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1588 Ruscelli and Ptolemy Map of Persia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan

Tabula Asiae IX. - Main View

1588 Ruscelli and Ptolemy Map of Persia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan


Fascinating 16th century map depicting modern day Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.


Tabula Asiae IX.
  1588 (undated)     8.5 x 10.5 in (21.59 x 26.67 cm)


This is an uncommon 1588 Ptolemaic map of Persia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan issued for Girolamo Ruscelli's Italian edition of the Geografia di Tolomeo. Cartographically Ruscelli based this map on interpretations of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographica by Bernard Sylvanus and Sebastian Munster. The map covers the regions between the ancient Parthia and the Indus River valley and between Aria (Herat), and the Indian Ocean.

Though somewhat difficult to understand at first glance, this map corresponds to many actual locations and is upon close examination yields is secrets easily. The Indus Valley is readily identifiable on the right separating India (Indiae Intra Gangem) from Arachosia and Parisene - modern day Pakistan. Further east west, across the mountains we enter Gedrosia - a Hellenized term corresponding to today Balochistan in southwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Further north, in the valley of the Helmand River, Drangiana, the modern day border region of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, is noted. North of Drangiana are the mountainous foothills of the Hindu Kush. In the midst of these mountains is set the valley of Aria, an ancient Satrapy considered by Herotodus to be the breadbasket of the Persian empire, and corresponding to the modern city of Herat. The lake seen here and identified as Aria Lacus, is in fact Zarah - a wetland in western Afghanistan.

A fine, collectable, and early piece essential for any serious collection focused on the cartographic emergence of Persia and Afghanistan in european maps. Published in Girolamo Ruscelli's Italian edition of the Geografia di Tolomeo.


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. More by this mapmaker...

Girolamo Ruscelli (1500 - 1566) was an Italian polymath, humanist, editor, and cartographer active in Venice during the early 16th century. Born in Viterbo, Ruscelli lived in Aquileia, Padua, Rome and Naples before relocating to Venice, where he spent much of his life. Cartographically, Ruscelli is best known for his important revision of Ptolemy's Geographia, which was published posthumously in 1574. Ruscelli, basing his work on Gastaldi's 1548 expansion of Ptolemy, added some 37 new "Ptolemaic" maps to his Italian translation of the Geographia. Ruscelli is also listed as the editor to such important works as Boccaccio's Decameron, Petrarch's verse, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, and various other works. In addition to his well-known cartographic work many scholars associate Ruscelli with Alexius Pedemontanus, author of the popular De' Secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese. This well-known work, or "Book of Secrets" was a compilation of scientific and quasi-scientific medical recipes, household advice, and technical commentary on a range of topics that included metallurgy, alchemy, dyeing, perfume making. Ruscelli, as Alexius, founded a "Academy of Secrets," a group of noblemen and humanists dedicated to unearthing "forbidden" scientific knowledge. This was the first known experimental scientific society and was later imitated by a number of other groups throughout Europe, including the Accademia dei Secreti of Naples. Learn More...


Ruscelli, G., Geografia di Tolomeo, (Venice) 1588.    


Very good. Text on verso. Original centerfold. Original platemark visible. Overall a very nice crisp example.