1535 Laurent Fries Ptolemaic Map of the Persian Empire (Iraq and Iran)

[Tabula V. Asiae]. - Main View

1535 Laurent Fries Ptolemaic Map of the Persian Empire (Iraq and Iran)


Ancient Persia.


[Tabula V. Asiae].
  1522 (undated)     12 x 20 in (30.48 x 50.8 cm)     1 : 6000000


This is a 1535 Laurent Fries Ptolemaic 'Fifth map of Asia,' one of the earliest generally acquirable maps of the Persian Empire. The map spans from Mesopotamia - the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers - to a mountain range roughly corresponding with the Masjed Mountains of easternmost Persia, embracing modern-day Iran, Iraq, the Caspian Sea, and the Persian Gulf.
Ancient Ruins and Temples
Even at the time Ptolemy recorded the toponomy of this region, the mapped area was ancient. The ancient Persian capital of Persepolis is identified, despite it having been burned by Alexander the Great following the battle of Gaugamela more than four hundred years prior. The ruins of a Temple of Hercules appear on the Tigris River. A 'Temple of Sabae' on the shore of the Caspian Sea, its crest wreathed in flame, may represent the Fire Temple at Baku.
Puzzling Decoration
Laurent Fries' maps, though for the most part faithful renditions of Waldseemüller's 1513 Ptolemaic maps, often includes decorative elements not present in their precursors. Occasionally the meaning of these is plain, but the presence of a great tree at the headwaters of the Tigris River, a dragon in the mountains north of Ozoa, and a majestic duck swimming the waters of the Caspian are opaque to us.
The Heresy of Michael Villanovus or 'Servetus'
Following Fries' two Strasbourg editions of his Ptolemy in 1522 and 1525, the blocks were acquired by Lyon publisher Treschel who produced an edition in 1535. The verso text throughout this edition was written by Servetus, who would be denounced as a heretic in 1553, possibly at the direct instigation of John Calvin. Found guilty by trial of nontrinitarianism and anti-paedobaptism, Servetus was burnt alive on October 27, 1553 atop of a pyre of his own books, among them most examples of the atlas from which this map was extracted.
Publication History and Census
Ten complete examples of the Servetus edition of Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographicae enarrationis libri octo are cataloged in institutional collections. Separate examples of this edition of the map are listed at the Sachische Landesbibliothek, the Biblioteca Nacional de España, the Bibliothèque National de France, and the National Library of Australia. Separate examples of other editions appear on the market with some regularity.


Claudius Ptolemy (83 - 161 AD) is considered to be the father of cartography. A native of Alexandria living at the height of the Roman Empire, Ptolemy was renowned as a student of Astronomy and Geography. His work as an astronomer, as published in his Almagest, held considerable influence over western thought until Isaac Newton. His cartographic influence remains to this day. Ptolemy was the first to introduce projection techniques and to publish an atlas, the Geographiae. Ptolemy based his geographical and historical information on the "Geographiae" of Strabo, the cartographic materials assembled by Marinus of Tyre, and contemporary accounts provided by the many traders and navigators passing through Alexandria. Ptolemy's Geographiae was a groundbreaking achievement far in advance of any known pre-existent cartography, not for any accuracy in its data, but in his method. His projection of a conic portion of the globe on a grid, and his meticulous tabulation of the known cities and geographical features of his world, allowed scholars for the first time to produce a mathematical model of the world's surface. In this, Ptolemy's work provided the foundation for all mapmaking to follow. His errors in the estimation of the size of the globe (more than twenty percent too small) resulted in Columbus's fateful expedition to India in 1492.

Ptolemy's text was lost to Western Europe in the middle ages, but survived in the Arab world and was passed along to the Greek world. Although the original text almost certainly did not include maps, the instructions contained in the text of Ptolemy's Geographiae allowed the execution of such maps. When vellum and paper books became available, manuscript examples of Ptolemy began to include maps. The earliest known manuscript Geographias survive from the fourteenth century; of Ptolemies that have come down to us today are based upon the manuscript editions produced in the mid 15th century by Donnus Nicolaus Germanus, who provided the basis for all but one of the printed fifteenth century editions of the work. Learn More...

Lorenz Fries (c. 1490 – 1531) was a German cartographer, cosmographer, astrologer and physician based in Strasbourg. Little is known of Fries' early life. He may have studied in Padua, Piacenza, Montpellier and Vienna, but strong evidence of this is unfortunately lacking. The first recorded mention of Fries on a 1513 Nuremberg broadside. Fries settled in Strasbourg in March of 1519, where he developed a relationship with the St. Die scholars, including, among others, Walter Lud, Martin Ringmann and Martin Waldseemüller. There he also befriended the printer and publisher Johann Grüninger. Although his primary profession was as a doctor, from roughly 1520 to 1525 he worked closely with Grüninger as the geographic editor of various maps and atlases based upon the work of Martin Waldseemüller. Although his role is unclear, his first map seems to have been a 1520 reissue of Waldseemüller's world map of 1507. Around this time he also began working on Grüninger's reissue of Waldseemüller's 1513 edition of Ptolemy, Geographie Opus Novissima. That edition included three new maps by Fries based upon the Waldseemüller world map of 1507 – two of these, his maps of East Asia and Southeast Asia, are quite significant as the first specific maps of these regions issued by a European publisher. In 1525 Fries decided to leave Strasbourg and surrendered his citizenship, relocating to Trier. In 1528 he moved to Basel. Afterwards he relocated to Metz where he most likely died. In addition to his cartographic work, Fries published tracts on medicine, religion, and astrology. Learn More...


Fries, L. / Servetus, M.Claudii Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographicae enarrationis libri octo, (Lyon: Treschel) 1535.    


Good. Filled wormholes along centerfold with some loss. Otherwise a generous-margined example with a bold, sharp strike.


OCLC 801694116. cfRumsey, 10891.061 (1525). Alai, C., General Maps of Persia 1477-1925, E. 14.