Vatican Ptolemy

Vatican Ptolemy

Florence (Italy) — 15th century

Almost 1,500 years after Ptolemy: a masterful cartographic manuscript for Pope Paul III by the Vatican astronomer Nicolaus Germanus

  1. In the late 15th century, geographer and astrologer Nicolaus Germanus (ca. 1420 – ca. 1490) was employed at the Vatican

  2. His work is dedicated to Pope Paul III (1468–1549) and revised, updated, and expanded Ptolemy's maps

  3. A spectacular specimen of the time when the 2nd century work by Ptolemy was rediscovered

Vatican Ptolemy

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Vatican Ptolemy

In the late 15th century, geographer and astrologer Nicolaus Germanus, who was employed by the Vatican, completed the maps for this famous manuscript: the so-called Vatican Ptolemy. This geographic work is named after the ancient geographer and Renaissance man Claudius Ptolemy, who is considered to be the founder of modern cartography. The original Greek text of the Cosmographia by Claudius Ptolemy was translated into Latin by Jacopo Angeli da Scarpezia and was also illustrated and furnished entirely in the exquisite style of the Renaissance with the most precious materials and the greatest artistry. Dedicated to Pope Paul II, the Vatican Ptolemy unites this impressive artistic quality with a comprehensive image of the world as it was known at that time!

Vatican Ptolemy

In the late 15th century, geographer and astrologer Nicolaus Germanus, who was employed by the Vatican, completed the maps for this famous manuscript: the so-called Vatican Ptolemy. This geographic work is named after the ancient geographer and Renaissance man Claudius Ptolemy, who is considered to be the founder of modern cartography. The original Greek text of the Cosmographia by Claudius Ptolemy was translated into Latin by Jacopo Angeli da Scarpezia and was also illustrated and furnished entirely in the exquisite style of the Renaissance ** with the most precious materials and the greatest artistry. Dedicated to **Pope Paul II, the Vatican Ptolemy unites this impressive artistic quality with a comprehensive image of the world as it was known at that time!

A Famous Ancient Geographer

Cosmography in the Middle Ages was the science of describing the earth and space. The Vatican Ptolemy is one of the famous Ptolemy manuscripts of the Renaissance, named after the founder of modern cartography: Claudius Ptolemy. The famous Greek geographer from the 2nd century, whose portrait on the second page of the manuscript shows him with a book and compass in his hands, composed numerous standard works as a mathematician, geographer, astronomer, astrologer, music theorist, and philosopher. His Cosmographia is a comprehensive geographical work responsible for the fame that he enjoys to this day. Ptolemy was nevertheless long forgotten and, like so many intellectual giants of antiquity, was first rediscovered during the time of the Renaissance.

A Papal Treasure

Ptolemy’s Cosmographia was a significant geographical work, which visualizes the known world at that time and thus was of great value for seafarers and merchants. Codex Urb. Lat. 274 of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is replete with informative content and is a gem of Renaissance illumination. The manuscript, which probably originates from 15th century Florence, was furnished with only the finest of materials. A lavish application of gold leaf on noble parchment accounts for the additional appeal of the geographic manuscript. The Vatican Ptolemy contains, inter alia, a dedication to Pope Paul II (1417–1471), attests to the fact that this jewel must have been made for a truly important patron.

Ancient Work, Modern Maps

The 30 maps of the geographical overview work originates from Nicolaus Germanus, a geographer who, among others, made two globes for the Vatican in the year 1477. The maps by Nicolaus Germanus illustrate and accompany the text of the Cosmographia, which was translated from the original Greek into Latin by Jacopo Angeli da Scarpezia. The 266, 44.4 x 29.9 cm pages of the Vatican Ptolemy contain a total of 30, mostly multi-page maps: a map of the Old World, 13 maps of Europe, 4 cartographical depictions of Africa and 12 of Asia. Additionally, Ptolemy’s maps were revised, expanded, and brought up to date. New maps came to be in this way, e.g. of Spain, northern Europe and Italy. Additionally, the work was appended with an additional map: a current world map with newly discovered regions, e.g. America.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Tolomeo Vaticano
Cosmographia of Ptolemy
Vatican Ptolemys
Vatikan-Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolomaeus
Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolomäus
Size / Format
266 pages / 44.4 × 29.9 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
15th century
Language
Illustrations
30 maps: a map of the Old World, 13 maps of Europe (with the addition of three new ones: modern Spain, Northern Europe, modern Italy, more precise and elaborate than those created by Ptolemy), 4 of Africa and 12 of Asia, with maps often covering several pages
Previous Owners
Pope Alexander VII

Available facsimile editions:
Vatican Ptolemy – Urb. Lat. 274 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 2005
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