The Ulm Ptolemy map of the World is one of the most sought after and recognized of all world maps.
The map is the first map of the World printed North of the Alps and the first to appear in color which was applied by the publisher. It is also the earliest world map signed by its engraver, Johanne Schnitzer. While Ptolemaic in construction, the map includes information in Scandinavia, based upon Caudius Clavius's map of 1427.
The map follows the manuscript map of Donnus Nicolaus Germanus, issued in the prior decades. The Ulm Ptolemy was originally published in 1482 by Leinhart Holle. However, Holle went Bankrupt shortly after the original publication and the work was taken over by Johann Reger, who issued an addition in 1486. The two editions can generally be distinguished by the coloring used for the seas--the 1482 employing a blue, while the 1486 uses a golden brown. While the map does reflect some modern updates, the Portugese discoveries in Africa are omittedand the map retains a closed Indian Ocean, with a land bridge or unknown Southern Continent connecting Asia and Africa. Twelve windheads ring the map, each of which is named.
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.