Catalog Archive
Auction 195, Lot 40

Rare First State of Mercator's Ptolemaic World Map

"Universalis Tabula Iuxta Ptolemaeum", Ptolemy/Mercator

Subject: Ancient World

Period: 1584 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

19.1 x 13.6 inches
48.5 x 34.5 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).

This decorative map of the ancient world is the rare first state of Mercator's 1578 Ptolemaic world map. The strapwork border features 12 wind heads, which was re-engraved after 1618. This map served as an index sheet for the Ptolemaic maps in Mercator's Geographia, with the number of maps in each section noted within each continent. There is a very large Taprobana (modern day Sri Lanka) in the Indian Ocean and the Indian subcontinent is severely truncated, though the Ganges is noted. Only the northern part of Africa is shown with the Nile originating in the twin lakes south of the Equator in the Lunae montes (Mountains of the Moon). Latin text on verso, published between 1584-1618.

References: Shirley #139; Van der Krogt (Vol. I) #0900:1.1; Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #234-1.

Condition: B

A nice impression on a sheet with a small house watermark, some extraneous creasing in the top corners of the sheet and along the centerfold, and marginal soiling. A sliver of the image along the centerfold has been professionally repaired with the image replaced in facsimile. The sides of the sheet have been reinforced on verso with old paper.

Estimate: $3,000 - $3,750

Sold for: $2,200

Closed on 11/15/2023