Ptolemy's 'Geographica' leaf, 1535.

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Coordinates for the southern French city of Narbonne (Narbonen).


Recto:  A leaf from Book 2 with a woodcut page header and one 6-line woodcut initial “N”. Coordinates for the southern French city of Narbonne (Narbonen). Printed in two columns on laid rag paper in a Roman typeface.


Verso: As Recto, but without the woodcut initial.


Source: Lyons, France.       Date: 1535.   Printers: Melchior & Gaspar Trechsel.


Condition: This leaf is in very good antiquarian condition with full margins and a crisp impression of both text and woodcuts.  There is very minor age-related spotting.  The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.


Notes: The most popular geographical work to be printed from movable type in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was Ptolemy’s Geographica or Cosmography.  Originally compiled by the Alexandrian geographer, astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy in the second century AD, it was translated from Greek into Latin in Florence, Italy about 1410.  Ptolemy lived from approximately 90 to 170 AD and worked in the library at Alexandria from 127 to 150.  He is known for his three scholarly works: the Almagest - which focused on astronomy and geometry, the Tetrabiblos - which focused on astrology and, most importantly, the Geographica  - which profoundly advanced geographic knowledge.  Geographica consisted of eight volumes.  The first discussed the problems of representing a spherical earth on a flat sheet of paper - remember that the ancient Greek and Roman scholars knew the earth was round.  The second to the seventh volumes of the work were a gazetteer of sorts, a collection of eight thousand places around the world.  This gazetteer was an astonishing work for its time, in which Ptolemy invented latitude & longitude, and was the first to place a grid system on a map and use the same grid system for the entire planet.  His collection of place names and their coordinates reveals the vast geographic knowledge of the Roman empire in the second century.  The final volume of Geographica was Ptolemy’s atlas - featuring maps that utilised his grid system and maps that placed north at the top of the map, a cartographic convention that Ptolemy created.


Item:   PSE002

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