La Seconde Table Generale Selon Ptol.

Early c.16th woodcut map of the world according to Ptolemy by the German cartographer Sebastian Munster, depicting Europe, North Africa and Asia shown joined to a great southern continent named ‘ Terra Incognit ta dum Pto lemeum. Surrounding the map … Read Full Description


S/N: MCOSMO-WM-1560–441787
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Full Title:

La Seconde Table Generale Selon Ptol.




In good condition, with centre fold as issued.


Hand coloured woodcut.

Image Size: 

x 252mm

Paper Size: 

x 320mm
La Seconde Table Generale Selon Ptol. - Antique Map from 1560

Genuine antique



Early c.16th woodcut map of the world according to Ptolemy by the German cartographer Sebastian Munster, depicting Europe, North Africa and Asia shown joined to a great southern continent named ‘ Terra Incognit ta dum Pto lemeum.

Surrounding the map are decorative clouds and personified depictions of the twelve winds of the wind-system proposed by Aristotle with their names appearing in banners. A Professor of Hebrew at Basel University and an eminent mathematician and geographer, Munster first issued his edition of Ptolemy’ Geographia in 1540, adding a number of new maps to the collection. The concepts of Terra Australis Incognita and a landlocked Indian Ocean were first proposed by Ptolemy in his Geographia and remained influential until Bartolomew Dias’ discovery of the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope in 1487. This new route provided the Portuguese with direct access to trade with Asia, allowing them to avoid the Venetian-controlled spice trade into Europe via the Middle East and Adriatic Sea. Sri Lanka, named Taprobana, is shown as a very large island incorrectly placed to the west of a truncated Indian subcontinent. As the largest and possibly only exporter of cinnamon in the world and as a source of ivory, the island was an essential stop on trade routes through the Indian Ocean. Cinnamon was one of the most prized spices available and its exact source was closely guarded by the Arab spice traders. European merchants knew that the cinnamon was transported via the Red Sea to the Egyptian port of Alexandria but its prior origins were unknown and there were many theories as to the where and how the spice was grown. In 1248, Sieur de Joinville, returning from a crusade to Egypt, recounted a story that cinnamon had been fished from the source of the Nile which was believed to lay at the edge of the world. This map incorrectly depicts the source of the Nile as being several lakes south of the equator. The exact location of the Nile would remain a mystery until well into the nineteenth century. Other important inland details include the Himalayas in northern India, the Euphrates River in the Middle East and the Swiss Alps in Europe. This map was first published in 1541 and subsequently issued unchanged in 1542, 1545 and 1552. It can be identified by the title, the Latin text on the verso and by the fine vertical line on the right-hand side of the map from a crack in the printing block.

From: Munster, S. Cosmographey: das ist Beschreibung aller Länder Herrschaffen und für nemsten Stetten des gantzen Erdbodens., Basle.

Burden, P. The Mapping of North America. 1996 & 2007. RicKmansworth :: p.15.
Moreland, C. & Bannister, D. Antique Maps. London 1995 :: p.82, 302.
Norwich, O. Norwich's Maps of Africa. Vermont 1997 :: p.290.
Shirley, R. The Mapping of the World Early Printed World Maps 1472-1700. London 1987 :: 92 & 76.
Sabin, J. A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, from its Discovery to the Present Time. New York. (1936) 1967 :: 51381.
Mickwitz & Miekkavaara, The A.E. Nordenskiold Collection of Maps up to 1800 Helsinki 1979-1995 :: pp. 108-09 & 24..

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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