Ptolomei Cosmographia

Ptolomei Cosmographia Facsimile Edition

Florence (Italy) — Ca. 1480

With fresco ornaments, inspired by Nero's golden palace: the last large map collection predating the discovery of America

  1. Enrico Martello Germano made one of the most masterful manuscripts of the treatise by Claudius Ptolemy (ca. 100 – ca. 170)

  2. It opens with an illuminated map with gold inserts, inspired by the frescoes of the Domus Aurea built by Emperor Nero (37–68)

  3. The last map collection to be ignorant of America was commissioned by the Vitelli family of Città di Castello

Ptolomei Cosmographia

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Ptolomei Cosmographia

The rediscovery of Ptolemy’s geographic treatise was one of the major intellectual events of the Middle Ages. After being translated into Latin by Gherardo da Cremona in the 12th century, it became the foundation of a whole genre of illuminated cartographic manuscripts. The specimen at hand originated from ca. 1480 and represents the last collection of geographical maps before the discovery of America. The work is an aesthetic masterpiece that reflects the wealth and sophistication of the Vitelli family, who commissioned the great work.

Ptolomei Cosmographia

The extraordinary antiquities fund of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (BNCF) conserves a work of exceptional beauty and historical interest, known as the Grande Tolomeo or Codice Magliabechiano. It is a manuscript collection of geographical maps based on the studies of Ptolemy and termed Cosmographia Jacobo Angelo interprete, cum tabulis Henrici Martelli Germani. The work consists of 39 illustrations and respective comments, that is, the introductory pages of each section, which occupy 72 complete sheets of the codex for a total of 144 pages, in addition to the initial pages with dedications and incipits. Made in Florence by Enrico Martello Germano ca. 1480, it is one of the world’s most impressive and fascinating Renaissance geographical codices in existence.

Gem of Renaissance Cartography

Not merely an aesthetic masterpiece, this work constitutes a document of unique interest in the history of cartography, marking a decisive watershed. While on one hand, it is a painstaking elaboration of ancient Greek knowledge, ignored for a millennium and updated with then-recent European navigations in the Atlantic and in eastern seas, on the other hand, it is also the last collection of geographical maps before the discovery of America. An extensive introductory commentary thoroughly sets the work in its historical context, also by means of comparisons with other plates from analogous works. The result is an overall picture of the knowledge of the time, and of how the science of cartography took shape.

A Historic Commission

The codex was commissioned by the Vitelli family of Città di Castello (whose crest is reproduced on the cover) and opens with an illuminated map with gold inserts, inspired by the frescoes of Nero’s Domus Aurea. Claudius Ptolemy (Klaudios Ptolemaíos in Greek, Claudius Ptolomaeus in Latin, ca. 85 AD – 165 AD ca.), known simply as Ptolemy, was a Greek astronomer who lived and worked in Alexandria in Egypt at the height of the Roman Empire. Considered one of the fathers of geography, he was the author of numerous scientific works, the most important of which is the astronomical treatise known as the Almagest (in Greek: Hè Megalè Syntaxis, “The Great Treatise”). Like most of classical Greek science and philosophy, it has survived to the present via Arabic manuscripts which were only translated into Latin by Gherardo da Cremona in the 12th century.


Alternative Titles
Cosmografia di Tolomeo
Grande Tolomeo
Codice Magliabechiano
Ptolemy Cosmography
Cosmographia of Ptolemy
Size / Format
144 pages / 59.0 × 43.0 cm
Ca. 1480
Vitelli Family of Città di Castello
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Ptolomei Cosmographia – Magliab. XIII.16 – Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (Florence, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Vallecchi – Florence, 2004
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Ptolomei Cosmographia

Vallecchi – Florence, 2004

Publisher: Vallecchi – Florence, 2004
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Binding: Handbound in leather over board with gold tooling, protected by a slip-case
Commentary: 1 volume by Antonia Ida Fontana, Sebastiano Gentile, and Angelo Cattaneo
Language: Italian
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. Printed on special paper, specially made by the Cartiere Magnani in Pescia.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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