Tabula Asiae XII

Very early map of Ceylon with a superb woodcut of the ‘Pascua 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 … Read Full Description

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S/N: RUSC-ASI-CEY-012-UC–235258
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Full Title:

Tabula Asiae XII




In good condition, with centre fold as issued.


Copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 185mm

Paper Size: 

x 233mm
Tabula Asiae XII - Antique Map from 1574

Genuine antique



Very early map of Ceylon with a superb
woodcut of the ‘Pascua 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 Ceilo and the British,
Ceylon. 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, La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo Alessandrino, gia Tradotta di Greco in Italiano da M. Giero Ruscelli


Stevens, H. Ptolemy's Geography. London 1973: [1574] p.52.

Girolamo Ruscelli (1504 - 1566)

Ruscelli was an Italian Alchemist, physician and cartographer, born around 1504 in Viterbo. He revised the Ptolemy Geography, which was issued 1561 until 1599 in Venice. The new copper engraved maps are based on Gastaldi's edition of 1548. He died in 1566 in Venice.

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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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