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1588 Sebastian Munster Map of Sumatra and Malay (Malaysia)

Sumatra ein grosse Insel so von den alten Geographen Taprobana genennt worden.

1588 Sebastian Munster Map of Sumatra and Malay (Malaysia)


One of the earliest known recognizable maps of Malay and Sumatra.



Sumatra ein grosse Insel so von den alten Geographen Taprobana genennt worden.
  1588 (undated)    13 x 15 in (33.02 x 38.1 cm)     1 : 6000000


A spectacular 1588 Sebastian Munster map of Malay and Sumatra and one of the one of the earliest to specifically illustrate this region. Munster issued this map in the 1588 edition of his Cosmographia, an expansion upon the classical geography of Claudius Ptolemy that attempted to include recently discovered parts of the world. The map covers the southern parts of the Malay Peninsula (roughly what is Malaysia today), the entirety of Sumatra, and parts of adjacent Java and the Straits of Sunda. A city roughly situated where Singapore is today is identified as 'Cingafufa.' This has nothing to do with the city of Singapore as we know it today, but, it may have been the source for the term 'Singapore.'

This map is an update of an early map by Munster issued in 1550. There was a great deal of confusion in 16th century Europe with regard to the island of Tapobrana. While Tapobrana is most commonly associated with Ceylon (Sri Lanka), from the 15th century onward it was also identified with Sumatra. The earliest editions of Munster's Cosmographia featured a similar map that resembled Ceylon in form, but was positioned relative to the Malay Peninsula and the Equator where Sumatra actually rests. He updated the map in this, its second edition, to more accurately portray Sumatra both inform and content.

This map was drawn by Sebastian Henric Petri, Munster's step-grandson. It seems that Sumatra was surprisingly well known at the time with numerous locations correctly identified. Malay is far more vauge, though the cartograph does successfully name Queda (Kedah), Pera (Perak), Malacca, Muhar (Muar), Paam (Pahang), and Calanton (Kelantan).

An elephant and mahout appears in the lower left quadrant. The upper right quadrant includes a quotation from Pliny. Issued in the 1588 edition of Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia.


Sebastian Münster (January 20, 1488 - May 26 1552), was a German cartographer, cosmographer, and a Hebrew scholar. Münster 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. His principal work, the Cosmographia, first issued in 1544, was the earliest German description of the world. The book 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 his death. The Cosmographia was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century. It passed through 24 editions in 100 years. This success was due to the fascinating woodcuts (some by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudolph Manuel Deutsch, and David Kandel). Munster's work was highly influential in reviving classical geography in 16th century Europe. In 1540 he published a Latin edition of Ptolemy's Geographia, also with illustrations. The 1550 edition contains cities, portraits, and costumes. These editions, printed in Germany, are the most valued of the Cosmographia. Münster also wrote the Dictionarium trilingue in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and composed a large format map of Europe in 1536. In 1537 he published a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew which he had obtained from Spanish Jews he had converted. Most of Munster's work was published by his son-in-Law, Heinrich Petri (Henricus Petrus), and his son Sebastian Henric Petri. He died at Basel of the plague in 1552.


Munster, S., Cosmographica, (Basel) 1588.     The Cosmographia was first issued by Sebastian Munster (1488 1552) in 1544. It is considered the earliest German description of the world. In order to produce the Cosmographia Munster put out a call to scholars throughout Germany for cartographic information. The response must have been impressive, especially with regard to far off destinations, for it enabled Munster to compile a work of unprecedented scope and accuracy. The volume proved to be one of the most popular and enduring volumes of the 16th century, appearing in some 24 editions over the next 100 years. The Cosmographia typically consisted of six volumes, each dedicated to a different part of the world. The final edition was issued in 1628, long after Munster himself had passed on.


Very good. Minor repairs bottom center. Else clean. German decorative text on verso.


Durand, Fr., Curtis, R., Maps of Malaysia and Borneo: Discovery, Statehood, and Progress, no. 13. National Library of Australia, MAP RM 4386. OCLC 308718053.
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