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Extra-Illustrated Example of the 1486 Ulm Sanuto-Vesconte Map of the Holy Land with Hand Drawn Vignettes

Striking example of the Sanuto-Vesconte modern map of the Holy Land, from the 1486 Ulm Ptolemy, the first atlas printed north of the Alps.

The present example includes extra hand drawn vignettes, added in a very early hand, as described below.

"The map is orientated to the east, and shows the whole of Palestine on both sides of the Jordan divided into the 12 Tribes. The shore line runs from Sidon to Gaza. South of a fantasy Carmel Mountain there is a big island, called the Castle of the Pilgrims (Atlit of today), and a similar but smaller island north of Jaffa called Assur. The Carmel Mountain is misshapen. The Jordan River in its wide meanderings is shown as a thin line" (Laor).

The Sanuto-Vesconte Prototype: The First "Modern" Map of the Holy Land

Kenneth Nebenzahl, in his groundbreaking cartobibliography Map of the Holy Land, includes the following essay on the Sanuto-Vesconte map of the Holy Land:

This "modern" map, copied directly from Sanuto and Vesconte by Donnus Nicholaus Germanus, is crucial for the development of Holy Land cartography during the early history of printing. It represents the second fundamental style, after Ptolemy's Asia Part IV, which determined the format for mapmakers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. That the map was composed by Sanuto and Vesconte was no longer important; association with the atlases of Ptolemy assured its authority.

Nicholaus's copy is nearly identical to the 1320 original. Rivers, lakes, and mountains show the same basic contours, and the Mediterranean coast still has its characteristic bays and inlets. The boundaries of the Twelve Tribes are similar. A glance at the cities reveals a few discrepancies, but Sanuto-Vesconte's horizontal format and numerical grid are retained.

Nicholaus also made some improvements on Sanuto. Lines of latitude in the margin indicate that the orientation of Sanuto's map is actually to the southeast, not directly east; Nicholaus kept the format but indicated true north. The river Kishon no longer connects the Sea of Galilee with the Mediterranean, as it did according to Burchard of Mt. Sion's long-influential aberration. Some cities have been added, mostly from Ptolemy's Asia Part IV, and more information is conveyed in numerous inscriptions.

Nicholaus produced three manuscript versions of a Ptolemaic atlas between 1466 and 1474. These formed the basis for some of the first printed atlases, one at Rome in 1478, and two at Ulm in 1482 and 1486. The printed atlases contained Sanuto and Vesconte's map of Palestine as a modern map, linking them with the Ptolemaic canon.

Ptolemaic manuscripts had been supplemented by modern delineations as early as 1428, when a copyist inserted a map of the north by Claudius Clavus. Hugo de Comminellis produced a Ptolemy atlas with a section of modern maps in November 1469. Nicholaus, in his third revision of Ptolemy, quickly adopted Comminellis's original idea, adding Sanuto's map of the Holy Land for the first time.

The Sanuto-Vesconte map had not been improved substantially for over 150 years, and it was destined to provide the basic image of the Holy Land until the eighteenth century. It proved itself an appropriate addition to Ptolemy's classical geography.

Hand Drawn Illustrations

The present map includes a number of hand drawn vignettes and illustrations, which appear to have been added at a relatively early date.  The additional embellishments include:

  • Iehrusalem (obscured by color) --Massive city added
  • Bethlehem (obscured by color) - Small city added
  • Jericho  (obscured by color) -Small city added
  • Cananea -- small city added
  • Damascus-- An elaborate city added
  • Sepulcrumiob - Church structure added
  • (Ioppa (Tel Aviv) -- Obscured by color)   Small city added
  • (Ascalona (Askelon) -- Obscured by color)   Small city added
  • (Gaza -- Obscured by color)  Small city added
  • Tribus Juda (Scene likely relating to the Lion of Judah from the New Testament)
  • Christ on the Cross with Two Saints at the foot of the cross.

For an un-enhanced example of the map, see here:


In 1482 Lienhart Holle published in Ulm, Germany a revised edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia with the woodblock versions of the Ptolemaic corpus by the cartographer Nicolaus Germanus. The 1482 Ulm was the first atlas illustrated with woodcuts and the first atlas published north of the Alps. In addition to the Ptolemaic maps, the 1482 Ulm included five additional “modern” maps: Italy, Spain, France, Scandinavia, and the Holy Land.

After Holle went bankrupt, the project was taken over by Johann Reger, who was brought down costs by using cheaper paper and pigments.

The most common way to differentiate between the 1482 and 1486 Ulm Ptolemy's is with the hand-coloring, which is distinctly blue in the 1482 (from the lapis lazuli pigments) and is golden-brown in the 1486 (from a pigment that was originally purple but shifted color over time). This method is not foolproof, however, and we have encountered 1486 maps that were colored as 1482 maps. A more robust method for differentiating the editions is to check for the printed title above the image, which is absent in the 1482 maps but has been added in most 1486 versions.

With the present example, the 1482 edition does not include a title. The 1486 edition adds a title.

This is a cornerstone map for Holy Land collectors.


The map is rare on the market.  This is the second example of the map we have offered for sale in the past 20 years.

Condition Description
Old Color, with evidence of color enhancement and a number of vignettes drawn on the map. Some soiling.
Laor 603; Nebenzahl, Holy Land, 19.
Pietro Vesconte Biography

Pietro Vesconte was a fourteenth-century mapmaker best known for his pioneering portolan charts. Born in Genoa, he performed the bulk of his work in Venice between 1310 and 1330.

While portolan charts are known to have existed since at least the thirteenth century, Vesconte significantly improved on the form and produced highly-accurate charts of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and Northern Europe. His 1311 chart of the eastern Mediterranean is the oldest signed and dated nautical chart. He also made at least four signed atlases. One of these, a 1318 atlas, includes an image of a chartmaker at work which is likely Vesconte. The cartographer also made several maps, including a distinctive mappa mundi included in Marino Sanuto’s Liber secretorum fidelium crucis.