Lot 394
  • 394

Ptolemaeus, Claudius (c.90–c.168).

bidding is closed


  • Cosmographia [translated by Jacobus Angelus, edited by Philippus Beroaldus and others]. Bologna: Dominicus de Lapis, 23 June “MCCCCLXII” [i.e. 1477] 

Royal folio (423 x 280mm.), 61 leaves (first leaf blank), double column, 51 lines, roman letter, 26 double-page copperplate engraved maps by taddeo crivelli, all with contemporary hand-colour, 4 woodcut diagrams in the text, 3- to 5-line initials supplied in red or blue, paragraph-marks and initial-strokes in red, contemporary nuremberg binding of blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, a central panel of fleurs-de-lys within a leafy trellis, surrounded by a border of diamond-shaped stamps containing flowers and gryphons, outer border and spine with rose stamps, all within blind fillets, the title ''Ptolomaeus de situ orbis'' stamped on upper cover, brass corner-pieces (lettered "ave Maria gratia ple[n]a") and central bosses, later brass clasps, modern morocco-backed box, manuscript notes in red in margins and on maps by Hieronymus Münzer and Willibald Pirckheimer, a few small wormholes and tears in margins, a few leaves strengthened in gutter, a few maps repaired, lacking straps, a few small repairs to binding


Hieronymus Münzer; his son-in-law Hieronymus Holzschuler; Willibald Pirckheimer; Prince Dietrichstein; sold to E.P. Goldschmidt, sale in these rooms, 4 April 1928, lot 498, £3,400, Maggs Bros, London; Martin Bodmer; sold to H.P. Kraus, New York, catalogue 131, item 25, $180,000 (1972); sold to Nico Israel, Amsterdam, for Lord Wardington

When the doctor Hieronymus Münzer, born in 1437 in Feldkirch in the Vorarlberg to a prosperous family, went to Italy to further his medical studies in the winter of 1476, he began to buy printed books. As a student in Leipzig he had acquired various manuscript Sammelbänder of medical texts, but it was in Italy that he acquired many printed volumes, a mixture of medical books and classical texts. In one of them, Aristotle’s De animalibus (Venice: J. de Colonia and J. Manthen, 1476, Goff A973), he even wrote the name of someone whose lectures he attended, and proudly declared that he had bought the book at Pavia in 1476 and carried it back to Nuremberg, having won it playing dice in the period just after Christmas. Another book he acquired was Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pius II) Cosmographia (i.e. Historia rerum ubique gestarum, Venice: J. de Colonia and J. Manthen, 1477, Goff P730) bound with a copy of Sallust (Venice: Filippo di Pietro, 22 June 1478, Goff S63) which he later read at a sitting late one night in 1480. All through his life he journeyed and bought books, particularly in Italy, and, like any careful collector, he notes where he bought his books, and when.

That the Wardington Ptolemy belonged to Münzer has been long established, although it does not have any notice of ownership or acquisition. E.P. Goldschmidt described it in 1938 as having “zahlreiche Glossen Münzers” and quoted one of them, but with no exegesis. In fact, as Dr Lotte Hellinga had informed Lord Wardington in 1990, most of the annotations are in the hand of Willibald Pirckheimer (1570–1530), the humanist scholar, friend of many of Nuremberg’s leading citizens, including Dürer, Behaim and Schedel, and himself the editor of Ptolemy. Pirckheimer surely knew Münzer. Writing to George Spalatin on 27 August 1508 he says: “I would hate you not to know that our Hieronymus has died. May he rest in peace, and may the earth lay light upon him. For he was, as you know, the worthiest of men” (“Nolo te ignorare doctorem nostrum Hieronymum fatis cessisse. R.I.P. Sit ei terra levis. Vir enim, ut notsi, fuit dignissimus” Briefwechsel II, letter 178).

Münzer was a great traveller, visiting many parts of Europe; he even wrote a lengthy account of some of his travels. Interested in the problems of cartography, he was obviously also aware of the world outside Europe. The map of Egypt has three lengthy marginal notes. One (quoted by Goldschmidt) reads: “Hic reges Egipti temptaverunt facere alveum navigabilem ex mari rubeo in Nilum, de quo vide Plinium l[ibr]o 6to cap[ito]lo 29 et Aristotilem in fine primi Metheororum. Alvei vestigia vidit Ioannes Tucher civis Nuremberge anno 1480” (“Here the kings of Egypt attempted to make a navigable canal from the Red Sea into the Nile, on which see Pliny... & Aristotle at the end of book I of the Meteorologica. Johann [Hans] Tucher citizen of Nürnberg saw the remains of this channel in 1480”).

The Tucher were a Nuremberg patrician family of great distinction, and there are a number who cross both the lives of Münzer and Pirckheimer, and whose names occur in Pirckheimer’s extensive Briefwechsel. Hans Tucher (1456–1536) was active in the reform of education in the city, and had (one must assume from this note) made a trip to Egypt. Sixtus Tucher (1459–1507) was also a friend of Münzer, and is referred to in a letter from Conrad Celtes as “novellus cosmographus”. The other two marginal remarks on the same map are one dealing with the Nile, where Diodorus Siculus is cited, and the other, of some length, dealing with the cities of Egypt (“multe egregie urbes”) and referring to Pliny. Several of the annotations on the maps, written in red ink, refer to Diodorus Siculus, whose work Münzer certainly owned in the Venice 1476 edition (Goff D211), which is bound, most suitably, with Strabo (Treviso: J. Rubeus, 1480, Goff S796), and which is heavily glossed by Münzer. There are in this volume a number of references to Strabo, and again we know that Pirckheimer, who knew Greek well and possessed a number of Aldine editions, was greatly interested in Strabo.

Other substantial annotations are to be found, and on some maps there are frequently written in the names of towns and cities in bold red ink. It may have been Münzer who numbered the maps, as traces of early numeration are to be found on most of the maps in the bottom right hand corner of the blank recto.

Most of Münzer’s books are bound in handsome Nuremberg bindings like this example (one, his Boccaccio, identically bound, is illustrated by Goldschmidt pl. II). After his death in August 1508, they passed to his son-in-law Hieronymus Holzschuher, who in July 1498 (not 1499 as is normally stated; see the detailed note by Emil Reicke on Münzer in Pirckheimer’s Briefwechsel II pp.32-34) had married his daughter Dorothea. This important collection passed c.1600 by purchase to Ferdinand Freiherr von Hoffmann of Grünbüchel and Strechau, who died in 1607, and passed ultimately to Prince Ferdinand von Dietrichstein, who in 1669 brought the library to Nikolsburg, and it was there in July 1916 that E.P. Goldschmidt encountered it, or rather a part of it: some 150 volumes. It was then, or shortly after, that Goldschmidt purchased the 1477 Ptolemy.


H *13538; BMC vi, 814; IGI 8181; Goff P1082; Klebs 812.2; Sander 5974; Shirley, British Library T.PTOL-1a; E. Lynam, The First Engraved Atlas of the World (Jenkintown, Pa., 1941), with additions by G.H. Beans in Imago Mundi 4:23–24, 7:17, and 8:16; R.A. Skelton, introduction to his facsimile edition (Amsterdam, 1963), this copy not included in his census; E.P. Goldschmidt, Hieronymus Münzer and other Fifteenth-Century Bibliophiles (New York, 1938); Ibid. Hieronymus Münzer und seine Bibliothek (London: The Warburg Institute, 1938)

Catalogue Note

the first printed atlas.

one of only thirty-one known copies, and one of only two copies in private hands; this copy is complete, with contemporary hand-colouring and a fine provenance, in a handsome contemporary binding.

The text only of Ptolemy's Geographia had previously been printed in 1475 in Vicenza, translated by Jacopo Angeli. This edition contains maps produced by one of Italy's foremost illuminators, Taddeo Crivelli, who had worked on the magnificent Bible of Borso d'Este. After Borso's death in 1471 Crivelli was left without a patron, and by 1474 he was in Bologna producing maps. Two documents from 1474 and 1477 survive which relate to the printing of this work, the second of which names Dominicus de Lapis as the printer responsible for producing 500 copies of the text. The printer of the engraved maps is not known.

The maps themselves follow a conical projection with the meridians converging from the equator, and differ from those other incunable editions.

This remarkable copy is from the library of hieronymus münzer (1437–1508), humanist, physician, and geographer (see below). the book contains annotations by both münzer and willibald pirckheimer. For Pirckheimer, the translator of the text for the 1525 Strassburg Latin edition of the Cosmographia (see lot 400), see the introduction to this section. 

Lord Wardington writes: "Imagine the wonderment of someone looking at a map for the first time! For these maps are the first ever printed, and for most people at that time they would have been the first maps that they had ever seen. This is the first atlas ever published... as such this book is therefore of the first importance in the field of geography, science and all the graphic arts. Today, what is not generally realised is that maps, hitherto nearly always treated as utilitarian pieces of paper, were at this time and always have been, works of art in the technique of engraving, having as they do elaborate decoration of many kinds, and magnificent calligraphy... Nor is it generally fully appreciated that up to the publication of this atlas all maps had been original manuscripts, or copies of those manuscripts, and laziness on the part of the copier, or illegibility due to use often caused inaccuracies. But with the printing of maps, scholars of all nationalities could compare and revise, and this led immediately to a very considerable advance in geographical knowledge... The purchase of it was undoubtedly a colossal extravagance, but it became available when I was intending to hand over some money I received from the Forster Trustees. I am hoping it will prove a good investment'' (Wardington Catalogue).

Differing states of the maps have been identified, although the establishment of priority has been tentative at best. Maps 4, 6, 12, [14], 16, and 16 are found in three states; map 22 occurs in only one state; the rest appear in two states. As Skelton notes, it seems that unsold copies of the book were still extant in October 1479, and up to this time the plates were reworked and revised once, or sometimes twice: “surviving copies of the atlas contain maps in various states and combinations of states, as they were made up at random from impressions in the bookseller’s stock; but the copies can be arranged in approximate chronological order from the number of maps in the earliest state which they contain” (Skelton, p. viii). The Wardington Ptolemy, unknown to Skelton, contains eleven maps in the first state, and would be ranked twelfth in his sequence. Further along the sequence, the number of first state maps drops off dramatically: the fourteenth copy, for example, only contains four such maps.

The tools used on the binding are illustrated in Ernst Kyriss, Verzierte gotische Einbände in alten deutschen Sprachgebiet (Stuttgart, 1956), pl. 233. They are 1 (griffin), 2 (rose), 4 (club cross on tendrill), 5 (small floral spray), and 8 (large floral spray).

There are extant thirty-one copies of the Bologna Ptolemy, in varying states of completeness. Neither ISTC nor Skelton provides a complete list, and the Wardington copy is unknown to both. Of the thirty-one copies that we have traced, ten do not have the full number of maps (of which three have no maps at all). Only two copies have appeared at auction, the other being the Beans–Shäfer copy (number 1 in Skelton’s census), sold in our New York rooms, 8 December 1994, lot 150.