Catalog Archive
Auction 161, Lot 492

Ptolemaic Map of the British Isles

"[Title on Verso] Europae Tabula Prima Continet Insulam Albion, sive Britanniam & Hyberniam", Ptolemy/Fries

Subject: Britain

Period: 1541 (published)

Publication: Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographicae…

Color: Hand Color

17 x 11.6 inches
43.2 x 29.5 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 superb Ptolemaic map of the British Isles is presented in a trapezoidal projection with climates and ancient parallels inserted in the side borders. The geographical data used by Ptolemy was collected in the second century A.D., when Britain lay at the extremity of the known world. Thus the representation is distorted with Scotland shown in a distinctive east-west orientation and Ireland located too far north. The principal cities, tribal regions and rivers are located. This map is from the same woodblock used for the 1535 edition with revised Latin text on verso. It was printed by Gaspar Treschsel in Vienne, and is sometimes called the Lugduni-Vienne edition.

References: Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #211-1; Shirley (BI to 1650) #30).

Condition: A

A dark impression on a clean, bright sheet of paper with a bunch of grapes watermark. There are several printer's creases adjacent to the centerfold and professional repairs to a small worm track and a few short separations along the centerfold.

Estimate: $1,600 - $1,900

Sold for: $1,600

Closed on 2/8/2017