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.
Sebastian Munster probably had more influence in spreading geographical knowledge throughout Europe in the mid-sixteenth century than any of his contemporaries. His Cosmographia contained not only the latest maps and city views, but also included an encyclopedic amount of detail about the known, and unknown, world and its history. Henrich Petri, step-son of Sebastian Munster, was the publisher of Munster's Geographia and Cosmographia. After the death of his father in 1579, Sebastian Petri took over the publishing business and commissioned a completely new set of woodblocks for the Cosmographia. These blocks were crafted to emulate the finer detail and flourishes of copperplate engraving. They were based on the maps of Ortelius, except for the map of the Holy Land, which was based on the map of Tileman Stella, and the map of Silesia, which was based on the Martin Helwig map. The text was enlarged and there were several new maps added.
This German edition is the largest of the Munster Cosmographia editions. It includes two world maps, the four continents, 20 regional maps, plus over 1400 woodcuts including 72 double-page and 1 large folding plan of Heidelberg. Also included are the famous plates of Europa Regina, Munster's Monsters, and and engravings of exotic animals such as the rhino. A nearly complete example of this sixteenth-century description of the world, which is hardly ever found complete, missing only the frontispiece. Folio. Title page printed in red and black; woodcut portrait of Munster;  pp.; 52 pp. with 26 double-page maps; 1752 pp. with over 1400 woodcuts and 72 double-page maps. Hardbound in contemporary blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards; brass clasps and catchplates (closing straps are missing); 9 raised bands on spine with additional embossing; all edges blue.
The maps and engravings range in condition from good (B) to very good (B+), with light to moderate toning and occasional soiling. Most issues from this period were printed on thin paper, as was this example, and a number of plates have show-through of text from verso. The large folding view of Heidelberg is in poor condition with heavy extraneous creasing, a 5" tear along one fold, a couple of small holes, and chipping along the right edge, with small loss of image. The title page, first page, and front free-endpaper are detached. A previous owner has taped a dedication on the front pastedown. The front hinge is starting, which is common for such large volumes. The covers and spine are stained and worn with some abrasions, and there is a crack along the right edge of the spine at top. The closing straps are missing and there are chips along the fore-edge of the back cover where the straps had previously rubbed against it.