Catalog Archive
Auction 164, Lot 29

Macrobius' Miniature Ancient World Map

"Macrobii Ambrosii Aurelii Theodosii, Viri Consularis, & Illustris, in Somnium Scipionis, Lib. II. Saturnaliorum, Lib. VII...", Macrobius, Ambrosius Aurelius Theodo

Subject: Ancient World

Period: 1548 (published)


Color: Black & White

4.3 x 6.7 inches
10.9 x 17 cm

This work, written by Ambrosius Macrobius, is a commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio. It includes a rare woodcut map of the world (3.1 x 3.1") illustrating Cicero's interesting theories. This diagrammatic map shows two distinct regions of the earth. The inhabited Afro-Eurasian continent was balanced by an unknown, and relatively equal, landmass (Temperata Antipodunobis Incognita) on the other side of an impassable torrid zone (Perusta) and a great boiling sea (Alveus Oceani). It was this notion of antipodean balance and landmass equivalence that continued to attract Renaissance minds to the otherwise outmoded geographical ideas of Macrobius. Distinguished cartographers like Mercator and Ortelius would later incorporate Macrobius' model into an immense southern continent (Australis Incongita) to balance the known lands of the world, and the division of the world into climactic zones is still in use today.

Macrobius was a 5th century Roman neoplatonic philosopher. His commentary on Cicero’s Somnium Sciponis was of great influence in the Middle Ages and gained popularity with the advent of printing. First published in Brescia in 1483, numerous editions appeared throughout the 16th century. His commentary includes several chapters dealing with his own conception of the world and the universe. It also contains references to many facets of the scientific knowledge of his time, including references to physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Title page, 567 pp. (map at p. 144), and extensive index. Hardbound in full vellum with title label on spine.

References: Shirley #13; King (2nd ed.) pp. 34 & 193-4; Moecker (MapForum #4), pp. 26-30.

Condition: B+

The map is very good with pleasant light toning. The text has occasional light toning, minor foxing, and the last 50 pages or so has a small damp stain in the lower right corner. There are manuscript notations on title page and front free endpaper. Contents tight. Spine and covers have light shelf wear and minor soiling.

Estimate: $1,500 - $1,800

Sold for: $1,000

Closed on 9/13/2017