Auction 149, Lot 732

Complete First Edition of Ruscelli's <i>Geographia</i>

"La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo Alessandrino, Nuovamente Tradotta di Greco in Italiano...", Ptolemy/Ruscelli & Valgrisi

Subject: Atlases

Period: 1561 (published)


Color: Black & White

6.4 x 9.3 inches
16.3 x 23.6 cm

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 the first edition of Girolamo Ruscelli's translation of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia, published in Italian. It was printed by Vincenzo Valgrisi in Venice, with the text translated from Greek by Ruscelli. It is complete with 62 maps; 25 classic and 37 modern, which are enlarged copies of the maps created by Giacomo Gastaldi for his 1548 edition of Ptolemy. These maps demonstrate the amazing advances in geographic knowledge taking place in this great era of exploration. They are from finely engraved copper plates, which were a great improvement over the rather crude woodcut maps in many of the earlier editions. The maps were engraved two to a plate, then printed and separated for binding, which is why the plate mark for each map runs off the top edge of the page. The classic maps include a conical projection of the world, 10 maps of Europe, 4 of Africa, and 12 of Asia. The modern maps include two world maps, 17 maps of Europe, 5 of Africa, 6 of Asia, and 7 maps of the Americas.

Orbis Descriptio is the first double-hemisphere world map to appear in atlas form. It is elegantly engraved in the characteristic Italian style, adapted from the oval projection used by Gastaldi, and presented on what is known as Roger Bacon's circular projection. This projection was popularized by Ruscelli and later by Rumold Mercator. Another important feature of the map is the apocryphal bulge in South America; one of the most copied cartographic errors of the 16th century. Terra Incognita is distinctly shown as a land bridge linking Asia and North America with its coastline labeled Littus incognitum. This is the first state with no southern continent.

Ruscelli's important early map devoted to the East Coast of North America, Tierra Nueva, is based on Giacomo Gastaldi's map of 1548, which combined data from the Verrazano and Cartier voyages. The cartography is unchanged, with the exception of the depiction of the Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers (unnamed), which are shown connected upriver, a notion he borrowed from Ramusio. Engraved on copper by Giulio and Livio Sanuto in the unmistakable Italian style.

Also included is Nueva Hispania Tabula Nova, a foundation map in the cartography of the American Southwest, and a must for collectors of that region. It is an enlarged version of Gastaldi's map of 1548 with the only notable change being the peninsular Yucatan. The legendary seven cities of Ciuola are prominently depicted and Mexico City is shown floating in a large lake. The place names along the upper Gulf Coast reveal the explorations of Pineda, Cabeza de Vaca and Moscosso. The Mississippi makes its appearance as the Rio de Spiritu Santo and the R. Tontonteanc flows in the vicinity of the Colorado River.

Complete, 358 pages, 62 maps, and index. Bound with the 47-page Discorso Universale de M. Gioseppe Moleto Matematico.... Original vellum binding with brown ink manuscript title on spine.

References: Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #216; Shirley #110 & #111; Burden #30 & #31.

Condition: B+

The text and maps are bright with light foxing and a faint damp stain at top right, entering up to 1" into some maps. Most of the maps are in very good to near fine condition, with a few only in good condition. The first 40 pages of text also have a damp stain along the spine. There are some manuscript notations and a previous owner's stamp on the title page. The hinges are starting and the covers show some wear with a few small worm tracks.

Estimate: $13,000 - $15,000


Closed on 5/21/2014