Sebastian Münster; 1489-1552
A true renaissance man, this German linguist and mathematician
(and Franciscan) may not have been as good a cartographer
as Gerard Mercator or Abraham Ortelius. But he is generally
credited for having been the first and foremost influence
in the spreading of geographical interest and knowledge throughout
His major publications must have been the most read books
of their time (beside religious texts). He expanded on, and
corrected, the work of Martin Waldseemüller, on the basis
of his massive correspondence with numerous German scholars.
Most of his maps were printed using the woodblock technique
of the day.
- Geographia in 1540-42-45-52, all in latin, with 27 Ptolemaic
maps and 13 (growing to 27 in the last issue) modern maps.
- Cosmographia Universalis in 1544. In 6 volumes, it was also
published by his step son; Henrich Petri, who continued the
printing till 1588, well after Münster death of the plague.
Further editions in 9 volumes by Petri's son (Henri Sebastian)
till 1628 were rushed to print to compete against the more
successful Ortelius atlas, with Ortelius maps instead of Munster's!
All in all: 33 editions, 19 in German, 5 in Latin, 6 in French,
2 in Ialian and 1 in Czech.
Americae sive novi orbis, nova descriptio
This map (14 3/16” X 12 1/16”) is directly derived from the 1570 Ortelius work bearing the same title. The Ortelius map is known to have three states (1570, 1579 and 1587), the last one being characterized by the elimination of the “Chilean bulge”. Apparently, this correction was not made available to Munster’s successors, who perpetuated the distortion.
Being a wood block print, it is less ornate than the Ortelius work which includes rococo cartouches, sea monsters, and sailing ships (because his engraver was using copper plates).
The map, oddly outdated, was included in only five editions of Cosmographia (1588, 1592, 1598, 1614 & 1628). The present example was printed for the 1614 edition of Cosmographia.
Notice the huge Terra del Fuego, part of the immense Australian continent thought to exist in the southern hemisphere (a myth which will endure till Cook’s second voyage of 1772). Tierra del Fuego will not be recognized as an island till 1615 by LeMaire.
Notice also in the alaskan area, the Anian waterway, another enduring myth related to the famed Northwest Passage thought to allow navigation between Europe and Asia by a north route. And finally notice the fantasy Friesland in the north Atlantic.
Conversely, California is quite well described, better delineated than the Florida peninsula.
German title page on verso.