Very early example of Munster's map of the modern world, one of the earliest obtainable maps of the modern world. This example is from the first woodblock, which was used until 1548. The map is richly embellished with sea monsters and 12 windheads. The map first appeared in the 1540 edition of Munster's Geographia. This example, with German title, is rare on the market, with only one example listed in the prior 25 years (Suarez 1992). The map is based upon a mix of information derived from Verrazano's explorations (1522-24) which mistook the Chesapeake for the Indian Ocean and Cartier's voyages (1534-35) up the St. Lawrence in search of the Northwest Passage. The west coast of America appears on the right side of the map. This is also the first map to name the Pacific Ocean (Mare Pacificum). Munster is non-committal as to the continuity of North and South America, an unbroken Central America being implied but not clearly shown. Though unnamed, Terra Australis is present but small, only serving to form the Magellan Strait. All of North America is called Terra Florida. Munster here adds further to the current confusion over Taprobana and Ceylon, depicting a Sumatra-shaped Tapbana on the west side of the Indian subcontinent, and Java in the approximately correct size and position of Sri Lanka. Several lengthy repaired tears and some restoration within the printed image and margins, but virtually invisible except on close inspection. Early examples of Munster's world map, from the first plate, are now quite scarce on the market. Shirley 77.
Sebastian Münster (1488-1552) was a cosmographer and professor of Hebrew who taught at Tübingen, Heidelberg, and Basel. He settled in the latter in 1529 and died there, of plague, in 1552. Münster made himself the center of a large network of scholars from whom he obtained geographic descriptions, maps, and directions.
As a young man, Münster joined the Franciscan order, in which he became a priest. He then studied geography at Tübingen, graduating in 1518. He moved to Basel, where he published a Hebrew grammar, one of the first books in Hebrew published in Germany. In 1521 Münster moved again, to Heidelberg, where he continued to publish Hebrew texts and the first German-produced books in Aramaic. After converting to Protestantism in 1529, he took over the chair of Hebrew at Basel, where he published his main Hebrew work, a two-volume Old Testament with a Latin translation.
Münster published his first known map, a map of Germany, in 1525. Three years later, he released a treatise on sundials. In 1540, he published Geographia universalis vetus et nova, an updated edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. In addition to the Ptolemaic maps, Münster added 21 modern maps. One of Münster’s innovations was to include one map for each continent, a concept that would influence Ortelius and other early atlas makers. The Geographia was reprinted in 1542, 1545, and 1552.
He is best known for his Cosmographia universalis, first published in 1544 and released in at least 35 editions by 1628. It was the first German-language description of the world and contained 471 woodcuts and 26 maps over six volumes. Many of the maps were taken from the Geographia and modified over time. The Cosmographia was widely used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The text, woodcuts, and maps all influenced geographical thought for generations.