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One of the Earliest Acquirable World Maps

World/ Age of Discovery.. SCHEDEL, H. [Nuremberg, 1493]
Secunda etas mundi. 14 ½ 20 inches.
Fine original and later color; usual threadhole mends, some staining mainly at bottom of centerfold, margins reinforced, else excellent of this kind.


An attractively colored example of this striking, incunable world map. It embodied the prevailing conception of the world at the dawn of the Age of Discovery. This visually evocative woodcut was published just 40 years after the invention of printing and presents the world as seen just prior to Columbus' voyage and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope by Dias. The work’s striking imagery also reveals the medieval attitude toward peoples of distant lands through the often grotesque, semi-human figures found on both sides of this work. Drawn from the works of the Roman authorities, Pliny the Elder and Julius Solinus, these bizarre creatures were believed to inhabit the remote corners of the earth. One can see how some of these figures might have had some basis in reality, while others were drawn from myth and legend. In any case, they display the tendency of Europeans at the time to demonize little known peoples, something that would later be seen in Europeans’ attitudes toward New World peoples in the Age of Discovery.
The general contours of the map primarily were derived primarily from the most important geographical work of antiquity, Ptolemy's Geographia, which was recovered in the Renaissance. However, the inclusion of illustrations of Japhet, Shem, and Ham in the corners suggests a more theology-centered view of the world. Their presence is also a reminder of one of the functions of the map in the Nuremberg Chronicle where it appeared, which was to illustrate the section on Noah, the Flood, and the re-population of the earth by his sons. Also on the map is the familiar decorative motif of the twelve wind-heads that is found on many early printed world maps. In addition to its historical importance, the Schedel world map is a striking example of woodblock engraving. The Nuremberg Chronicle, in which it appeared, a chronological narration of the history of the world the work of Humanist educated physician of that city, was the most extensive illustrated work published to date and for which Albrecht Durer served as an apprentice.

Shirley, Mapping of the World, No. 19, pl. 25; The World Encompassed, No. 44.

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