Famous Cartographic Oddity of Europe in the Shape of a Woman
"[Europa Regina]", Munster, Sebastian
Period: 1628 (published)
Publication: Cosmographia, das Ist Beschreibung der Gantzen Welt
Color: Hand Color
6.4 x 10.2 inches
16.3 x 25.9 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 most famous of cartographic oddities, showing Europe in the shape of a woman. The representation of Europa Regina, or Queen of the World, was first drawn by Johannes Bucius in 1537. This simplified version appeared in several editions of Munster's Cosmography from 1580 onwards. West is shown at top with Spain forming the crown and head, France and Germany the neck and bust, Bohemia the heart, Italy the left arm holding an orb (Sicily) and Denmark the right arm holding a scepter with Britain as the flag. The remainder of the figure is a flowing robe with Greece and Russia at the feet. It has been argued that instead of a woman, the map represents Charles V of Spain, modeling a Europe that had Spain as its crown, or that it symbolizes a Habsburg-dominated Europe. Whatever the source, this is an extraordinary example of the art of mapmaking. German text on verso.
References: Manasek #3.21; Tooley (MCC-1) #6, Plt. V; Shirley (BL Atlases) T.MUN-1o #28.
Light toning and soiling with several dampstains mostly confined to the edges of the sheet. There is some show-through of old manuscript text in the left blank margin.