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1574 Ruscelli and ptolemy Map of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, or Tapobrana

Tabula Asiae XII. - Main View

1574 Ruscelli and ptolemy Map of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, or Tapobrana


A fine early map of Ceylon depicting an Elephant.


Tabula Asiae XII.
  1574 (undated)     8 x 10.5 in (20.32 x 26.67 cm)     1 : 10500000


A highly appealing 1574 map of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, or as it was then known, Tapobrana. The first mention of Tapobrana is in the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy. Today, Ptolemy's Taprobana is considered by some scholars to be entirely mythological and by others to be a wild misinterpretation of any one of several islands, including Sumatra and Ceylon. Whatever the case may be, the island was later commented on by Marco Polo, who describes is as an enormous landmass:
It has a circumference of some 2400 miles. And I assure you that it used to be bigger than this. For it was once as much as 3500 miles, as appears in the mariners' charts of this sea. But the north wind blows so strongly in these parts that is has submerged a great part of this island under the sea.
This led many early cartographers to over-map the island, exaggerating its size and importance. To give this map some scale, the line running horizontally through the center of this map is the equator, meaning that Ruscelli's Taprobana extends from the southern tip of the subcontinent south well beyond the equator - a factor that would make it nearly as large as India itself!

Ruscelli baed this map on Gastaldi's map of 1548. Most variants upon Gastaldi's map feature an elephant to the left of the am proper. This is a rather innovative inclusion, for not only is the elephant present, but is depicted in its natural environment, surrounded by rich foliage. In addition to the elephant, a sea monster appears on the lower left quadrant.

This map was first issued in 1561. That plate is recognizable by the fact that the pressmark runs off the plate. A second state corresponding to the current example was issued in 1574. This was an independent plate. A third and final plate was issued in 1599.


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. More by this mapmaker...


Ruscelli, G., Geografia di Tolomeo, (Venice) 1574.    


Good. Minor wear and verso reinforcement on centerfold. Typical stitch punctures repaired. Platemark visible. Italian text on verso.