"[Monsters] Meerwunder und Seltzame Thier / wie die in den Mitnachtigen Landern / im Meer und auff dem Landt Gefunden Werden", Munster, Sebastian
Subject: Cartographic Miscellany
Period: 1628 (published)
Color: Black & White
13.5 x 10.1 inches
34.3 x 25.7 cm
Sebastian Munster (1489 - 1552) was one of the three most renowned cartographers of the sixteenth century, along with Mercator and Ortelius. Munster's Geographia and Cosmographia Universalis were two of the most widely read and influential books of the period. His editions of Ptolemy's Geographia, published between 1540 and 1552, were illustrated with 48 woodcut maps, the standard 27 Ptolemaic maps supplemented by 21 new maps. These new maps included a separate map of each of the known continents and marked the development of regional cartography in Central Europe. The antique geography was a prelude to Munster's major work, the Cosmographia, which was published in nearly 30 editions in six languages between 1544 and 1578 and then was revised and reissued by Sebastian Petri from 1588 to 1628. The Cosmographia was a geographical as well as historical and ethnographic description of the world. It contained the maps from the Geographia plus additional regional maps and city views with nearly 500 illustrations which made it one of the most popular pictorial encyclopedias of the sixteen century.
This is one of the more fanciful cartographic curiosities and a unique view of Renaissance attitudes toward the unknown lands beyond the civilized world. This woodblock illustration presents a compendium of monsters that were thought to exist in the sixteenth century. Many subsequent mapmakers used these monsters to illustrate the lands and seas of the unexplored world. Across the top is a panel showing land-based creatures, including reindeer, elk (here shown pulling a sleigh), snakes, and a gluttonous bear. The majority of the 'monsters' are ferocious sea creatures shown devouring hapless sailors and wrecking ships. There is a massive lobster shown with a person in its claws and a huge fanged whale erupting fountains of water from its head, as well as a tree that appears to bear ducks as fruit. German text on verso with several additional illustrations of polar bears, a galleon, and sea monsters in a lake by a village. This example is accompanied by a page of text from a French edition of Munster's Cosmographie that discusses the "monsters of Norway" with an illustration of a sea monster devouring a human.
References: cf. Manasek, p. 118; Shirley (BL Atlases) T.MUN-1o #231.
A nice impression with minor professional repairs along the centerfold, very light soiling, and two small worm holes in the bottom corners of the image.