This item has been sold, but you can get on the Waitlist to be notified if another example becomes available, or purchase a digital scan.

1552 Munster Map of America (first obtainable printed map of America)

Tabula novarum insularum, quas diversis respectibus Occidentales et Indianas vocant. - Main View

1552 Munster Map of America (first obtainable printed map of America)


First printed map of the Western Hemisphere.


Tabula novarum insularum, quas diversis respectibus Occidentales et Indianas vocant.
  1552 (undated)     11 x 14 in (27.94 x 35.56 cm)     1 : 50000000


This is an excellent 1552 Latin edition of Sebastian Münster's map of America, the first printed map of the Western Hemisphere. The map first appeared in Münster’s 1540 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia, one of the earliest versions of the classical work to systematically include maps showing contemporary geographical knowledge. Beginning in 1544 it would be included in Münster’s magnum opus, Cosmographia Universalis, which for over forty years would be the primary source of information for anyone who wished to know about the rest of the world: consequently this map would have had a disproportionate impact, providing the first glimpse of the New World to literate laypeople in Europe nearly half a century.
An Impressive Array of Firsts
In addition to being the first map to present North and South America as a continuous land mass, this was the first map to name the Pacific Ocean and the Straits of Magellan; it ranks among the earliest acquirable maps to show and name Japan (Zipangri, albeit placed conveniently off the American Pacific coast.) It was the first widely-disseminated map to reveal the discoveries of Verrazano and Cabot, as well.
Speculative Geography
There being vast gaps in European scholars’ knowledge of the Americas, Münster and any other geographer of his era had to fill in the spaces between his data points with speculation - leading to many of the unusual features of this map. The wedge-like bisecting North America was derived from interpretations’ of Verrazano’s observations during his 1524 voyage; this so-called ‘Sea of Verrazano’ would also appear on Münster’s world map. The Pacific Ocean itself reflects The Yucatan peninsula appears on this map as an island.
Revealing and Summarizing the Age of Discovery in the Americas
The Caribbean region is reasonably well understood: Cuba, Jamaica, St. Paul, Cozumel, Yucatan, Dominica, and Hispaniola. The Castilian flag flies over Puerto Rico (unnamed on this state of the map) and the Portuguese flag appears off the coast of Brazil: these are a reference to the Treaty of Tordesillas, the agreement between Spain and Portugal determining which of the newly-discovered areas belonged to each kingdom. In North America, the Florida peninsula is recognizable, although the entire region of the souytheast is identified as 'Terra Florida.' Further north, another territory, defined as Francisca, is identified - applying Verrazano’s term for the lands his expedition surveyed. This appellation was in honor of Francis I, the French King who sponsored Verrazano's expedition. 'C. Britonum' is a reference to Cabot's expedition and is most like Cape Breton. The nearby island of Corte Real is possibly ’Terra Nova do Bacalhau’ (New Land of the Codfish) supposedly discovered by the Portuguese navigator Joao Vaz Corte-Real in 1473.

South America is more recognizable. This map (tied with Münster’s world map) is the first acquirable to name and show the Straits of Magellan; a lovely sailing ship in the Pacific is likely in honor of Magellan’s flagship Victoria. Catigara, a city typically located in East Asia by Ptolemy, has here been relocated to the western coast of South America, near modern day Peru. Thanks to Vespucci’s popular and sensational accounts of the New World, if scholars knew anything about South America it was that it was full of cannibals. Consequently the region of Brazil is decorated with a primitive lean-to festooned with a human head and leg, labeled ‘Canibali.’ Patagonia is identified as ’Regio Gigantum’ (the Kingdom of Giants) in reference to the ten-foot-tall giants reported by Magellan’s survivors.
The Earliest Printed Map of the Pacific Ocean
As noted before, this is the earliest printed map (tied with Münster’s own world map) to use the term 'Pacific' to describe the Ocean to the west of America. Munster most likely theorized that this ocean was an extension of Ptolemy's Indian Ocean - a fact also suggested by his placement of 'Catigara.' Into this largely unexplored ocean he introduces the Ins. Pdonum: according to Suarez, this is a corruption of Magellan's 'Ladroni' or 'Thieves' Island', today's Guam and Rota. Münster also identifies 'Calensuan,' which Suarez suggests one of the islands visited by Magellan's crew after the man himself was slain on Cebu. Further north, an archipelago of 7448 islands surrounds 'Zipangri.' This is Japan, as referenced by Marco Polo. This is among the earliest appearances of Japan on a printed map, and in its first edition of 1540 predated any European contact with the island nation.
Publication History and Census
The present example represents the 5th state of Munster's map, prepared for the 1550 and 1552 Latin editions of the Cosmographia. Only examples of this state appear separately in OCLC, one of which is identified as the 1552 issue and is held at the Newberry Library. In its various other states, the map is well represented in institutional collections.


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. Münster, as a religious man, was not producing a travel guide. Just as his work in ancient languages was intended to provide his students with as direct a connection as possible to scriptural revelation, his object in producing Cosmographia was to provide the reader with a description of all of creation: a further means of gaining revelation. The book, unsurprisingly, proved popular and was reissued in numerous editions and languages including Latin, French, Italian, 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 Terrarum Münster's output includes a small 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 stepson, Heinrich Petri (Henricus Petrus), and his son Sebastian Henric Petri. Learn More...


Ptolemy, C., Cosmographia (Basel: Munster) 1552.    


Excellent condition. Marginal mend outside printed area. Latin text on verso with typical faint show through.


Burden, P., The Mapping of North America, no. 12, state 5. Suarez, T., Early Mapping of Southeast Asia…, p. 127. Suarez, T., Early Mapping of the Pacific. Suarez, Shedding the Veil, page 85. OCLC: 930283758. Compare Rumsey 11623.000 (1540 Geographia).