman Empire, in the 2nd century AD. One of the most learned and influential men of his time, his theories dominated both astronomy and geography for nearly 1500 years. His writings were kept alive by Arabic scholars during the Middle Ages and reemerged in Europe during the Renaissance. The birth of printing led to wide dissemination of his great works on astronomy and geography. There were a number of editions of his Geographia beginning in 1477. These early editions contained maps based on his original writings, known as Ptolemaic maps. As geographic knowledge increased with the explorations of Columbus, Magellan, Cabot and others, maps of the New World were added, and maps of the Old World were revised. Ptolemy's Geographia continued to be revised and published by some of the most important cartographers including Martin Waldseemuller, Sebastian Munster, Giacomo Gastaldi, Jodocus Hondius, and Gerard Mercator (whose last edition was published in 1730).

This is a slightly reduced version of Waldseemuller's Ptolemaic map drawn on the typical conical projection set in a trapezoidal frame. It illustrates the Ptolemaic concept of Malaya and Indochina, labeled India Extra Gangem or India beyond the Ganges. The map shows an oddly shaped Malaysian peninsula, labeled Aurea Chersone (Golden Peninsula) to the east of the Ganges. The Golden Peninsula was thought to be the location of Ophir, the mysterious source of Solomon’s gold. The China Sea (Sinus Magnus), with yet another completely spurious landmass, is to the east of that. The map hints at the Ptolemaic concept of a landlocked Indian Ocean, in which there are several large islands. Latin text on verso, surrounded by elaborate woodcut decorations.


Condition: B+

Watermarked paper with wide, original margins, a hint of toning along centerfold, and a number of small worm holes that have been professionally infilled.

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,300


Closed on 9/4/2013