1559 Munster Map of Poland and Hungary: First Contemporaneous Map of the Region

Polonia et Ungariae Nova Descriptio. - Main View

1559 Munster Map of Poland and Hungary: First Contemporaneous Map of the Region


The earliest modern map to clearly depict Poland and Hungary.


Polonia et Ungariae Nova Descriptio.
  1559 (undated)     10.5 x 13.5 in (26.67 x 34.29 cm)


This is the 1559 Latin edition of Sebastian Münster's map of Poland and Hungary, the first acquirable map to focus on the region using contemporary place names and geographical knowledge. The only earlier printed maps to focus at all on the region were iterations of Ptolemy's maps of Sarmatia in Europe; the nearest surviving contender for an earlier modern map of the region is Waldseemüller's 1513 Tabula moderna Sarmatie which was of broader scope (reaching as far west as Germany and the Bavarian Alps) and whose geography for the region is far more primitive. Bernard Wapowski's c. 1526 map of Sarmatia preceded Münster's, and almost certainly informed his map, but no copies of it have survived. Münster's map is thus the first of this region available to the collector with a largely recognizable depiction of Poland and Hungary.
The Scope of the Map
The map's northern extents pertain to Poland: at its northernmost point is Prussia. The capitol, Krakow, is shown; Warsaw had not yet become a royal city and would not rise to prominence until the end of the 16th century. The Duchy of Masovia appears - it had been incorporated into Poland in 1526 - and the Duchy of Lithuania is shown (the map pre-dates the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by 29 years). Muscovy is shown at the eastern extent of the map: Smolensk, Moscow, Ryazan all appear; Kiev can be found as well.

The southern reaches of the map are dominated by the River Danube: Both Buda and Pest appear as do the mountains of Transylvania. Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria are all shown along the southern shore of the Danube, whose broad delta into the Black Sea is clearly depicted. Constantinople can just be seen at the southern edge of the map. Tartaria, shown at the eastern extreme of the map, is marked with a heraldic shield bearing a stylized spur; this was the symbol Waldseemüller used on his 1507 world map to indicate the Tatar empire, so is suggestive of Munster’s primary source for this map - despite the present map having outstripped Waldseemüller's treatment of the area in every respect.
Publication History and Census
This map first appeared in Münster's 1540 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia, and appeared in subsequent editions of that work and Münster's own Cosmographia with various typographical changes. The map appears separately in various institutional collections. Cosmographia is well represented in OCLC.


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...

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...


Munster, S. / Ptolemy, C., Cosmographia, (Basel: Petri ) 1559.     The Cosmographia Universalis, one of the greatest geographical and historical works of the 16th century, 'taught nearly three generations of laymen most of what they knew about the world beyond their native places' (Strauss). Filled with maps, views, and rich descriptions of places throughout Europe and beyond, it was the best general source of geographical information until the advent of Ortelius' Theatrum. It was first issued by Sebastian Munster (1488 - 1552) in its 1544 German edition, and stayed in print long after its author's death in thirty five editions, and in five languages. (Of these, the 1550 and 1552 editions are widely regarded as the most complete and truest to the author's intentions: thereafter, later editors continued to add to the work's text; editions from 1588 onwards employed an entirely different set of maps produced on Ortelius' model.) Munster's goal, initially, was to rally his homeland's humanists and scholars to produce a new map of Germany in order to 'see what kind of a land our ancestors conquered for their home... bring honor to our country and place its beauties in the clear light of day.' Munster's project quickly expanded to cover the known world in its scope to produce a 'sufficiently large volume, in which I touch upon the foundation of all nations and kingdoms, their peculiarities, rivers, mountains, customs of men, royal successions, origins of the more important cities, succinct histories, religions, characteristics and fertility of lands... in Germany, however, I tarry a little longer.'.

Munster's methodology in Cosmographia is notable in particular for his dedication to providing his readers with direct access to firsthand reports of his subjects wherever possible. Many of the maps were the result of his own surveys; others, the fruit of an indefatigable letter writing campaign to scholars, churchmen and princes throughout Europe, amicably badgering them for maps, views, and detailed descriptions of their lands. For lands further afield than his letters could reach, Munster relied on the best that the authorities of northern European scholarship could offer: he was well familiar with the work of Waldseemuller and other geographers of the early 16th century, and was well connected with the best geographers of his own generation. A disproportionate number of the maps of Cosmographia 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; the first map to use a key; the first modern map of the British Isles and so on. Even in cases where earlier maps exist, Munster's works very often remain the earliest such acquirable by the collector.


Very good condition. Filled wormholes in margins not affecting printed image.


Rumsey 11623.093. OCLC 228603857 (1545 issue). Malinowski, H. in Map Collectors' Circle no. 31 #285, M1l.