A striking example of Waldseemüller's important early map of the Arabian Peninsula, from Martin Waldseemüller's 1513 edition of Ptolemy, published by Johann Schott in Strasbourg.
Waldseemüller's map of Arabia is a landmark in the history of cartography, which contributed to major advances in both Renaissance geography and map printing. As demonstrated by the present map, contemporary European geographic knowledge of the Arabian Peninsula was quite advanced. The overall outline of the peninsula is familiar to the modern eye, even if the size and frequency of the surrounding islands is somewhat exaggerated. During the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods, sophisticated manuscript maps of the region made by Arab scholars had fallen in to the hands of Europeans, especially by way of the Levant trade running through Venice. These sources informed Italian mapmakers, whose works eventually travelled north of Alps to be incorporated in maps printed in Germany and Alsace-Lorraine. Specifically, this work was based on the manuscript maps of Sanuto and Vesconte of c.1320, which were updated by Nicholaus Germanus in 1482 to include more cities and textual information.
The present map appeared as part of the first modern atlas, prepared by Martin Waldseemüller using the translation of Mathias Ringmann. This is one of the most important editions of Ptolemy, containing many new regional maps. Twenty new maps based on contemporary knowledge, such as the present work, were included by Waldseemüller, in addition to the traditional twenty-seven Ptolemaic maps derived from the 1482 Ulm edition.
Martin Waldseemüller (c.1470-c.1522) was one of the foremost cartographers of the first great period of global exploration, yet details of his sources and his personal history remain enigmatic. Educated at the University of Freiburg im Bresgau, Germany, he became the center of a circle of great humanist scholars based at the Abbey of St. Dié in Alsace. Waldseemüller and his associate Mathias Ringmann, prepared this edition of Ptolemy, partly at the expense of Duke Rene of Lorraine. It was brought to completion by Jacobus Eszler and Georgius Ubelin and published in Strasbourg by Johann Schott. The atlas also contained the first map in an atlas entirely devoted to America (Tabula terre nove), often called the "Admiral's map" after Columbus. The atlas's map of Lotharingia (the first map of the Duchy of Lorrain), printed in black, red and olive, is one the earliest examples of color-printing. This edition was reprinted in 1520 using the same woodcut blocks.
The present map is a critical component of any serious collection of maps of Arabia.
Martin Waldseemüller (c. 1475-1520) was a sixteenth-century cosmographer best known for his 1507 world map in twelve sheets, the earliest surviving map to include the name “America.” He was an influential mapmaker during his time whose work affected many of his contemporaries and successors. Waldseemüller was born near Freiburg, in what is now southwestern Germany. His family moved to Freiburg proper when he was young and he attended university in the city beginning in 1490.
Waldseemüller gathered information about the New World discoveries and geography from St.-Dié des Vosges in Lorraine, where he was a professor of cosmography under the patronage of René II, Duke of Lorraine. He was a member of an intellectual circle who produced work from the St.-Dié Press. However, the press failed when the Duke died, and Waldseemüller moved to Strasbourg.
He is best known for the 1507 map and another world projection, the Carta Marina published in 1516. He also published an edition of Ptolemy in 1513, in collaboration with Johann Schott, a friend from Freiburg and St.-Dié. Besides his innovative use of the toponym “America”, Waldseemüller was the first to create such a large printed world map, the author of the earliest known printed globe gores, the first to create a published collection of modern maps, and one of the first to create maps from ground measurements. He was knowledgeable in surveying methods and designed a quadrant and other instruments. He returned to St.-Dié late in life as canon, although he continued to return to Strasbourg for work and for carnival. He died in St.-Dié in 1520.
Waldseemuller is generally credited with having named the continent of America, based upon the then current belief that Amerigo Vespucci had been the first modern explorer to reach the continent of America in 1497, during the first of four expeditions to America which were then credited to Vespucci between 1497 and 1504. The report which described the 1497 expedition is now generally believed to be a forgery. Later in his career, Waldseemüller elected not to use the toponym for the continents, preferring to leave them unnamed. However, the name had been taken up by his contemporaries, in large part due to the influential nature of Waldseemüller’s earlier works.