Catalog Archive
Auction 157, Lot 675

"[Title on Verso] Tabula Duodecima Asiae Continet Taprobanam Insulam", Ptolemy/Fries

Subject: Sri Lanka

Period: 1541 (published)

Publication: Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographicae…

Color: Hand Color

18 x 11.1 inches
45.7 x 28.2 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 an early woodblock map of the island of Taprobana, which depicts the typical misconceptions of Ptolemy showing the island greatly enlarged, surrounded by imaginary islands, and with a small part of India incorrectly drawn in the northeast corner of the map. Toprobana was drawn too large on most early maps due, in part, to its importance to trade between the Europe and Southeast Asia. Also Marco Polo stated that the island had a circumference of 2400 miles and had been even larger in the past. This map is largely based on the 1513 map by Walseemuller, with the addition of more of the spurious Indian coastline and more small islands to the east of Ceylon. The title is on the verso along with Latin text. This edition was printed by Gaspar Treschel and edited by Michael Villanovus (known as Servetus). Servetus was charged with heresy by John Calvin in 1553, in part due to the text in this atlas. The courts found him guilty and sentenced him to burning at the stake, atop a pyre of his own books, including this atlas.

References: Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #211-26.

Condition: A+

A clean and bright example with a dark impression and minor marginal soiling.

Estimate: $550 - $700

Sold for: $600

Closed on 5/4/2016