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The Work of Two of History’s Greatest Geographers

Libya/ Tunisia/ Algeria. MERCATOR, G./ PTOLEMY, C. [Cologne, 1578]
Afr: II Tab: . 13 x 18 inches
Fine hand color; reinforced top & bottom of centerfold, else excellent.

   $650


A very attractive example of the rare first issue from Mercator’s definitive edition of Ptolemy’s geography. The map shows the area as it was known in the Roman Imperial period. It was based on geographic data and mapmaking instructions left by the Alexandrian, Claudius Ptolemy (fl. A.D. 127-180), whose work laid out the fundamental principles of mapmaking as we know it. It was Gerard Mercator (1512-1594), the great Flemish geographer, whose edition of Ptolemy was considered the most accurate. In particular, Mercator’s maps conformed more closely to Ptolemy’s original design than any of the several earlier editions. Mercator’s became the standard text, with many editions following this one as late as the 18th century.
Mercator in 1540 published Literarum latinarum, the first instructional handbook in the use of the italic hand to appear outside of Italy. It was also the first work to offer instruction in the use of italic script in the engraving of maps. This and the other maps in Mercator’s Ptolemy are arguably the finest demonstrations Mercator provided in the use of italics. Moreover, “the beauty and legibility of the best sixteenth and severteenth-century Dutch maps can be traced in large measure to Mercator’s influence” (Karrow, p. 382).


Karrow, R. Mapmakers in the Sixteenth Century, pp. 376-406.

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