"Asiae XII Tab:", Ptolemy/Mercator
Subject: Sri Lanka
Period: 1618 (published)
Publication: Theatrum Geographiae Veteris…
Color: Hand Color
14.2 x 13.5 inches
36.1 x 34.3 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).
For this map of Toprobana (Sri Lanka), Ptolemy drew on the accounts of travelers and sailors and though the information was secondhand and often inaccurate, it represented the most advanced account of the world's geography at that time. This map depicts the island with the typical misconceptions of the period with the enlarged island straddling the Equator and nearly divided by a ridge of mountains. A small part of India is incorrectly shown in the northeast corner of the map and a spurious coastline labeled Gangem fills the upper right corner. The stipple engraved sea contains an oriental ship and two great sea monsters. The cartouche at lower right identifies the location of the island and features a mapmaker perched on one of the elaborate straps. This is the first state of this map, with the original cartouche, which was re-engraved in 1695. Latin text on verso with an alternate title: Asiae Tabula Duodecima.
Mercator originally published this map in his 1578 edition of Ptolemy's great Geography. Although he is most renowned today for the projection he popularized and for first using the term Atlas for a collection of maps, he devoted much of his life to his Ptolemaic maps. The maps were beautifully engraved as nearly as possible to their original form and embellished with fine cartouches. Published in Petrus Bertius' Theatrum Geographiae Veteris…, which included maps by Mercator and Ortelius.
References: Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #232-28; Van der Krogt (Vol. I) #0932:1.1.
Very light toning with minor scattered foxing, two tiny holes in the image near the centerfold, and small damp stains in the top blank margin.