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Europe in the Form of a Queen

This is a nice full-color example of Munster's map of Europe in the shape of a queen. The regent's head and crown constitute the Iberian Peninsula, her arms Italy and Denmark, and her dress the countries from France to Bulgaria. In what might be interpreted as a political statement, Great Britain and Ireland are tiny, insignificant islands from which the queen turns her head.

Organizing maps after human forms dates from at least the Middle Ages and continues to this day. The first known example of a printed Europa Regina map was Putsch's 1537 map, and his close relation to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I has been taken to mean that his map represents Habsburg power in Europe. Evidence on this is limited, however, and it can be seen that the present map offers little in the way of support to this theory. While the Habsburg's long rival, England, is depicted as insignificant, one of only two cities named in Europe is Paris, capital of a Habsburg rival power. While tempting to ascribe political statements to maps such as these, one must be skeptical of overly grand interpretations.

Few mapmakers chose to portray Europe in such a manner, and maps such as these from the late 16th century are scarce. This work appeared in Munster's Cosmographia.

Condition Description
Original hand-color, retouched.
Sebastian Munster Biography

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.