1552 Munster Map of Africa

Africa XXV. Nova Tabula. - Main View

1552 Munster Map of Africa


Earliest Acquirable Printed Map of the African Continent.


Africa XXV. Nova Tabula.
  1552 (undated)     11.5 x 14.5 in (29.21 x 36.83 cm)     1 : 30000000


This is the distinctive 1552 Geographia edition of Sebastian Münster's 1540 map of Africa, the earliest map of the continent available to the collector. For more than thirty years during the age of discovery, this map would be the predominant representation of Africa for the European reader. This issue is the only edition to include the coordinate bars on the margin, which were added to the final 1552 edition of Geographia but were not re-utilized in subsequent Cosmographia editions.
The Map
Within its generally-recognizable depiction of the shape of the continent, it presents an amalgam of sources. Most of the general detail of North Africa is derived from Ptolemaic geography, as is the depiction of the Nile with its sources in the lakes of the Mountains of the Moon (Ptolemy's assumptions about the sources of that river would remain unchallenged on maps of Africa until the end of the 17th century.) Many place names in North Africa were likely drawn from Leo Africanus' 1526 Descrittione dell 'Africa, though many - for example, Garamantes - are drawn from classical historians such as Herodotus. Münster draws on Portuguese sources for west Africa (Cadamosto's 15th century journeys there would reveal the Cape Verde Islands, which appear here.). Numerous kingdoms are noted throughout the continent and are marked by a crown and scepter. Some of these include the Arab kingdoms of Melinde and Quiola, Meroë, where the Nubian kings are said to be buried, and Hamarichthe capital of the kingdom of the mythical Christian king Prester John.
A Visually Compelling Map
Of the early maps of Africa, Münster's is the most entertaining, with its decorative elements such as parrots, an elephant, and a giant Cyclops. The grand ship shown sailing near the Cape of Good Hope does more than decorate: it reinforces the news that those waters were navigable, a reality not reflected in Ptolemy's mapping of the world until scholars began revising the 2nd century geographers' work at the end of the 15th century. By the time atlases such as Ortelius' began entering publication, Münster's groundbreaking map would be obsolete. One result of this is that despite its broad reach, the map was not copied by other mapmakers, making the map visually unique - and an utterly essential map for the collector of maps of the discovery period in general, and Africa in particular.
Publication History and Census
This map was introduced in the first 1540 edition of Munster's Geographia. It remained in each edition of that work, of which the 1552 was the last. The map, without the distinctive coordinate bars, would be included in all further editions of Munster's Cosmographia until 1578, after which point the double-page maps of the long-lived work were replaced and updated. While editions of Cosmographia are well represented in institutional collections, perhaps twenty are of this 1552 edition. The separate map appears frequently in OCLC, although only one example of this 1552 state appears there, at Princeton University.


Sebastian Münster (January 20, 1488 - May 26 1552), was a German cartographer, cosmographer, Hebrew scholar and humanist. He was born at Ingelheim near Mainz, the son of Andreas Munster. He completed his studies at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen in 1518, after which he was appointed to the University of Basel in 1527. As Professor of Hebrew, he edited the Hebrew Bible, accompanied by a Latin translation. In 1540 he published a Latin edition of Ptolemy's Geographia, which presented the ancient cartographer's 2nd century geographical data supplemented systematically with maps of the modern world. This was followed by what can be considered his principal work, the Cosmographia. First issued in 1544, this was the earliest German description of the modern world. It would become the go-to book for any literate layperson who wished to know about anywhere that was further than a day's journey from home. In preparation for his work on Cosmographia, Münster reached out to humanists around Europe and especially within the Holy Roman Empire, enlisting colleagues to provide him with up-to-date maps and views of their countries and cities, with the result that the book contains a disproportionate number of maps providing the first modern depictions of the areas they depict. The book, unsurprisingly, proved popular and was reissued in numerous editions and languages including Latin, French, Italian, English, and Czech. The last German edition was published in 1628, long after Münster's death of the plague in 1552. Cosmographia was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century, passing through 24 editions between 1544 and 1628. This success was due in part to its fascinating woodcuts (some by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudolph Manuel Deutsch, and David Kandel). Münster's work was highly influential in reviving classical geography in 16th century Europe, and providing the intellectual foundations for the production of later compilations of cartographic work, such as Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrsrum Münster's output includes a large format 1536 map of Europe; the 1532 Grynaeus map of the world is also attributed to him. His non-geographical output includes Dictionarium trilingue in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and his 1537 Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Most of Munster's work was published by his son-in-Law, Heinrich Petri (Henricus Petrus), and his son Sebastian Henric Petri.


Munster, S. Geographia (Basel: Petri) 1552.     Following in the footsteps of Martin Waldseemuller and Lorent Fries before him, Sebastian Munster edited and published a modernized version of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia. This appeared in six Latin editions in 1540, 1541, 1542, 1545, 1551 and 1552. According to Karrow, Munster based the text on the Latin translation of Willibald Pirkheimer, but he carefully collated it with previous editions, adding notes of his own. The first three editions contained 48 maps, consisting of 27 based on Ptolemy's ancient geography, and 21 maps based on modern geographical knowledge. The latter three editions contained 54 maps, comprised of the same ancient works but with six of the modern maps discarded, and twelve new ones added. For the collector, the modern maps are of sharpest interest. Some were based on Waldseemuller's geography, but many were based on Munster's own surveys and those of other European geographers whose assistance Munster had been able to enlist. Most of these would be reprised in Munster's magnum opus, Cosmographia Universalis. A disproportionate number of Munster's modern maps show contemporary geographical knowledge of the their respective areas for the very first time: The first map to show the continents of the Western Hemisphere; the first map to focus on the continent of Asia; the first modern map to name the Pacific Ocean. Even in cases where earlier maps exist, Munster's works very often remain the earliest such acquirable by the collector.


Excellent condition.


OCLC 62317269. Afriterra 463. Betz, R., The Mapping of Africa: A Cartobibliography of Printed Maps of the African Continent to 1700, #3 v. 9. Norwich, O. I., Norwich's Maps of Africa: An Illustrated and Annotated Cartobibliography, 2. MCCS No.29, #6. Rumsey 11623.102 (1540 Geographia edition).