Antique Maps, Charts, Plans, Atlases, Globes and Reference Books

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Utopiae Insulae Tabula

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Utopiae Insulae Tabula : A. Holbien

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Rarely seen outside the original volume, this famous woodcut, is arguably the first map of a completely fictitious location - in this case "Utopia". The word has come to represent an integrated and perfect land and society in direct contrast to the world of the early sixteenth century when it was conceived and described by Sir Thomas More and, even, in comparison with the modern world. The book's first edition, of 1516, included an imagined map of the island but that of two years later showed a more detailed and carefully engraved map, with attendant figures designed and cut by Ambrosius Holbein, elder brother of the better-known artist Hans Holbien. The map appeared in subsequent editions but we believe, due to the strong printing this is a relatively early edition. The island, with ships and figures in the foreground, is roughly circular with three locations named, a variety of towns, castles and churches apparent and with rivers and mountains. The image, with the large foreground sailing ship, has been compared with a human skull (a subject of fascination in the Hans Holbien painting "The Ambassadors"), a further allusion to the state of the human condition. This is the only example we have owned and has had some restoration to old paper weakness, mainly in the borders but with minor and insignificant loss of detail within the engraved area. Nevertheless, a fascinating and very rare example of a great cartographic curiosity.
mapmaker: A. Holbien
place and date of publication: Louvain 1518 -
medium and colour: woodcut, uncoloured
size in mm: 185 by 120mm (7.25 by 4.75 inches).
ref: 43372

Price: reserved

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