Striking example of Martin Waldseemüller's edition of Ptolemy's map of the Holy Land, the Levant and Mesopotamia, printed in Strasbourg in 1513.
This remarkably beautiful map is one of the most historically important and finely printed early maps of the Holy Land, the Levant and Mesopotamia. It features all or part of the territories of the modern nations of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. It was created by the great northern renaissance cartographer Martin Waldseemüller but is based on the work of Claudius Ptolemy from the 2nd Century A.D.
The map shows that in the late Classical period, the geographical conception of the Middle East was quite sophisticated. While far from being scientifically accurate, the overall appearance of these lands is amazingly familiar to the modern viewer - a spectacular achievement in an age long before the advent of surveying technology.
While the Sinai Peninsula is not defined, the placement of the Red Sea relative to the Mediterranean is correct and the slope of the Levant coastline bears a resemblance to reality. While Cyprus is not correctly shaped, it is accurately located. The interior regions assuredly include the Dead Sea and the courses of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The placement of the Persian Gulf with respect to the general view is also well placed.
Ptolemy's map of the region - and Waldseemüller's edition in particular - proved to be highly influential during the generation following its publication. It was widely copied (most notably by Lorenz Fries in 1522) and was perhaps the most important geographical conception of this religiously important region during the Reformation period.
Waldseemüller's map is based on the work of Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90 - 168 A.D.), a Greek Alexandrine geographer and cosmographer. Specifically, the antecedent of the current map appeared in Ptolemy's Geographia (c, 150 A.D.), which was considered to be considered the apogee of the cartography of the Classical world. While none of Ptolemy's original maps survive, manuscript copies were preserved over the centuries, with the first printed edition issued in Bologna in 1477.
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. Funded by René II of Lorraine, the school of St. Dié was responsible for a trio of publications which revolutionized the traditional conceptions of global geography.
Waldseemüller was inspired by Amerigo Vespucci's outrageously entertaining best seller, Mundus Novus (1503), which asserted for the first time that the New World was a distinct continental landmass. In 1507, he published a fantastically large World map. This great work definitively shows the Americas as being "the Fourth Part of the World" or a new continent, complete with a western coastline showing it to be definitely separate from Asia. The map, which survives in only a single example, has been called the "Birth Certificate of America".
Waldseemüller followed this up with a magnificent edition of Ptolemy's Geographia, published in 1513 by Johann Schott in Strasbourg. In addition to a full suite of Ptolemaic maps, the work was supplemented with a number of new maps, including the famous 'Admiral's Map', which depicted the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas. All of its maps, including the present map, were printed from beautifully carved woodblocks made of pear wood.
The present map is an especially beautiful example of this important map, with magnificent original signature coloring, not seen on many surviving examples. A foundational map for any serious collection of Holy Land, Cyprus, Levant or Middle East cartography.
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 northern 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.