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With the First Printed Map to Reflect
Voyages of the Age of Discovery
World Map/ Early Discovery/ Africa.
POMPONIUS MELA [Venice, 1482]
Pomponii Mellae Cosmographi Geographia:… [Including: DIONYSIUS PERIEGETES, De Situ Orbis. Tr. Priscianus.] .
4to. [7 ½ x 5 ½ inches]
(48) ff., (A-F8), including one full-page woodcut map of the world on verso of a1, first leaf printed in red and black, and 2 large and 7 small woodcut initials in text. Bound in stiff later vellum with author and title gilt on spine. Top & left margins extended with ms. reinstatement of part of outer engraved border, title leaf slightly spotted, final leaf re-margined and mounted with some discoloration. Light toning to edges of text leaves, which are numbered in an early hand; minor waterstaining in lower corners of final quire, not affecting text; very good overall.
The rare incunable (pre-1500) edition of the most widely accepted classical cosmography in Europe, published ten years before the discovery of the New World. It was the only Latin geographical treatise to survive from antiquity and contains the first (and only) map published in the incunable era to reflect voyages that took place during the Age of Discovery. It was the second woodcut map published in Italy and the earliest world map (other than a schematic T-O map) to appear in a geographical book rather than an atlas. As one of the earliest printed books to document the epoch-making progress of the Portuguese overseas empire, the work has long been regarded as a landmark text of the Discovery Period and is the first item in two of the most prestigious collections of Americana formed in the last century by Church and Streeter (see below).
The present edition, the first in which this map appeared, was printed only three years after the 1479 Treaty of Alcacovas, in which Portugal secured the Guinea coast, the Azores, the Madeiras and Cape Verde Islands. Accordingly, the map modified the traditional Ptolemaic rendering of western Africa to depict for the first time on a printed map a more accurate, up-to-date coast that embodied Portuguese discoveries from the 1460s and 1470s. As Campbell observes, these discoveries also revealed a clear southeastern trend along the coast of West Africa, reflected for the first time in the present world map. “No earlier printed map recognized this important step towards the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, and no map in the incunable editions of Ptolemy reflected this knowledge” (Campbell).
The maker of the map is unknown, but it has often been credited to the printer Ratdolt. The first five editions of the book beginning in 1471 all did not contain the map. The map was copied for an edition of Salamanca in 1498 as well as for Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).
Church 1; Streeter 1; Goff M-452; Shirley #8; Nordenskiöld p. 26, plate 31; GW M34876; BMC V.286; Sotheby’s May 9, 1978 (Broxbourne Copy); Campbell, Earliest Printed Maps, 91.