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1541 Fries / Servetus Map of Central Asia: Afghanistan, Turkistan, Kazakhstan

[Title on Verso] Tabula Septima Asiae Complectitur Margianam, Bactrianam, Sogdianam, Sacas, & Scythiam, Intra Imaum Montem. - Main View

1541 Fries / Servetus Map of Central Asia: Afghanistan, Turkistan, Kazakhstan


Early ptolemaic map of Central Asia!



[Title on Verso] Tabula Septima Asiae Complectitur Margianam, Bactrianam, Sogdianam, Sacas, & Scythiam, Intra Imaum Montem.
  1541 (undated)     13 x 19 in (33.02 x 48.26 cm)     1 : 10000000


A fine example of the 1541 Strasbourg or 'Servetus' edition of Lorenz Fries' Ptolemaic map of central Asia. The map's coverage extends from the western Caspian Sea and the Central Asian Steppe, Afghanistan, including all or parts of modern day Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran. The Himalayas are evident at the base of the map and have a rope-like aspect. The map exhibits the typical trapezoidal projection common to early Ptolemaic maps.
The Rediscovery of Ptolemaic Geography
This map is based upon the geography of the 2nd century Alexandrian mathematician and cartographer Claudius Ptolemy. Although it is not clear if Ptolemy actually produced any maps, his Geographia provided detailed instructions as well as a list of coordinates that could be used to construct a comparatively modern map. It is thus that Ptolemy is considered to be the Father of Modern Geography. After the collapse of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages Ptolemy's work was lost to Europe but preserved by Islamic scholars. His work was rediscovered by Venetian scholars via their Arabic and Turkish connections in the Enlightenment. European editions of the Geographia with maps, perhaps the first maps actually made using Ptolemy's instructions, began appearing from around 1477. A deep insight into the Enlightenment can be had by understanding that although European scholars were eager to get their hands on new editions of Ptolemy's Geographia, it was not so that they could understand their own world, or travel, but rather so that they could place the ancient cities that were so commonly references in the works of antiquity they were aggressively unearthing.
History of this Map
This map was first issued by Lorenz Fries, an Alsatian physician, mathematician, and friend to the great cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. Fries was duly impressed with Waldseemüller's cartography and, when determined to issue his own revised editon of Ptolemy based on his friend's work. Fries partnered with Johannes Grüninger, one of Waldseemüller’s publishers to compile and engrave the work. The reduced Fries edition of Waldseemüller was published in Strasburg in 1522. Fries expanded the scope of Waldseemüller's map with three new maps, including an important map of East Asia. Grüninger published a second edition in 1525. When Grüninger died in 1531, his son Christoph sold the plates to the Lyonese publishers Melchior and Gaspar Trechsel. The Trechsel brothers hired the controversial Spanish polymath Michael Villanovus, or 'Servetus,' to rewrite the text, publishing a new edition in 1535. Gaspar Trechsel published an additional solo edition in 1541, from which the present example was extracted.
The Heresy of Michael Villanovus or 'Servetus'
Servetus, who wrote the text on the back of this map and the others in the Trechsel editions of the Geographia was denounced as a heretic in 1553 by Guillaume de Trie, a merchant of Geneva and friend to John Calvin. It his trial, Servetus was condemned on two accounts of hearesy: nontrinitarianism, or denying the Holy Trinity, and anti-paedobaptism (anti-infant baptism). While Calvin himself was not present at the trial, it is generally believed that he was behind Servetus' sentence. On October 27, 1553 Servetus was burnt alive on top of a pyre of his own books, among them most examples of the atlas from which this map was extracted.


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...

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...


Villanovus, Michael, Clavdii Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographicae Enarrationis Libri Octo (Strasburg: Melchior and Gaspar Trechsel)    


Very good. Wide clean margins. Latin text on verso.


OCLC 801704439. Mickwitz, Ann-Mari and Miekkavaara, L., The AE Nordenskiold Collection: Annotated Catalogue of Maps made up to 1800, #211-21.