A Landmark of Geographical Knowledge

Ptolemaeus, Claudius (ca. 100-168).

Cosmographia. Tr: Jacobus Angelus. Ed: Angelus Vadius and Barnabas Picardus. Vicenza, Hermann Liechtenstein, 13 September 1475.

Ptolemaeus, Claudius (ca. 100-168) Cosmographia. Tr: Jacobus Angelus. Ed: Angelus Vadius and Barnabas Picardus. Hermann Liechtenstein, 13 September 1475.

Folio (304x205 mm). Collation: aa10, bb8-1, a10, b-g8, h10, A-F8, G10. 142 of [143] leaves, lacking fol. aa1 blank. Text in one column, 39 lines. Type: 102R. Finely painted initials alternately in red or blue, the one on fol. aa8v with extension. Seven-line blank space on fol. aa1r. Rubricated in red and blue, the capital letters touched with yellow. Four woodcut diagrams on fols. bb5v, bb6v, bb7v, and F3r. Contemporary wooden boards, one (of two) original oyster clasp preserved. Spine covered in calf, with three raised bands. A few wormholes to the upper cover, loss to the upper outer corner; joints slightly abraded. In a black morocco box, title and imprint in gilt lettering on the spine. An exceptional, and unsophisticated copy, with wide margins. Two small wormholes to the blank outer margin of the first leaf repaired, without any loss. The front and rear flyleaves both reinforced at an early date with a fragment from a manuscript. Pencilled bibliographical notes on the rear pastedown. A typewritten French description of this copy tipped in on the front pastedown, '142 feuillets, sans le premier blanc. Le F. bb8 ne fait pas partie du cahier. Reliure de l'époque en ais de bois, un fermoir HC 13536. Klebs 812.1 Rarissime'.

Outstanding copy – still in pristine condition – of the first Latin edition of the most celebrated geographical treatise of classical antiquity. An edition of the greatest rarity, and a monumental achievement of geographical knowledge and a cornerstone of the European tradition.

The Latin Ptolemy of 1475 was issued from the printing house established in Vicenza by the German printer Hermann Liechtenstein, also known by his surname 'Leuilapis'. A native of Cologne, he began his career as a printer in Vicenza, publishing the undated Historiae by Orosius in 1475, as well as the first edition of Ptolemy, completed on 13 September. Ptolemy's Geographia is one of the first books ever printed in Vicenza, where printing was first introduced in the spring of 1474 by Leonardus Achates de Basilea. The text was set in a roman type, which seems to derive from the font used by Achates.

The present work, divided into eight books, was produced by Ptolemy in the second century AD and describes the known inhabited world (or oikoumene), divided into three continents: Europe, Libye (or Africa), and Asia. Book i provides details for drawing a world map with two different projections (one with linear and the other with curved meridians), while Books ii-vii list the longitude and latitude of some 8,000 locations, Book vii concluding with instructions for a perspectival representation of a globe. In Book viii, Ptolemy breaks down the world map into twenty six smaller areas and provides useful descriptions for cartographers.

The work was brought to Italy from Constantinople around 1400, and its translation into Latin was made by Jacopo Angeli (or Angelo da Scarperia) in Florence between 1406 and 1409. He was a pupil of Manuel Chrysoloras (ca. 1350 1415), the exiled Byzanthine scholar who had possibly begun the translation himself, on the basis of a hitherto unidentified Greek manuscript. Angelo's translation is mainly based on a composite text deriving from two different manuscripts.

This volume was edited by Angelus Vadius and Barnabas Picardus and contains only the text of Ptolemy's Geographia. No maps were issued in this first edition of 1475, which were probably not present in the manuscript which served as copy-text, and the only illustrations included are the three diagrams in chapter xxiv of Book i (fols. bb5v, bb6v, and bb7v), showing the ‘modus designandi in tabula plana', and that on fol. F3, depicting the Polus antarcticus. The first illustrated edition of Ptolemy appeared in Bologna in 1477, under the title of Cosmographia and supplemented with copperplates drawn and engraved by the famous illuminator Taddeo Crivelli.

The Latin edition of this landmark geographical text enjoyed wide and enduring popularity. The editio princeps in Greek appeared in Basel only in 1533, and the circulation of the Latin text throughout Europe in the fifteenth century greatly influenced (both directly and indirectly) the shaping of the modern world. As Angeli writes at the end of his dedication: “Now, I repeat now, let us listen to Ptolemy himself speaking in Latin”.

HC 13536*; GW M36388; BMC VII, 1035; IGI 8180; Goff P-108; Flodr Ptolomaeus, 1; Sander 5973; F. Mittenhuber, “The Tradition of Texts and Maps in Ptolemy's 'Geography'”, A. Jones (ed.), Ptolemy in Perspective. Use and Criticism of his Work from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century, Dordrecht 2010, pp. 95-120; B. Weiss, “The Geography in Print. 1475-1530”, Z. Shalev - C. Burnett (eds.), Ptolemy's “Geography” in the Renaissance, London 2011, pp. 91-120; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 19.

$ 420.000