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MÜNSTER, Sebastian. - Cosmographiae universalis. . .

MÜNSTER, Sebastian. Cosmographiae uniuersalis lib. VI. in quibus iuxta certioris fidei scriptorum traditionem describuntur Omniusm habitabilis orbis partium situs, propriaeque dotes, Regionum topographicae effigies, Terrae ingenia (...), Animalium peregrinorum naturae & picturae (...). Item omnium gentium mores, leges, religio (...) usque annum 1554 (...).
Basel: Henrich Petri, September 1554. Folio. pp. [24], [14 maps], 1162, [2]. Woodcut title border. woodcut portrait of Münster on verso of title. 14 double-page woodcut maps, 38 double-page woodcut city plans & views, 3 woodcut city views consisting of 2 double-page sheets each (Worms, Heidelberg, Vienna), and over 900 woodcut illustrations in the text. Pages 357-368 bound after 376.
Over 900 woodcut illustrations in the text including maps, plans, town views, portraits, natural history subjects, &c. woodcut printer’s device on verso of last leaf. woodcut initials. contemporary blind-stamped calf, rebound spine renewed in 19th century and overall an appealing & impressive copy. [Colophon on 3H8r:] Basel: Henrich Petri, September 1554.
Third Edition of the Latin Translation [first: 1550] of Münster’s celebrated Cosmographia, “the first detailed, scientific and popular description of the world in Münster’s native language [first: German, 1544], as well as a supreme effort of geographical study and literature of the Reformation period.” (Encyc. Britan., 11th Edn.)

Read more about Sebastian Münster.

One of the most popular treatises of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Cosmographia reached a total of forty-six editions in six languages by 1650, each incorporating additions and revisions. Münster was a professor of Hebrew at Basel University and a most distinguished Hebraist, linguist, mathematician, and geographer. This encyclopaedic work was his major undertaking. In its completion, which occupied him for fifteen years, Münster received the assistance of more than one hundred and twenty collaborators, who provided him with the most up-to-date information relating to the towns and places described.
The scientifically most valuable sections are those which deal with Germany and Central Europe. In addressing his German colleagues for information, Münster outlined fairly detailed directions, devising the first known example of a simple plane-table survey. Included are separate sections on the Holy Land, Africa, and Asia, while contained on pages 1099-1112 under the title De Novis Insulis, quomodo, quando & per quem illae inventae sint, is a description of America, with relations of the voyages and discoveries of the early explorers, Columbus, Vespucci, Magellan, &c.

The Cosmographia is profusely illustrated with woodcut town plans and views (many double-page), including some of the earliest published large-scale views of European cities, portraits, coats of arms, costumes, customs, mining and other activities, cannibalism, natural history subjects, &c., by Hans Holbein, Urs Graf, Hans Rudolph Manuel Deutsch, David Kandel, and other artists.
The fourteen double-page woodcut maps, drawn by Münster himself, include two world maps, on the first of which Terra florida (North America) and America vel Brasilii ins. (South America) are named, and the first general maps of the continents, Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.
The Tabula novarum insularum is “the first map of the two American continents showing continuity between North and South America and no connection with any other landmass.” (Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, pp. 43-45, Plate 78).
All of the maps had originally appeared in Münster’s 1540 edition of Ptolemy, except the modern world map was recut with several changes by David Kandel for the 1550 editions of the Cosmographiae.

The book ends with Latin and Hebrew versions of the so -called Prester John letter, the spurious account of a legendary Christian kingdom in the East. Pp. 1161-1162 in Hebrew.

As an exhibition of the progress of geographical discovery, Munster’s Cosmographie is indispensable. It is interesting both for the informative text and its profusion of curious and inspired woodcuts. This work combines medieval allegory and superstition with modern knowledge and thought. It has been said that the Cosmographie of Sebastian Munster “will remain an important source for the his- tory of civilization of the period.” -- The World Encompassed, 272.

Reference : Adams M1910. Alden 554/47. Borba de Moraes II 90. BM STC German p. 633. Burmeister, Münster, 89. JCB I p. 183. Ruland, Imago Mundi XVI pp. 87-88. Sabin 51381. Bell M523, Harrisse 300, The World Encompassed, 272. National Maritime Museum, Atlases, 465 (1550 edn.). Nordenskiöld Collection II 155 (1552 edn.). Nordenskiöld, Facsimile Atlas, pp. 108-09 & 24. Shirley, The Mapping of the World, 92 (modern world) & 76 (ancient world).

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