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1550 Munster Map of the World

Typus Orbis Universalis. - Main View

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, Hebrew scholar and humanist. He 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. In 1540 he published a Latin edition of Ptolemy's Geographia, which presented the ancient cartographer's 2nd century geographical data supplemented systematically with maps of the modern world. This was followed by what can be considered his principal work, the Cosmographia. First issued in 1544, this was the earliest German description of the modern world. It would become the go-to book for any literate layperson who wished to know about anywhere that was further than a day's journey from home. In preparation for his work on Cosmographia, Münster reached out to humanists around Europe and especially within the Holy Roman Empire, enlisting colleagues to provide him with up-to-date maps and views of their countries and cities, with the result that the book contains a disproportionate number of maps providing the first modern depictions of the areas they depict. Münster, as a religious man, was not producing a travel guide. Just as his work in ancient languages was intended to provide his students with as direct a connection as possible to scriptural revelation, his object in producing Cosmographia was to provide the reader with a description of all of creation: a further means of gaining revelation. The book, unsurprisingly, proved popular and was reissued in numerous editions and languages including Latin, French, Italian, and Czech. The last German edition was published in 1628, long after Münster's death of the plague in 1552. Cosmographia was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century, passing through 24 editions between 1544 and 1628. This success was due in part to its fascinating woodcuts (some by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudolph Manuel Deutsch, and David Kandel). Münster's work was highly influential in reviving classical geography in 16th century Europe, and providing the intellectual foundations for the production of later compilations of cartographic work, such as Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Münster's output includes a small format 1536 map of Europe; the 1532 Grynaeus map of the world is also attributed to him. His non-geographical output includes Dictionarium trilingue in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and his 1537 Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Most of Munster's work was published by his stepson, Heinrich Petri (Henricus Petrus), and his son Sebastian Henric Petri. More by this mapmaker...

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 Münster - one of Adam's collaborators. Sebastian contracted his stepson, 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 other seminal works including the 1566 second edition of Nicolaus Copernicus's De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium and Georg Joachim Rheticus's Narratio. Learn More...


Munster, S., Cosmographica, (Petri, Basel) 1550.    


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.