Tabula Asiae XII

Very early map of Sri Lanka named Taprobana, with a superb woodcut of the ‘Pascua Elephantum’ (an elephant at pasture) at the base of the Malli Mountains which Ptolemy described in his Geographia. In the lower left is a panel … Read Full Description

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S/N: RLGDCT-ASI-CEY-172–235258
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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 Sri Lanka named Taprobana, with a superb woodcut of the ‘Pascua Elephantum’ (an elephant at pasture) at the base of the Malli Mountains which Ptolemy described in his Geographia.

In the lower left is a panel of text 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) and 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 : p.50
Sweet, M. Mapping the Continent of Asia. Singapore 1994. : 4. p.10.
Suarez, T. Early Mapping of Southeast Asia. Singapore 1999 : p.130.

David Rumsey Collection: 11311.119
National Library Board Singapore: Identifier: OCoLC)7476334
State Library New South Wales: CALL NUMBERS MRB/910/P (16th Century)
State Library Victoria: RARES 912 P95G


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

Girolamo Ruscelli (1504 - 1566)

Girolamo Ruscelli was a prominent c.16th Italian polymath, mathematician, cartographer, and alchemist. Born in Viterbo and lived in various cities during his life including; Aquilea, Padua, Rome, Naples, and finally settled in Venice until his death.He wrote on a wide range of subjects and often worked on behalf of third parties, including a partnership with publisher Plinio Pietrasanta until 1555 when he was tried by the Inquisition for the unlicensed publication of a satirical poem. Most of his later works were published by Vincenzo Valgrisi. He wrote an immensely popular book on alchemy under the pseudonym Alessio Piemontese, published in 1555. The book, De Secreti Del Alessio Piemontese, included recipes for alchemical compounds, cosmetics, dyes, and medicines and was translated into numerous languages. Ruscelli's translations of various classics, including the Decameron and Orlando Furioso, were also popular. His translation of  Ptolemy's, Geografia included 69 maps, 40 of which were contemporary and based on maps compiled by Giacomo Gastaldi in 1548. Ruscelli also compiled a Rimario (rhyming dictionary) that remained in use until the 19th century.

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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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