C1540
 (1552)

Sumatra Ein Grosse Insel / So von den Alten Geographen Taprobana / ist Genent Worden.

Early decorative map of Sri Lanka mistakenly titled Sumatra, published by Sebastian Munster in his Geographia. In the top left is a superb woodcut of the ‘ Elephantum’ (an elephant at pasture) which Ptolemy wrote in his Geographia, of seeing … Read Full Description

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S/N: MCOSMO-ASI-CEY-1540-001–184112
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Details

Full Title:

Sumatra Ein Grosse Insel / So von den Alten Geographen Taprobana / ist Genent Worden.

Date:

C1540
 (1552)

Condition:

In good condition.

Technique:

Woodcut, original colour.

Image Size: 

335mm 
x 245mm
AUTHENTICITY
Sumatra Ein Grosse Insel / So von den Alten Geographen Taprobana / ist Genent Worden. - Antique Map from 1540

Genuine antique
dated:

1552

Description:

Early decorative map of Sri Lanka mistakenly titled Sumatra, published by Sebastian Munster in his Geographia. In the top left is a superb woodcut of the ‘ Elephantum’ (an elephant at pasture) which Ptolemy wrote in his Geographia, of seeing at the base of the Malli Mountains. In the lower left is a decorative cartouche which includes a note indicating that the island was a rich source of ivory. In ancient times, Sri Lanka was known by various names, Ptolemy named it Taprobana, the Arabs Serendib, the Portuguese called it Ceil�o and the British Ceylon. Situated at the centre of numerous trade routes through the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka was always an important trading link between east and west. As a major exporter of cinnamon, Arab and Chinese traders had frequented the island since early times and it served as an important stop for merchants on the maritime route between Asia and Europe. Much confusion existed among medieval mapmakers as to the identities of the islands of Taprobana and Sumatra which arose primarily from the descriptions in the ancient texts which stated that Taprobana was the largest island in the world. This was later contradicted by Marco Polo in his Il Milione in which he stated that it was Java Minor (Sumatra) that was in fact the largest island. As Sumatra was virtually unknown to most medieval mapmakers their primary concern was the placement of Taprobana on maps. Invariably it was incorrectly positioned off the southeast coast of Arabia but once the accounts of Marco Polo were revealed at the end of the thirteenth century, the eastern limits of the Indian Ocean were greatly expanded and the question as to the identity of the islands became more critical for mapmakers. The Portuguese arrived on the island in 1505 and by 1518 had built a fort in Colombo, enabling them to control strategic coastal areas they had previously captured. Once Portuguese information and charts were copied, the position of Ceylon and the confusion with Sumatra was corrected. From Munster’ Geographia (Latin text on verso). References: Moreland p.82, 302, Parry p.65-67, Shirley p.76, Suarez (A) p.101.

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.

View other items by Sebastian Munster

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