The First Ptolemaeic Map of the Holy Land Printed North of the Alps
Fine old color of this remarkable early map of the Holy Land, Cyprus and environs, from the 1486 Ulm edition of Ptolemy's Geographia.
The present example of the map is noteworthy for the extensive manuscript additions, including at least one place name in the northeastern section of the map and a number of what appear to be routes in brown dashed lines and solid red lines.
The map is drawn from the work of Nicolas Germanicus, whose manuscript maps were created to illustrate pre-1470 editions of Ptolemy's Geographia.
This is Ptolemy's general map of modern-day Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The Holy Land is labeled "Palestina Judea", and is shown divided into the provinces of Roman times: "Galilea", "Samaria", and "Judea". Numerous cities are shown, including Tiberias, Joppa, Ascalon, and Jerusalem.
The present map is from the second edition of this work, which was first published in 1482.
The 1482 Ulm edition of Ptolemy's Geographia was the first edition printed north of the Alps map and the first to appear in color which was applied by the publisher. The Ulm edition of the Geographia was one of the most important cartographic texts of the early Renaissance and the first edition of the work to be printed outside Italy. The text for this edition was a manuscript translated into Latin by Jacobus Angeli and edited by Nicolaus Germanus that had been brought to Ulm from Rome in 1468. The Ulm Ptolemy was first published in 1482 by Lienhart Holle, the same year as Berlingheri's Florence edition. Ashley Baynton Williams notes:
Working independently of Berlinghieri, but apparently using the same or similar models, Holle also added modern maps of Spain, France, Italy and Palestine, but also the first printed map of Scandinavia, composed by Cornelius Clavus, circa 1425-27. Holle's maps were printed from woodcuts, and are characterized by heavy wash coloring for the sea areas, typically a rich blue for the 1482 edition, and an ochre for the 1486 edition. These bright colors and the greater sense of age that woodcuts convey, make this series the most visually appealing of the [Ptolemeic] maps.
Holle went bankrupt shortly after the original publication and the work was taken over by Johann Reger, who issued a second edition in 1486. The second edition can be distinguished from the first by the inclusion of a brown wash color in the ocean. The first edition includes a blue wash color.
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.