Imago Mundi

Imago Mundi

Leuven (Belgium) — Between 1480 and 1483

Influencing the course of history: one of the first printed works from Flanders, which made Christoph Columbus go off course

  1. The astronomic-geographic work and magnum opus by the French theologian Pierre d’Ailly (1351–1420)

  2. Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) trusted D’Ailly’s outdated information and went off course

  3. Thus, the course of history was influenced by the text, with was published ca. 1483 by one of the first printing houses in Flanders

Imago Mundi

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Imago Mundi

Christopher Columbus trusted in this text more than all the other suggestions of his contemporaries: the astronomical-geographical text Imago Mundi by Pierre d’Ailly. The most famous work by this significant French theologian from the year 1410 had not been at the cutting edge in Columbus’ day for a long time. The false calculations by the explorer were a result, as was the discovery of a new continent. Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi is nonetheless a wonderful and impressive testimonial to the cosmographic knowledge of the early 15th century, and the personal copy of Christopher Columbus with his notes is truly unique!

Imago Mundi

Christopher Columbus trusted in this text more than all the other suggestions of his contemporaries: the astronomical-geographical text Imago Mundi by Pierre d’Ailly. The most famous work by this significant French theologian from the year 1410 had not been at the cutting edge in Columbus’ day for a long time. The false calculations by the explorer were a result, as was the discovery of a new continent. Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi is nonetheless a wonderful and impressive testimonial to the cosmographic knowledge of the early 15th century, and the personal copy of Christopher Columbus with his notes is truly unique!

Columbus’ Gorgeous Edition

The edition of the Imago Mundi text from the Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina in Seville was printed ca. 1483 in Leuven in modern Belgium. The printer was Johann von Paderborn, one of the first printers in Leuven and in Flanders as a whole. Pierre d’Ailly’s magnum opus is recorded on 288 pages measuring 28 x 21 cm. Subdivided into 18 chapters or tractates, each illustrated with gorgeous and informative drawings, it offers a terrific overview of the astrological-geographical wisdom of the early 15th century.

A Witness to Historical Events

The author of this work was Pierre d’Ailly (1350/1–1420), a significant French theologian and cardinal. D’Ailly, inter alia, participated in the disputes of the Western Schism, the Council of Constance, and the inquisition of the reformer Jan Hus. As a result, he was a witness to the most significant historic events of his time. Additionally, he composed numerous works of a mystic nature and displayed his deep interest in astrology. His most famous work is nevertheless the astronomical-geographical text Imago Mundi from 1410. This is compiled from various sources from Antiquity and the Middle Ages and contains tractates on the ordering of the cosmos and the Earth along with a description of the three continents that were known at that time.

The Idea of the Indian Expedition

The fact that this was the personal copy of Christopher Columbus is of even greater historical significance. The important explorer furnished the book with notes from his own hand, in addition to some comments left in the book by his son Hernando. The numerous comments suggest just how intensely the explorer grappled with the text of the Imago Mundi. The text had a measurable influence on the journeys of exploration and gave Columbus – as is indicated in the research – his initial idea for an expedition to India. Nonetheless, Columbus relied more on the already 80 year old and outdated information of D’Ailly than on contemporary references, to his detriment, and drifted off course as a result. Yet, this led to one of the most important events in world history: the discovery of the Americas!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Pierre d'Ailly's "Imago Mundi"
Size / Format
288 pages / 28.0 × 21.0 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
Between 1480 and 1483
Content
Astronomical-geographical text by Pierre d’Ailly owned by Christopher Columbus
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Christopher Columbus (1451–1506)
Ferdinand Columbus (1488–1539)

Available facsimile editions:
Imago Mundi – Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina (Seville, Spain)
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1990
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Imago Mundi

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1990
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Leather binding in Mudejar style with studded gold plated. It comes in gray velvet box with additional volume.
Commentary: 2 volumes (816/288 pages) by Antonio Ramírez de Verger, Juan Pérez de Tudela y Bueso, and Johannes Gerson
Language: Spanish
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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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