Orbis Universalis Descriptio [Typus Universalis]


First edition of the state of Munster’s world map from the mid-16th century.

1 in stock

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This ‘modern’ map of the world was created by Sebastian Munster and published in Basle, Switzerland in 1550. It’s a fascinating synthesis of contemporary geographic information from the mid-16th century, incorporating the discoveries of Columbus, Magellan, Verrazzano, and others.

Only a handful of toponyms are provided, but many are recognizable to a modern audience including Florida, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Brazil. Continental outlines are generally quite accurate for the period, though large bodies of water in both North and South America and an easily accessible Northwest passage reflect popular misconceptions. Greenland is connected to the continent of Europe, and ambiguous polar landmasses can be seen above and below. The New World extends to the right side of the page, with ‘Zipangri’ (Japan) situated between the ‘Temistitian’ (West Coast) and ‘Cathai Regio’ (China). The mythical islands of Grisonum and Calensuan can be seen in the South Pacific, next to the images of sea monsters and sailing ships.

The oval projection is surrounded by a decorative border of woodcut windheads and clouds, with the title Typus Universalis added to the upper margin. The title, scrollwork windhead names, and engravers initials in the lower left (DK – Derek Kandel) indicate that this is the second state of Munster’s map, the first of which was created for his 1540 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. The woodblock was subsequently updated for the 1550 edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, his ‘greatest achievement’ according to Karrow, and re-issued in numerous languages until at least 1578.

It was from a first edition volume that this example has been taken – an amazing example of 16th-century scholarship that “taught nearly three generations of laymen most of what they knew about the world beyond their native places.” [Gerald Strauss].

References: Shirley 92, Karrow 58/73.1, H.. Ruland A Survey of double-page maps in thirty-five editions of the Cosmographia, Imago Mundi Vol. XVI,

Map Details

Publication Date: 1550

Author: Sebastian Munster

Sheet Width (in): 15.25

Sheet Height (in): 12.25

Condition: A-

Condition Description: Very faint discoloration along the vertical centerfold and a small hole in the lower margin. Light toning around the outer edges, but overall in very good condition.


1 in stock