Nona Asie Tabula
The eastern extent of Alexander the Great’s empire and one of the first printed maps of the Indus Valley.
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Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek scholar who was active in Alexandria, Egypt between the first and second centuries C.E. He wrote broadly on a number of topics including astrology, math, music, and astronomy, but today his impact is likely felt nowhere more strongly than in the field of geography. Ptolemy was the first (that we know of) to develop a process by which a three-dimensional object (in this case, a sphere) can be projected on two dimensions, like a flat sheet of paper. Using geographic data from predecessors like Erasthones and Marinus of Tyre, Ptolemy drafted the mathematical calculations necessary to create the first map projection – the foundation on which maps are still produced to this day.
This set of instructions came to be known as the Geographia, though the original text was lost after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Fortunately, manuscript copies survived through Muslim scribes, and the Geographia was ‘re-discovered’ in Italy during the Renaissance in the early 15th century. It was tremendously influential as European society began to look for scientific, rather than superrnatural, explanations to the world in which they lived. Furthermore, Ptolemy’s maps under-represented the size and omitted significant portions of the globe, encouraging the Age of Discovery and the expeditions of De Gama, Columbus, and others.
Though earlier manuscript editions exist, the first version of Ptolemy’s Geographia was printed in Venice in 1475, though this edition did not contain any maps. A second edition, the first with maps, was printed in Bologna in 1477 and was the first to use plates engraved on copper. Second and third editions appeared in Rome and Florence, respectively, in 1478 and 1482, with the latter including the first ‘new’ maps added to Ptolemy’s original group of 27. The next in line of production is the 1482 edition printed in Ulm, Germany by Leinhart Holle using a manuscript edited by Nicolaus Germanus – the first example issued outside of Italy.
It is from that 1482 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia that this sheet originates – the ninth of twelve original Ptolemaic maps covering the continent of Asia. The image captures a broad territory around the modern-day nations of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Five distinct regions, Gedrosia, Drangia, Aria, Paropanisus, and Arachosia, originate from Classical sources and are roughly bordered by pictorial mountain ranges.
The Indus River, the source of the name ‘India’ and the farthest extent of Alexander the Great’s conquests, can be seen in the lower right and several islands are labeled in the Indian Ocean. The right margin presents information and measurements of the climes. These were the seven climatic zones thought by ancient scholars to dictate the habitable parts of the world.
Sources: Pagani, Cosmography Maps from Ptolemy’s Geography; Campbell, Earliest Printed Maps; Shirley, The Mapping of the World; Nordenskiold, Facsimile Atlas; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
Publication Date: 1482
Author: Claudius Ptolemy
Sheet Width (in): 21.9
Sheet Height (in): 16.75
Condition Description: About an inch around the entire sheet has been professionally restored with paper fill and new ink, closely matching the original. Heavy discoloration present along the seam between the repairs and original sheet, most evident in the upper corners. Additional discoloration, three small holes, and minor wear visible along the vertical centerfold. Remains in fair or better condition overall, given the age and scarcity, with skillful repairs that replicate much of the original aesthetic. Near contemporary old color with modern added where necessary for restoration
1 in stock