Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

Florence (Italy) — 1472

Created for Federico da Montefeltro, the bibliophile Duke of Urbino: ancient cartography in the splendid garb of the Renaissance

  1. A 1472 refashioning of the cosmography by Ptolemy (ca. 100 – ca. 170) containing 44 geographically correct maps

  2. A golden Renaissance masterpiece commissioned by Federico da Montefeltro (1422–1482), Duke of Urbino

  3. The work originates from ca. 150 and was lost for 1,000 years before it was rediscovered and translated

Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

The Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy is a world atlas that originates from Italy in 1472. The work is a refashioning of the cosmography of the Greek scholar Ptolemy and contains 44 geographically correct maps. The large format maps and other colorful and gilded depictions were designed by several talented artists of the Italian Renaissance.

Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

The cosmography was the science of description of the Earth and outer space in the Middle Ages. Cosmographic works were devoted to geography, geology, and astrology and were concerned with historical, spiritual, or moral aspects of the medieval worldview. The first globes and cartographical depictions of our Earth are attributable to medieval cosmographic works. An especially beautiful version of these teachings is the Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy. The work originates from the second century after Christ and was lost for over 1,000 years, until it reemerged during the early Italian Renaissance. It contains 44 maps, of which 29 fill a double page. Furthermore, there are numerous colorful and golden miniatures and depictions in bordures that decorate the margins of the pages.

The Polymath Claudius Ptolemy

Ptolemy was a Greek mathematician, geographer, astronomer, astrologer, music theorist, and philosopher. His works on astronomy, geography, and astrology were regarded in Europe as important, comprehensive collections of data and standard scientific texts until the early modern period. His earlier world atlas revolutionized the geographic perceptions of the Renaissance. Claudius Ptolemy created maps of the world he knew and followed mathematical principals, which founded modern cartography. He introduced the system of longitude and latitude. His cosmography was given new life by some of the most gifted Renaissance artists.

The Cosmography in a New Garment

The important didactic piece originally spanned eight scrolls. These were incorporated into a single codex during the refashioning. The new edition was commissioned in 1471 by Duke Federigo da Montefelatro. This manuscript is divided into eight books, exceedingly talented masters inscribed and illustrated the pages. Applications of various colors and gold make treasures of the special miniatures. Scientific insights were made understandable through charming pictures. As such, these early cartographical achievements succeed in impressing their beholder up to today.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus
Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemäus
Carta Tolemaica di Pietro Del Massaio
Size / Format
270 pages / 59.3 × 43.5 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1472
Language
Illustrations
44 maps including 29 double-pages; numerous illustrations and decorative borders
Content
Claudius Ptolemaeus' World Atlas with a Latin translation by Iacopo d'Angelo da Scarperia
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy – Urb. lat. 277 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Belser Verlag / WK Wertkontor – Zurich, 1981
Limited Edition: 100 copies

Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Normal Edition)
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1981
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Detail Picture

Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

Presentation Miniature

The opening pages of the manuscript include this wonderful miniature showing the presentation of the codex to the Pope by Federico de Montefeltro. What is odd is that the text identifies him as Alexander III – ALEXANDRU TERTIUM SVMMVM PONTIFICEM – who died 241 years before the famous condottiero, art patron, and Duke of Urbino was born. Whether Alexander III is depicted here because of some familial connection or personal admiration on behalf of Federico, the tiny scene is extraordinary.

Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Deluxe Edition)
Single Page

Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

Depiction of Rome

Medieval Rome, named in a banderole with gold ink, is presented here in an elegantly simple frame that is also rendered in polished gold. The miniature depicts the seven hills of Rome, the Tiber in dark blue, and the remnants of the aqueduct, in addition to various churches and monuments from antiquity that are labelled in a minute hand.

The most recognizable landmarks include the Colosseum, the Pyramid of Cestius, which is depicted incorporated into the Aurelian Walls that ring the city, and the Pyramid of Romulus, which was quarried for marble used in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. Elegant shades of pink give the miniature a dreamy aesthetic, and the spires of various churches are highlighted with gold leaf.

Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Deluxe Edition)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Deluxe Edition)

Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy – Urb. lat. 277 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy – Urb. lat. 277 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Belser Verlag / WK Wertkontor – Zurich, 1981
Limited Edition: 100 copies
Binding: Leather with 10 brass fittings, according to the original. Comes in a wooden jewelry box that can be set up as a desk.
Commentary: 1 volume (89 pages) by Arthur Dürst, George Kish, and Louis Duval-Arnould
Languages: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3.000€ - 7.000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Normal Edition)

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1981
Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Normal Edition)
Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus (Normal Edition) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1981
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Binding: Leather with 10 brass fittings, according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (89 pages) by Arthur Dürst, George Kish, and Louis Duval-Arnould
Languages: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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