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1550 Münster / Anthonisz Bird's Eye View of Amsterdam

[Untitled Bird's Eye View of Amsterdam]. - Main View

1550 Münster / Anthonisz Bird's Eye View of Amsterdam


First edition of the earliest printed map of Amsterdam available to the collector.


[Untitled Bird's Eye View of Amsterdam].
  1550 (undated)     10.25 x 7 in (26.035 x 17.78 cm)     1 : 8000


This is Sebastian Münster's 1550 view / map of Amsterdam, the earliest acquirable printed map of that city. It was preceded only by the 1544 wall map of Cornelis Anthonisz, Münster's source for this view. Anthonisz's wall map - which survives in fewer than ten examples - represented the best (and only) firsthand depiction of Amsterdam of its time. Its depiction in 1550 by Münster and in 1572 by Braun and Hogenberg established as the dominant 16th century image f what would become the chief economic engine of the seventeenth century.
The Late Medieval City
The view is oriented to the southwest. The river Amstel appears to the left, and at bottom the IJ teems with ships. A list of important structures appears below, keyed to the plan with letters. Most are churches, but the old town hall (replaced in 1648) and its leprosarium are also noted. The city arms are displayed at the upper right amidst a cloud background. To the upper left the artist Heinrich Holzmüller's 'H-H' signature can be seen.

The Amsterdam captured in this image, though not yet a seat of a globe-spanning mercantile empire, was nevertheless the most important trade city in the Holland. Is position at the mouth of the Amstel made it an essential grain-trading hub for the Low Countries, and a key link in the European lumber trade. The abundant sailing ships portrayed here express the city's vigorous mercantile activity. And yet, the 'Dutch Golden Age' expansion had yet to occur. Amsterdam's outer ring of canals would not be constructed for another century. And yet, the busy harbor scene depicted here foreshadows the city's later identity as a globe-spanning mercantile empire.

This woodcut accompanied a text on Holland credited to Nicolaus Cannius (1504 - 1555), pastor of the New Church in Amsterdam. It is not coincidental that the only painting of Cannius was made by none other than Cornelis Anthonisz. It is possible that both the text and the image were provided to Münster in the same correspondence. The view appeared at the end of the Holland text, and before Münster's text describing the city of Rotterdam. This has resulted in the alarmingly frequent misidentification of this view as not Amsterdam but Rotterdam - not only by modern cataloguers, but even in some posthumous editions of Cosmographia.
Adding to the Cosmographia
From its first printings in 1544, Münster's Cosmographia was notable for the number of maps and views depicting their subjects for the first time in print, often from residents of the regions shown. In subsequent editions, Münster labored to build the work by ordering the production of improved city views and additional decorative woodcuts. 1550 saw the addition of this cut, along with many other maps and views to appear in the body of the work. Cornelis Anthonisz's 1544 plan of Amsterdam, though a printed work, was not widely disseminated. The present work, superbly executed by formschneider Heinrich Holzmüller, would be effectively the only image of the city available to the literate layperson until the publication of Braun and Hogenberg's 1572 city book. Even after, the long and copious print history of Cosmographia meant that this iteration of Anthonisz's work would have a disproportionate reach.
Publication History and Census
This woodcut was executed, between 1548 and 1550, by Heinrich Holzmüller for inclusion in the 1550 editions of Münster's Cosmographia. It appeared in all subsequent editions. The present example conforms typographically to the 1550 German-text edition. Only one separate example is listed in OCLC. This woodcut appears on the market, albeit in many different editions and wildly varying condition.


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. More by this mapmaker...

Cornelis Anthonisz (c. 1505 - 1553) was a Dutch painter, engraver, and mapmaker. He was born in Amsterdam, the grandchild of painter Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, from whom he probably learned painting. In 1538 he was commissioned by the city fathers to paint the first complete map of Amsterdam, as a gift to Charles V. He would thereafter produce a number of woodcuts, including his 1544 view of Amsterdam. This was a wall map, printed to twelve woodblocks. While only seven examples of this plan are known to survive, it was copied in smaller format by Münster in 1550 and Braun and Hogenberg in 1572, thus sealing its authority as the best map of Amsterdam available in the sixteenth century. He also produced portraits of heads of state and allegorical prints. Two of his paintings survive that have been attributed to him. Learn More...

Heinrich Holzmüller (fl. 1541-1559) was Swiss goldsmith, calligrapher and formschneider who worked in Berne and Basel, notably producing woodcuts for Sebastian Münster's 1550 Cosmographia, in which he typically signed his work with the sign 'HH'. As is the case with such artisans, virtually nothing is known of his education or life details beyong his work itself, although he is thought to have been from Solothurn. Learn More...

Heinrich Petri (1508 - 1579) and his son Sebastian Henric Petri (1545 – 1627) were printers based in Basel, Switzerland. Heinrich was the son of the printer Adam Petri and Anna Selber. After Adam died in 1527, Anna married the humanist and geographer Sebastian Münster - one of Adam's collaborators. Sebastian contracted his stepson, Henricus Petri (Petrus), to print editions of his wildly popular Cosmographia. Later Petri, brought his son, Sebastian Henric Petri, into the family business. Their firm was known as the Officina Henricpetrina. In addition to the Cosmographia, they also published a number of other seminal works including the 1566 second edition of Nicolaus Copernicus's De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium and Georg Joachim Rheticus's Narratio. Learn More...


Münster, S., Cosmographei oder beschreibung aller länder, (Basel: Petri) 1550.    


Very good. Marginal mend and filled wormhole well away from printed image, some marginal soiling, else excellent with a bold, fresh strike.


OCLC 71551523 (1552 issue).