PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius (after 83 - ca 168 AD). La Geografia. Commentaries by Sebastian Münster, translated by Pietro Andrea Mattioli.Venice: Niccolò Bascarini for Giovanni Battista Pederzano, 1548 [colophon dated October 1547].

$ 90,000.00

8vo., (6 x 4 inches). Decorative woodcut side-borders to title-page (torn along lower edge with loss, soiled), fine woodcut portrait of Ptolemy observing the heavens, 60 fine double-page copper-engraved maps by Giacomo Gastaldi, including 2 world maps (Shirley 87 and 88), embellished with sea-monsters, mermaids, ships, wild and unusual animals such as elephants and leopards etc., the first four maps and first world map with delicate contemporary hand-coloring, descriptive letterpress text and map numbers on rectos and versos of maps, woodcut illustrations and diagrams throughout, initials, and Pederzano's large woodcut device on colophon leaf 2D7r and verso of final leaf [Vaccaro Marche p.318, fig. 427]. With blank 2D8 (lacking front free endpaper, +7-+8 and A1 repaired in the gutter, A1 and last leaf wormed, some light soiling and spotting). Contemporary Italian limp vellum, titled in manuscript on the spine (lightly soiled).

Provenance: Frequent contemporary annotations by Baldagaure Magui, particularly to the preliminaries in which Munster's name has been effaced, and to four maps; the later ownership inscriptions of "MB" on the front paste-down and the margins of some early leaves


First edition in Italian of Ptolemy’s Geographia. A compilation of what was known about the world's geography in the Roman Empire during his time (ca 90-168 ad). He relied on the work of others, in particular an early geographer, Marinos of Tyre, and on gazetteers of the Roman and ancient Persian Empire. He was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet (of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology). He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the Thebaid. He died in Alexandria. The earliest known manuscripts of Ptolomy’s “Geographia” date to about 1300. The first printed version was published in 1477, then 1488, and in Ulm in 1482. However, these are all very large format atlases: this is the first small format atlas, and therefore the first to be widely used by travellers.  

All maps of the present edition were engraved on copper by Giacomo Gastaldi (ca.1500-1565), "Cosmographer to the Venetian Republic, then a powerhouse of commerce and trade. He sought the most up to date geographical information available, and became one of the greatest cartographers of the sixteenth century" (Burden). Giacomo Gastaldi was, and styled himself, 'Piemontese', and this epithet appears often after his name. Born at the end of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century, he does not appear in any records until 1539, when the Venetian Senate granted him a privilege for the printing of a perpetual calendar. His first dated map appeared in 1544, by which time he had become an accomplished engineer and cartographer. Karrow has argued that Gastaldi's early contact with the celebrated geographical editor, Giovanni Battista Ramusio, and his involvement with the latter's work, “Navigationi et Viaggi”, prompted him to take to cartography as a full-time occupation. In any case Gastaldi was helped by Ramusio's connections with the Senate, to which he was secretary, and the favourable attitude towards geography and geographers in Venice at the time.  

Gastaldi spent two years putting together the maps for Pietro Andrea Mattioli's new Italian translation of Ptolemy's geography. Although the colophon is dated 1547, Gastaldi's preface is dated 1548, and apart from the twenty-six Ptolomaic maps Gastaldi included thirty-four modern maps. These latter were very influential, being entirely new works, engraved on copper. Nodesnkold states that 26 of the maps are Ptolemy's based on the woodcuts by Munster which illustrated the Basel edition of 1540, the remaining 34 were after Gastaldi's own design.    

"This edition of Ptolemy's "Geography" was the most comprehensive atlas produced between Martin Waldseemuller's "Geographiae" of 1513 and the Abraham Ortelius "Theatrum" of 1570.  “It was the first to contain maps of the American continent" (Burden).

The seven maps relating to the Americas are:

the modern World map (map 59);

"Carta marina": the first sea chart depicting the modern world (map 60);

"Tierra nova": the first separate map of the South American Continent (map 54);

"Nueva Hispania": the earliest separate map of the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and the present south-western United States (map 55);

and "Tierra nueva [del Bacalaos]": the earliest individual map of the east  coast of North America (map 56), showing the discoveries of Verrazzano and Cartier. These last five maps are the earliest printed American regional maps.  This atlas also includes the first separate map devoted to Arabia and the first reference to Singapore on a printed map.

The celebrated botanist Pietro Andrea Mattioli's translation appears only in this edition; it was superseded by Girolamo Ruscelli's translation, which was first published in 1561 and frequently reprinted. The only earlier Italian version was Berlinghieri's verse paraphrase (Florence: ca. 1482). Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli (Matthiolus) (23 March 1501, Siena – 1577, Trento) was a doctor and naturalist born in Siena. He received his MD at the University of Padua in 1523, and subsequently practiced the profession in Siena, Rome, Trento and Gorizia, becoming personal doctor of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria in Prague and Ambras Castle and Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna. Mattioli described the first case of cat allergy. His patient was so sensitive to cats that if he was sent into a room with a cat he reacted with agitation, sweating and pallor.  A careful student of botany, he described 100 new plants and coordinated the medical botany of his time in his “Discorsi” ("Commentaries") on the “Materia Medica” of Dioscorides. The first edition of Mattioli's work appeared in 1544 in Italian. The commentary quickly became 'an encyclopedia of Renaissance pharmacology' (cf. Stillwell, Awakening of Science 450) and in 1565 Mattioli augmented it considerably with fuller notes. There were several later editions in Italian and translations into Latin (Venice, 1554), Czech, (Prague, 1562), German (Prague, 1563) and French. In addition to identifying the plants originally described by Dioscorides, Mattioli added descriptions of some plants not in Dioscorides and not of any known medical use, thus marking a transition from to the study of plants as a field of medicine to a study of interest in its own right. In addition, the woodcuts in Mattioli's work were of a high standard, allowing recognition of the plant even when the text was obscure. A noteworthy inclusion is an early variety of tomato, the first documented example of the vegetable being grown and eaten in Europe. Adams P-2234; Burden 16-17; Harvard "Italian" 404; Nordenskiöld Collection 214; Phillips "Atlases" 369; Sabin 66502; Shirley "Atlases of the British Library" T.PTOL-9a and b. Catalogued by Kate Hunter