Catalog Archive
Auction 183, Lot 506

Rare First Edition

"Afr: II Tab:", Ptolemy/Mercator

Subject: Northern Africa

Period: 1578 (published)

Publication: Tabulae Geographicae Cl. Ptolemaei...

Color: Hand Color

18.3 x 13.2 inches
46.5 x 33.5 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).

Decorative Ptolemaic map of Northern Africa with the southern part of Sardinia and Sicily and Malta. The sea is stipple engraved and contains two very fanciful sea monsters. At the lower border are a lion and a leopard. A decorative title cartouche completes the composition. This example was published in the very first edition of Mercator's interpretation of Ptolemy's great Geography. This is also the first state of this map, with the original cartouche at lower left, which was re-engraved in 1695. Latin text on verso with an alternate title: Africae Tabula II Continet Africam Minorem.

Although Mercator 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.

References: Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #221-13; Van der Krogt (Vol. I) #0912:1.1.

Condition: B+

Light offsetting with moderate toning along the centerfold, two tiny worm holes along the centerfold in the bottom margin that have been professionally repaired, and minor marginal soiling. Remnants of hinge tape on verso.

Estimate: $300 - $375


Closed on 6/9/2021