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The Mapping of North America

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REISCH, Gregor

Typus Universalis Terrae, Juxta Modernorum Distinctionem et Extensionem per Regna et Provincias

Strasbourg, 1513
190 x 290 mm., woodcut, with light browning to top and bottom edges, with very minor lower fold splits repaired, otherwise in good condition.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST WORLD MAPS TO DISPLAY THE EAST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA. It is only pre-dated by the Waldseemuller wall map and gores of 1507 and the Stobnicza world map of 1512. All practically unobtainable. 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 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. Shirley identifies four different woodcut maps which appeared in these. Most of them include a Ptolemaic world map. Two of the maps are modern and include America. The first of these offered here is listed in Shirley as being a Strasbourg edition of the work printed by J. Gruninger in 1513. The earliest reference I can find is in Nordenskiold’s ‘Facsimile Atlas’ of 1889. Bagrow and Skelton refer to the same edition for the map in ‘History of Cartography’ 1964. However, I have been unable to find a listing for this edition. ‘Of all the maps found in Reisch’s ‘Margarita’, the two ”modern’ ones of 1513 and 1515 are least likely to be present and are thus the scarcest of those cited’ (Shirley).

The map is very rare and if dated to 1513 takes on some significance as it displays both North and South America in the same year as Waldseemuller’s great Ptolemaic atlas was published. It is a simplified version of Waldseemuller’s magnificent twelve sheet wall map of the world published in 1507 surviving in just the one example. It is updated with the latest geography from the modern portion of the Ptolemy. This is particularly notable from the depiction of Asia and the presence of North America. Residing now at the Library of Congress it is famous for being the earliest to record ‘America’.

The map breaks down the areas of the world with simple straight lines. Larger areas are named, smaller ones are letter keyed to a typographic table below the map. North and South America are connected by a land bridge but the only name appearing is ‘paria seu prisilia’ referring to ‘Brasilia’. Provenance: private English collection for 40 years; Bagrow & Skelton (1964) p. 126; Nordenskiold (1889) Facsimile pp. 42, 70 & 92; Shirley (1993) no. 36 and 22; Shirley (2003) ‘An Unusual Find’, in IMCoS Journal 92 pp. 27-9; Tooley Dictionary.
Stock number: 9149

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