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The Rare First Issue
Illustrated with a Figure Engraving a Map

Sri Lanka/ Art of Engraving. MERCATOR, G./ PTOLEMY, C. [Brussels, 1578]
Asiae XII Tab. 13 5/8 x 13 7/8 inches
Fine hand color; excellent condition.


A beautiful example of the first state that appeared in Mercator’s definitive edition of the Ptolemy geography. Mercator’s edition of Ptolemy became the standard text: it was based on the best available sources, and all of its maps were re-edited and redrawn to conform to Ptolemy’s original design. Many editions followed as late as the 18th century.
Perched in the cartouche of this map, at top right, is an engraver (Mercator?) pictured in the act of engraving this map. Related to this, 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. The 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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