Finely colored map of Cyprus, Syria, the Holy Land and contiguous regions, from an early edition of Munster's Cosmographia.
Munster's Cosmographia was one of the most influential geographical works of the 16th Century and had a profound impact on the European perception of the modern world during the 2nd half of the 16th Century.
The holy land, during the time of Munster, was under the hold of the Ottoman Empire. In 1486, hostilities broke out between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks in a battle for control over western Asia. The Ottomans proceeded to conquer Palestine. The conquest of Palestine was relatively swift, with small battles fought against the Mamluks. The region was divided into the five different states, all part of the larger eyelet of Damascus.
Munster's Cosmographia was one of the most influential geographical works of the 16th Century and had a profound impact on the European perception of the modern world during the 2nd half of the 16th Century. It is the earliest German description of the world. It had numerous editions in different languages including Latin, and French. The Cosmographia was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century. It passed through 24 editions in 100 years. This success was due to the notable woodcuts by famous artists such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudolph Manuel Deutsch, and David Kandel. In addition, it was also the first to introduce separate maps for each of the four continents known then: America, Africa, Asia and Europe. It was in part because of this book that geography was revived in 16th-century Europe.
His first geographic works were Germania descriptio (1530) and Mappa Europae (1536). In 1540, he published a Latin edition of Ptolemy's Geographia with illustrations. The 1550 edition contains cities, portraits, and costumes. These editions, printed in Germany, are the most valued of the Cosmographias.
Sebastian Münster (1488-1552) was a cosmographer and professor of Hebrew who taught at Tübingen, Heidelberg, and Basel. He settled in the latter in 1529 and died there, of plague, in 1552. Münster made himself the center of a large network of scholars from whom he obtained geographic descriptions, maps, and directions.
As a young man, Münster joined the Franciscan order, in which he became a priest. He then studied geography at Tübingen, graduating in 1518. He moved to Basel, where he published a Hebrew grammar, one of the first books in Hebrew published in Germany. In 1521 Münster moved again, to Heidelberg, where he continued to publish Hebrew texts and the first German-produced books in Aramaic. After converting to Protestantism in 1529, he took over the chair of Hebrew at Basel, where he published his main Hebrew work, a two-volume Old Testament with a Latin translation.
Münster published his first known map, a map of Germany, in 1525. Three years later, he released a treatise on sundials. In 1540, he published Geographia universalis vetus et nova, an updated edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. In addition to the Ptolemaic maps, Münster added 21 modern maps. One of Münster’s innovations was to include one map for each continent, a concept that would influence Ortelius and other early atlas makers. The Geographia was reprinted in 1542, 1545, and 1552.
He is best known for his Cosmographia universalis, first published in 1544 and released in at least 35 editions by 1628. It was the first German-language description of the world and contained 471 woodcuts and 26 maps over six volumes. Many of the maps were taken from the Geographia and modified over time. The Cosmographia was widely used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The text, woodcuts, and maps all influenced geographical thought for generations.