AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT INCUNABLE; THE SECOND EDITION OF PTOLEMY WITH MAPS. THIS EDITION OF PTOLEMY OWNED AND USED BY CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.
The second Ptolemy with copper-engraved maps, preceded only by the 1477 Bologna edition of the Cosmographia, an example of which was sold in Lord Wardington's sale for GBP £2,136,000.
Rome: [Conradus Sweynheym, succeeded by] Arnoldus Buckinck, 1478
Late-19th- or early-20th-century full calf, gilt extra, with elaborate rectilinear strapwork devices in red, black, and gold; the spine in six compartments separated by raised bands; inner dentelles gilt; bound by Guerin (signed).
Detailed condition report:
All sheets mounted on modern tabs. Rather inconspicuous dampstain in lower margin proceeding from front end papers to roughly leaf . Some of the maps have very small wormholes not mentioned individually in the description.
Collation: 27 COPPER-ENGRAVED MAPS. 69 (of 70, final blank supplied) initial leaves, without title, signatures, or pagination, as issued; i.e., 123 (of 124) total leaves (wanting only 8/10 blank). Additionally bound with 23 double-page woodcut maps from the modern section of Fries's 1541 Ptolemy.
[1r] blank; [1v] dedication to Sixtus IV; 1/2r-8/9r text; 8/9v colophon; 8/10 blank [supplied]; 9-15 copperplate maps printed on one side only. Type 1:115R. 50 lines. Double-column. 2-, 3- and 7-line initial spaces, mostly with printed guide letters.
: Moderately wormed. Outer and inner margin damaged with losses reinstated.
: Moderately wormed. Outer margin damaged with losses reinstated. Large initial letter "C" excised and reinstated in facsimile. Facsimile is heavily wormed.
: Minor worming. Outer margin damaged with losses reinstated, not affecting printed image. Blue-ink manuscript initial letters are washed out.
[4-8]: Few small worm holes. Lower right corner damaged with slight loss reinstated, not affecting image. Blue-ink manuscript initial letters are washed out.
[9v]: Early manuscript annotations to woodcut projection illustration.
: Woodcut illustrations on recto and verso, early ink annotations on both.
: Upper right corner reinstated, not coming close to affecting text.
[25v]: Blank surface slightly dirty.
[26r]: Blank surface slightly dirty.
: Upper blank margin with cleaned spot.
[37r]: Gutter with minor soiling. Upper blank margin with cleaned spot.
[41v / 42r]: Very minor soiling.
[44v]: Minor soiling in blank gutter.
[61r]: Soiling to blank gutter.
[World]: Reinstated triangular paper loss (2x1.5 inches) in lower left corner. Not affecting image. Separate paper tear (1.25 inches) from lower left edge; not affecting the image. Very small amount of loss in gutter, in some places resulting in minor loss of image; in no place does the loss extend to more than 1/8 inch into the image. 1-inch reinstated loss at bottom edge and centerfold. Repair around the final "S" in "SINUS BARBARICUS". Overall a sharp, very good impression.
[Spain]: The temple associated with "VENERIS TEMPLUM" in the Pyrenees has been defaced with early ink manuscript; the title has been crossed out. An annotation in the same hand reads "Laudau Dei" above the temple.
[France, right leaf]: Several long, intersecting tears through image, all of which skillfully repaired. 2 x .5 inch loss on right side of centerfold at the bottom edge.
[Sardinia and Sicily]: Small repair to thin vertical loss (1.5 inches) in gutter.
[Greece]: Title barely shaved at top edge.
[Western North Africa]: Light wear in gutter.
[Central North Africa]: Light wear in gutter. Thin, cleaned stain through Mediterranean with obverse stain on facing leaf.
[Holy Land / Middle East]: Cleaned 1-inch stain around Duraba.
[Septima Asiae Tabula]: Text barely shaved at right edge.[Nona Asiae Tabula: Scant pink soiling.
Decima Asiae Tabula]: Scant pink soiling.
Undecima Asiae Tabula: Cleaned stain in blank margins of lower left and right corners. Barely shaved at top edge, not affecting image.
Duodecima et Ultima Asiae Tabula: Long repaired tear from left edge and right edge.
Claudius Ptolemy (fl. AD 127-145) was an ancient geographer, astronomer, and mathematician. He is known today through translations and transcriptions of his work, but little is known about his life besides his residence in Alexandria.
Several of his works are still known today, although they have passed through several alterations and languages over the centuries. The Almagest, in thirteen books, discusses astronomy. It is in the Almagest that Ptolemy postulates his geocentric universe. His geometric ideas are contained in the Analemma, and his optical ideas were presented in five books known as the Optica.
His geographic and cartographic work was immensely influential. In the Planisphaerium, Ptolemy discusses the stereographic projection. Perhaps his best-known work is his Geographia, in eight books. However, Ptolemy’s ideas had been absent from western European intellectual history for roughly a thousand years, although Arab scholars interacted with his ideas from the ninth century onward.
In 1295, a Greek monk found a copy of Geographia in Constantinople; the emperor ordered a copy made and the Greek text began to circulate in eastern Europe. In 1393, a Byzantine diplomat brought a copy of the Geographia to Italy, where it was translated into Latin in 1406 and called the Cosmographia. The manuscript maps were first recorded in 1415. These manuscripts, of which there are over eighty extant today, are the descendants of Ptolemy’s work and a now-lost atlas consisting of a world map and 26 regional maps.
When Ptolemy’s work was re-introduced to Western scholarship, it proved radically influential for the understanding and appearance of maps. Ptolemy employs the concept of a graticule, uses latitude and longitude, and orients his maps to the north—concepts we take for granted today. The Geographia’s text is concerned with three main issues with regard to geography: the size and shape of the earth; map projection, i.e. how to represent the world’s curve proportionally on a plane surface; and the corruption of spatial data as it transfers from source to source. The text also contains instructions as to how to map the world on a globe or a plane surface, complete with the only set of geographic coordinates (8000 toponyms, 6400 with coordinates) to survive from the classical world.