One of the Earliest Obtainable World Maps, and one of the Most Visually Evocative of its Time
A fine example of Hartmann Schedel's map of the World, from the German edition of his Liber Chronicum. This world map, published only a year after Columbus's discovery of the Americas, shows the Old World in a marvelous Ptolemaic projection.
Schedel's map is one of the earliest obtainable world maps, and, visually, one of the most evocative of its period. Published just forty years after the invention of printing, Schedel's map presents the world as seen just prior to Columbus' voyage and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope by Dias.
The general contours of the map primarily show the influence of the most important geographical work of antiquity, Ptolemy's Geographia, which had been forgotten during the Middle Ages. However, some of the map's tendencies reveal the work to be distinctly medieval: the Indian Ocean is shown in its land-locked, pre-discovery state, for example. The inclusion of illustrations of Japhet, Shem, and Ham (the sons of Noah who re-populated the earth after the Flood) in the corners suggests the theology-centered medieval view of the world. Also on the map is the familiar decorative motif of the twelve wind-heads that is found on many early printed world maps. The map also includes a large island off the west coast of Africa, which may relate to the account of Martin Behaim's voyage to the region, which is referenced by Schedel in the text.
The engraving reveals the medieval attitude toward peoples of distant lands through the grotesque creatures found on the left side of the map as well as the verso; these creatures were believed to inhabit unexplored areas. This helps to explain the ease with which Europeans were able to demonize indigenous peoples they encountered in the New World. These engravings are based on early medieval travelers' accounts. Shirley, in his The Mapping of the Early World, describes the some of the figures as such:
A six-armed man, possibly based on a file of Hindu dancers so aligned that the front figure appears to have multiple arms; a six-fingered man, a centaur, a four-eyed man from a coastal tribe in Ethiopia; a dog-headed man from the Simien Mountains, a cyclops, one of those men whose heads grow beneath their shoulders, one of the crook-legged men who live in the desert and slide along instead of walking; a strange hermaphrodite, a man with one giant foot only (stated by Solinus to be used a parasol but more likely an unfortunate sufferer from elephantiasis), a man with a huge underlip (doubtless seen in Africa), a man with waist-length hanging ears, and other frightening and fanciful creatures of a world beyond.
The first edition of the map can be distinguished by the inclusion of Latin text (rather than German) and by the placement of the map on the sheet (the Latin edition has the map at the top, with the text at the bottom, the German has the opposite).
This is the Latin first edition.
Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) was a physician, book collector, and writer whose most famous work, the Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicle), included some of the first printed views of many cities in Europe and across the world.
Schedel was born and died in Nuremberg, but he also traveled for his education. From 1456 to 1463 he lived in Leipzig, where he attended the University of Leipzig and earned his MA. From there he went to Padua, where he earned a Doctor of Medicine in 1466. After university, he worked for a time in Nördlingen and then returned to Nuremberg. In 1482 he was elected a member of the Great Council of Nuremberg.
The Chronicle was published in 1493. Besides this major work, one of Schedel’s most enduring legacies is his magnificent manuscript and printed book collection, one of the largest of the fifteenth century. In 1552, Schedel's grandson, Melchior Schedel, sold about 370 manuscripts and 600 printed works from Hartmann Schedel's library to Johann Jakob Fugger. Fugger later sold his library to Duke Albert V of Bavaria in 1571. This library is now mostly preserved in the Bayerische Staasbibliothek in Munich.
Among the surviving portions of Schedel's library are the records for the publication of the Chronicle, including Schedel's contract with Anton Koberger for the publication of the work and the financing of the work by Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister, as well as the contracts with Wohlgemut and Pleydenwurff for the original artworks and engravings. The collection also includes original manuscript copies of the work in Latin and German.