Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
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Gregor Reisch (c.1470-1525) was an Abbot at the Carthusian Monastery in Freiburg and noted mathematician. He also studied Hebrew and geography and became Confessor to the Emperor Maximilian I. Whilst there he taught Martin Waldseemuller and Sebastian Munster. He was the author of this, one of the most popular books on moral and natural philosophy entitled the ‘Margarita Philosophica’, first published in Freiburg in 1503. Their ensued several editions published in Freiburg, Strasbourg, and Basel. Translated into English the title reads the Philosophical Pearl, it was used extensively throughout Europe. It consists of twelve chapters on higher learning written in a manner common at the time of a discussion between tutor and pupil: Latin grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, physics, natural history, psychology, and ethics.

Shirley identifies four different woodcut maps which appeared in this work. The first two were Ptolemaic world maps, this being the earlier of the two and distinguished by having twelve windheads surrounding it. Each has its own humanistic character; one even bears a pair of spectacles. Although it depicts the classical Ptolemaic land link between Africa and Asia at the lower latitudes, the inserted text acknowledges otherwise stating ‘Here is not land but sea, in which there are such islands not conceived of by Ptolemy’. The book itself makes no reference to this and its origins are unclear. Shirley states that whilst it might be the European discovery of a sea route to India, it could be a reference to Columbus’s discoveries in America. This is an example of the second edition published by Johannes Schott (1477-1548). The colouring here has been attested by H. P. Kraus’s former right-hand man and son-in-law who said that it was a masterpiece, with the best early German colour he had ever seen. Bagrow & Skelton (1964) p. 126; Nordenskiold (1889) Facsimile pp. 40; Sabin (1868-1936) 69124; Shirley (1993) no. 22; Shirley (2003) ‘An Unusual Find’, in IMCoS Journal 92 pp. 27-9; Suarez (1992) pp. 36-7; Tooley Dictionary; USTC 675101.

REISCH, Gregor

Margarita Philosophica

Johannes Schott, Strasbourg, 1504
Quarto (200 x 145 mm.), with 2 folding woodcut plates and folding woodcut map of the world in full contemporary wash colour.
Stock number: 10758


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