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Maps by Claudius Ptolemy

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Claudius Ptolemy (87-150) was an Egyptian astronomer and geographer living and studying in Alexandria. Alexandria was not only the home of the greatest library of any period, but was also one of the most important trade centres between west and east - here Ptolemy could not only study ancient authorities, but could also consult contemporary travellers and merchants. From this wealth of accumulated knowledge, Ptolemy composed his “Geographia”, a work of considerable genius, which “dominated the whole of the Christian and Moslem world for 1,500 years” (Tooley).

It was Ptolemy who introduced the concept of latitude and longitude to form a grid to cover the whole world, so that it would be possible to plot the position of principal land-marks on the map by observations, and then fill in other information from other sources, including the notes and Itinerary of Marinus of Tyre, perhaps the most accurate source available.
Unfortunately Ptolemy was hampered by the paucity of observations - as a result he exaggerated the length of the Mediterranean by over 20 degrees -and by lack of information which was often circumvented by invention. Despite these errors, which persisted for nearly 1,500 years, the work was of fundamental importance at a time when little was being done in the way of modern mapping. As a result of this work, which was so far in advance of anything before or anything produced in the next 1,500 years, Ptolemy has earned the reputation and accolade, “the father of geography” (Tooley).
In 1477, the first printed edition of Ptolemy’s “Geographia” with maps was issued in Bologna. Testimony to the influence of Ptolemy and popularity of his maps is given by the number of editions of the Ptolemaic atlas - even as late as 1840 “classical” atlases were being published based almost solely on his detail of the Ancient World.
Although the cartographic content of the Ptolemaic atlases and maps was standard, certain editions are worthy of comment:-
  • 1477        the first edition with maps. Copper engravings.
  • 1482-       Ulm Ptolemy. The first edition printed north of the Alps, with four modern maps added. Printed from woodblocks.
  • 1513-       Published by Martin Waldseemuller, incorporating 20 new maps, including the second map to focus on the discoveries of the New World. Woodblocks.
  • 1522-       Illustrated with woodblocks cut by Laurent Fries, careful reductions of Waldseemuller’s maps.
  • 1540-       Sebastian Munster’s issue of Ptolemy’s maps; subsequently re-issued in a variety of books of classical geography -attractive woodblocks.
  • 1548-       The first Italian text edition, the first miniature edition in copperplate of Ptolemy’s Geography, including several new maps by Gastaldi.
  • 1561-       Gastaldi’s maps re-issued, in a slightly larger format, by Ruscelli and Valgrisi in Venice.
  • 1578-       the first issue of Mercator’s version of Ptolemy’s maps - intended as a companion to his Atlas of the Modern World. Numerous re-issues. For the 1698 edition, the plates were re-worked, substituting a new cartouche within the map, containing a second title.


Europe Maps   Asia Maps   British Isles Maps  

Europe Maps

Tab. II. Asiae Sarmatiam Asiaticam Repraesentans ...
Tab. II. Asiae Sarmatiam Asiaticam Repraesentans ...

By Cl.Ptolemy / G.Mercator of Amsterdam, 1578-1704, Copperplate, coloured, 355 x 455 mm

Ref: 9070

Price: £ 350

Asia Maps

Tabula Asiae VI
Tabula Asiae VI

By Cl.Ptolemy / G.Porro for G.Magini of Venice, 1596, Copperplate, uncoloured, 130 x 170 mm

Ref: 36479

Price: £ 400

Untitled [Ptolemaic Map Of Arabia, Tabula VI. Asiae To Verso]
Untitled [Ptolemaic Map Of Arabia, Tabula VI. Asiae To Verso]

By Cl. Ptolemy / M. Waldseemuller / L. Fries Published in 1522, woodblock, coloured, 270 by 455mm (10¾ by 18 inches). mm

Ref: 38280

Price: £ 2000

Asiae VI Tab:
Asiae VI Tab:

By Cl. Ptolemy / G. Mercator of Amsterdam, 1578-1618, copperplate, uncoloured, 345 by 490mm (13½ by 19¼ inches). mm

Ref: 38295

Price: £ 2850

untitled but verso Tabula V Asiae
untitled but verso Tabula V Asiae

By C. Ptolemy / L. Fries of Lyon, 1522-1535, Woodblock, coloured, 305 by 500mm (12 by 19.75 inches). mm

Ref: 39814

Price: £ 600

untitled but verso Tabula IX Asiae
untitled but verso Tabula IX Asiae

By C. Ptolemy / L. Fries of Lyon, 1522-1535, woodblock, uncoloured, 300 by 415mm (11.75 by 16.25 inches). mm

Ref: 39813

Price: £ 400

Duodecima Asie Tabula
Duodecima Asie Tabula

By Cl. Ptolemy / L. Holle of Ulm, 1482-1486, woodblock, original colour, 300 by 400mm (11.75 by 15.75 inches). mm

Ref: 39824

Price: £ 7200

Undecima Asiae Tabula
Undecima Asiae Tabula

By Cl. Ptolemy / N. Germanus of Rome, 1478-1490, Copperplate, coloured, 390 by 550mm (15.25 by 21.75 inches). mm

Ref: 39867

Price: £ 3800

Untitled [Southest Asia] [verso. Tabula XI Asiae]
Untitled [Southest Asia] [verso. Tabula XI Asiae]

By C. Ptolemy / L. Fries of Strassbourg, 1522-1525, woodblock, uncoloured, 290 by 410mm (11.5 by 16.25 inches). mm

Ref: 42271

Price: £ 1200

British Isles Maps

Untitled [Tabula Primae Europae]
Untitled [Tabula Primae Europae]

By Cl.Ptolemy / M.Waldseemuller of Strasbourg, 1513-1520, woodblock, uncoloured, 395 x 570 mm

Ref: 37549

Price: £ 8200