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An Updated Map of the World From Munster's Cosmographia.

A decorative example of this revised and updated map of the world, based upon Abraham Ortelius' world map, which appeared in Munster's Cosmographia after 1588. The map is intriguingly designed, including many curious details such as arctic islands and a massive continent at the south pole. Detail abounds throughout the map, including ships and sea monsters in the oceans. The map is framed by a pattern made of golden leaves. German text at the top describes the regions and political powers of the world, while the bottom text appears to focus on the New World, mentioning New Spain, "New India," and New France.

The map includes a marvelous depiction of the Northwest and Northeast passages. The massive unknown southern continent (Terra Australis Nondum Cognita) is retained, as are references drawn from Marco Polo's travels, including the location of Beach near modern-day Australia. Japan is shown, as are the Kingdoms of Quivira and Anian on the West Coast of North America. Florida, Nova Francia Granada, and Nova Hispania are other regional names depicted in North America. The depiction of Southeast Asia, China, and Korea is fascinating.

The map was first designed for the 1588 version of Munster's Cosmographia by Sebastien Petri. This latter had inherited the role of publishing copies of Cosmographia from his father and chose to update the maps. Many maps were based on Orterlius's earlier maps, as previously mentioned, though Petri decided to substitute Munster's woodcut printing for Ortelius's copperplate style. This map appeared in the 1588, 1592, 1614, 1615, and 1628 issues of Cosmographia.

Overall, the map is elegant in its simplicity and stark depictions of the coasts, rivers, and inland seas of the world.

Münster's Cosmographia

Münster's Cosmographia was the first German-language description of the world, and one of the defining books of the Renaissance. It contained 471 woodcuts and 26 maps over six volumes. First published in 1544, the Cosmographia was hugely popular in addition to being influential for contemporary cartographers like Mercator and Ortelius. It was published in at least 35 editions by 1628; these editions included examples in Latin, French, Italian, English, and Czech. After Münster's death, Henri Petri, and later his son, Sebastien Petri, took charge of printing editions.

Münster drew from his own travels in the work in addition to using other ancient and more modern sources. These sources included Herodotus, Strabo, and Titius Livius, as well as Marcantonio Sabellico, Beatus Rhenanus, and Aegidius Tschudi. Münster additionally collected reports from recent travelers, which he integrated into his descriptions. These descriptions generally included detailed overviews of the customs, dress, and organization of peoples around the world, earning him a prominent place in the histories of geography and anthropology.

Shirley 163.
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.