Lot 24
  • 24

[Ptolemaeus, Claudius]--Bernard Sylvanus

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Untitled world map. [Venice, 1511]
  • parchment
412 x 567mm. (at greatest extent), cordiform woodcut map of the World in 2 sheets joined, printed in red and black on vellum, slightly shaved at bottom, strengthened at join, slight thinning of vellum at lower edge, some restoration to a horizontal fold 


Shirley, 32

Catalogue Note

A VERY RARE COPY PRINTED ON VELLUM. We have been unable to trace any auction records for a copy printed on vellum sold at auction in over 40 years. 

First and only edition of this cordiform (heart-shaped) modern world map - the earliest of its kind, published in the first Venetian edition of Ptolemy. This map shows a very early example of two-colour printing in cartography, with the regional names printed in red, others in black, using type inset in the woodblock. The editor, Bernard Sylvanus, demonstrates some acquaintance with recent discoveries, notably those made in the Corte-Real and Vespucci voyages. 

The map is important as only the second map in a Ptolemaic atlas to show the Americas (‘Regalis domus’ and ‘Terra laboratoru[m]’), while it is also the first western printed map to depict Japan (‘Zampagu Ins’). The prominent mountains and rivers, the red lettering, "together with the decorative windheads, zodiacal signs, and distinctive heart-shaped projection, make this a most striking representation" (Shirley). Although special (presentation?) copies of the atlas were printed on vellum, these are extremely rare.

"Geographically, Sylvanus is less advanced than his immediate predecessors. The vigorous style of engraving gives prominence to ranges of mountains and river: these (after Ptolemy) are usually named and there is little space left for the names of localities. For instance, in the whole of continental Europe there are only three names: magna germa, Italia and dalma. South America, of which the western coast only is shown, is titled Terra Sanctae Crucis but it contains none of the place names carefully recorded on Ruysch's map of 1508. Cuba and Hispaniola appear, while further north - but so misplaced that it is situated only a few degrees west of Ireland - is the island terra laboratorus. This is presumably a reference to Newfoundland or the North American coast: beyond is the beyond is the suggestion of a land regalis domus whose western coastline is left open" (Shirley).