Catalog Archive
Auction 195, Lot 828

Ruscelli's Complete, Third Edition Atlas with 65 Maps

"La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo Alessandrino...", Ptolemy/Ruscelli

Subject: Atlases

Period: 1574 (published)


Color: Black & White

6.6 x 9.3 inches
16.8 x 23.6 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 is the third edition of Girolamo Ruscelli's translation of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia. It was revised and corrected by Giovanni Malombra, and was printed by Giordano Ziletti. It is complete with 65 maps; 27 classic and 38 modern, which are enlarged copies of the maps created by Giacomo Gastaldi for his 1548 edition of Ptolemy. These maps demonstrate the amazing advances in geographic knowledge taking place in this great era of exploration. They are from finely engraved copper plates, which were a great improvement over the rather crude woodcut maps in many of the earlier editions. The maps are printed from the same plates as the first edition (1561) with the exception of the Ptolemaic world map, which reverted to the original conical projection of Ptolemy. This edition also includes the additional map of Territorio di Roma. The classic maps include the aforementioned world map, 10 maps of Europe, 4 of Africa, and 12 of Asia. The modern maps include two world maps, 18 maps of Europe, 5 of Africa, 7 of Asia, and 6 maps of the Americas.

Orbis Descriptio is the first double-hemisphere world map to appear in atlas form. It is elegantly engraved in the characteristic Italian style, adapted from the oval projection used by Gastaldi, and presented on what is known as Roger Bacon's circular projection. This projection was popularized by Ruscelli and later by Rumold Mercator. Another important feature of the map is the apocryphal bulge in South America; one of the most copied cartographic errors of the 16th century. Terra Incognita is distinctly shown as a land bridge linking Asia and North America with its coastline labeled Littus incognitum. This is the first state with no southern continent.

Ruscelli's important early map devoted to the East Coast of North America, Tierra Nueva, is based on Giacomo Gastaldi's map of 1548, which combined data from the Verrazano and Cartier voyages. The cartography is unchanged, with the exception of the depiction of the Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers (unnamed), which are shown connected upriver, a notion he borrowed from Ramusio. Engraved on copper by Giulio and Livio Sanuto in the unmistakable Italian style.

Also included is Nueva Hispania Tabula Nova, a foundation map in the cartography of the American Southwest, and a must for collectors of that region. It is an enlarged version of Gastaldi's map of 1548 with the only notable change being the peninsular Yucatan. The legendary seven cities of Ciuola are prominently depicted and Mexico City is shown floating in a large lake. The place names along the upper Gulf Coast reveal the explorations of Pineda, Cabeza de Vaca and Moscosso. The Mississippi makes its appearance as the Rio de Spiritu Santo and the R. Tontonteanc flows in the vicinity of the Colorado River.

Octavo. Complete, 350 pages, 65 maps, and index. Bound with the 65-page Discorso Universale di M. Gioseppe Moleto Medico, Filosofo, et matematico Eccellentissimo. Rebound in full cream-colored leather raised bands, gilt tooling, and original red leather title label on spine. One of the original full vellum covers is tucked loose inside the volume.



The maps have dark impressions with light to heavy printer's ink residue and light offsetting on just a few maps. There are small worm tracks and dampstains confined to the blank margins on some of the maps, not affecting the map images. Two-thirds of the maps are in near fine (A) condition and about one-third are in very good (B+) condition. The first 10 maps in the volume have light to moderate toning, with 4 of these maps only in good (B) condition. There is occasional toning and foxing of the text, and there are minor dampstains at the end of the volume. Includes a printed bookplate on the front free-endpaper and a blindstamp on title page from previous owners. The new bindings are lightly soiled.

Estimate: $9,000 - $11,000

Sold for: $6,000

Closed on 11/15/2023