India Extrema

This is one of the earliest maps of the Asian continent made and based on information derived from Portuguese sources. The Asian continent is shown with current knowledge, but Munster doesn’t resolve the north east coast of Asia and depicts … Read Full Description


S/N: MCOSMO-ASI–1545b–216723
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Full Title:

India Extrema




Repaired worm hole left centre otherwise in good condition


Hand coloured copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 257mm

Frame Size: 

x 600mm

Paper Size: 

x 313mm
India Extrema - Antique Map from 1545

Genuine antique



This is one of the earliest maps of the Asian continent made and based on information derived from Portuguese sources.

The Asian continent is shown with current knowledge, but Munster doesn’t resolve the north east coast of Asia and depicts it as joined to the Americas. Goa, the Portuguese’s stronghold on the subcontinent is shown, as is Sri Lanka, named Zaylon. The island of Sumatra is named Taprobana and Sumatra illustrating the confusion resulting from Ptolmey’s texts in which Munster stated that Taprobana was the largest in the world, a claim that Marco Polo also made in his scribed accounts of his travels from China to Persia. As a consequence many geographers and cartographers were understandably confused and often place both names on the island. Malacca which controls the important straits for shipping from the east was attacked and claimed by the Portuguese in 1512. From this base the Portuguese soon learnt the true source of the important source of Nutmeg and Cloves, “the spice islands”. These shown and named (Moluccas, Gilolo and Ternate). The only possible source for the location of the Spice Islands would have been from Portuguese sources as the Dutch were not make their presence felt for another 50 years. Below Taprobana is an enormous fish and a frolicking mermaid . References Fell, “Early Maps of South-East Asia, p.32, ill. p.33 Parry, “The Cartography of the East Indian Islands..” p.18,67, ill.pl. 3.8, p.66

Sebastian Munster (1488 - 1552)

Sebastian Munster (1488-1552) was an important German cartographer, cosmographer and Hebrew scholar who is best known for his 1540 Latin translation and publication of Ptolemy's Geography titled, Cosmographia. Prior to the introduction of printing for books, of works such as Ptolemy's groundbreaking Geography, they could only be copied individually by scribes, consequently this slow process inhibited the dissemination of geographic knowledge to a wide audience. As information became available especially of the new world, Munster found that Ptolemy's theories were contradicted by these new discoveries that were related to him by ships captains and explorers. One such theory was a land locked Indian Ocean which Ptolemy had shown in his Geography and which was being disproved by the trading ships returning from China and the Spice Islands with their precious cargos. As a result Munster began to add new maps to his own Cosmographia that reflected these new discoveries and made available to a wider audience this changing knowledge of the world.

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Claudius Ptolemy (100 - 170)

Ptolemy was a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, geographer, astrologer and author of the Geography, also known by its Latin names as the Geographia and the Cosmographia, a gazetteer, an atlas, and a treatise on cartography, which comprised the geographical knowledge of the 2nd-century Roman Empire written c. AD 150. It was a revision of a lost atlas by Marinus the Greek, a geographer, cartographer and mathematician from the Roman province of Tyre using additional Roman and Persian gazetteers and new principles. Its translation into Arabic in the 9th century and Latin in 1406 was highly influential on the geographical knowledge and cartographic knowledge of the medieval Caliphate and Renaissance Europe. No Greek manuscript of the Geography survives from earlier than the late 13th century (c.1295), the earliest is in the Vatican library. A letter written by the Byzantine monk Maximus Planudes records that he searched for one in the Chora Monastery in the summer of 1295 and the earliest surviving manuscript may have been one of those he then assembled. The three earliest surviving manuscript versions with maps are those from Constantinople (Istanbul) based on Planudes's work. The first Latin translation from these was made in 1406 or 1407 by Jacobus Angelus in Florence, Italy, under the name Geographia Claudii Ptolemaei and first printed in Venice 1475 by Hermanus Levilapis (Herman Lichtensein of Cologne) without maps. This was followed in 1478 by a Roman edition with twenty seven maps printed by Arnoldus Buckinck. In 1482 the famous Ulm edition was translated by Leonardus Hol with 32 woodcut maps, 5 of which were new modern maps. In 1513 one of the most important editions was issued by Martin Waldseemuller with 47 woodcut maps of which 20 were new modern maps including one devoted to the new world. In 1540 a new and important edition, titled Cosmographia was revised and edited by Sebastian Munster and printed by Henricus Petri at Basle. Munster redesigned the maps and added a geographical appendix. The Geography continued to be issued by various publishers who included new geographical information to the maps.

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