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1550 Munster Map of the World

Typus Orbis Universalis.

1550 Munster Map of the World


Munster's second world map.



Typus Orbis Universalis.
  1550 (undated)    11 x 15.25 in (27.94 x 38.735 cm)     1 : 120000000


One of the most recognizable maps of the 16th century, this is a fine colored example of Sebastian Munster's 1550 map of the world - considered the first map to identify the Pacific Ocean or, as here, 'Mare Pacificum.' This is the world of the educated 16th century European. It is divided into Asia, Europe, India, Africa and America. The southern latitudes are inhabited by a variety of sea monsters - Munster's Monsters, as it were.

Europe is vaguely recognizable and connected, via an arctic peninsula, to Greenland and North America.

Asia extends eastward far enough to reappear just north of America. Ceylon is not present, but a landmass bearing roughly the shape and poison of Sumatra is identified as Tapobrana (a term more commonly associated with Ceylon). Japan appears as Zipangri.

Africa follows the Ptolemaic model with the Nile finding its source in a mountain range and two associated lakes.

America is nearly unrecognizable. North America is defined as Terra Florida. The enormous inlet extending towards the eastern seaboard in the vicinity of modern day North Carolina is Verrazano's Sea. Apparently Verrazano, coasting the Outer Banks, observed the Pamlico Sound and assumed that beyond the narrow coastal banks, an open sea gave direct access to the pacific - wishful thinking at best. Verrazano's Sea appears so dramatically on few maps, but persisted in lesser forms for nearly a century.

South America seems like an octopus with tentacle like protrusions in all directions. It is largely amorphous, but the Rio de la Plata and the Strait of Magellan are clear. Tierra del Fuego is enormous, but appears not to be attached to the greater Terra Australias - an interesting and telling choice on Munster's part.

The whole is surrounded by twelve named wind heads - one for each direction. This map was published by Sebastian Henric Petri in the 1550 edition of Munster's Cosmographia. This is the second of three world map produced for Munster - the first having been issued in 1540.


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.

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 Munster - one of Adam's collaborators. Sebastian contracted his son-in-law, 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 seminal other works including the 1566 second edition of Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium and Georg Joachim Rheticus's Narratio .


Munster, S., Cosmographica, (Petri, Basel) 1550.     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 centerfold wear. Narrow right and left margins.


Shirley, Rodney W., The Mapping of the World: Early Printed World Maps 1472-1700, #92. OCLC 646969867, 12549605.
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