The Old World & Modern Continents From Munster's Cosmographia
Decorative set of maps showing the Ptolemaic World and 4 modern continents, published for Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia. . . .
As a set, the 5 maps provide a fascinating contrasting set of images of the Pre-Columbian World, juxtaposed against up to date maps showing the known world exactly 100 years after Bartolomeu Dias first rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1488), and less than a century after Columbus's first contact with the New World (1492) and Vasco de Gama's first successful sea voyage from Europe to India (1498).
By 1588, Munster's first set of maps of the world and continents, originally printed in 1540, had become dated and became time to update the maps in his Cosmographia. For revised maps, his success, Henrich Petri, looked to Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum for a cartographic model. The titles of the maps of America and Africa were copied, although curiously Africa was misspelled with two f's.
The new maps would anchor an entirely new set of modern maps, which would appear in Munster's Cosmographia for the next 5 decades.
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.
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.