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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Map of the Day: Universalior cogniti orbis tabula ex recentibus confecta observationi" ("A Universal Map of the Known World, Constructed by Means of Recent Observations") from Geographia Cl. Ptholemaei. Ruysch, Johannes (c. 1460-1533)

The Engraving: 17" x 23"

The first world map to show the New World was the 1506 map published by Francesco Rosselli in Florence, while another was included in Martin Waldseemüller's map of the same year. Both of these works are known in a single existing example, meaning that Ruysch's rare map is the earliest cartographic representation of the newly discovered lands that remains available to collectors. 

Drawn according to Ptolemy's first (coniform, or fan-shaped) projection, Ruysch's map was the first indication of America in any edition of the Geography, and incorporated geographical discoveries from Portuguese, Spanish and English explorations in America. The nomenclature was particularly influential. South America is named "Mundus Novus" or "New World" from Vespucci's published accounts asserting that this was a "fourth" or "new" corner of the globe, distinct from Europe, Asia and Africa. Ruysch's map provides a revealing window onto both the cartographical misconceptions and advances of the Renaissance. 

Mapmakers were still struggling to understand what relationship the newly discovered lands bore to the coast of Asia-- whether they were the easternmost extremities of that continent (as Columbus had assumed) or distinct from it. Ruysch seems to have equivocated on that point. Although he advocated the theory that the territorial discoveries were indeed a New World simply by labeling South America as "Mundus Novus," he still showed Greenland and Newfoundland ("Terre Nova") attached to Asia. In other ways, however, Ruysch broke away from received wisdom in his geographical configurations. This work is, for example, the first printed map to show India with its correct triangular form. 

Ruysch's map was instrumental in disseminating knowledge of recent discoveries in America, Africa and Asia. Ruysch himself is an enigmatic figure. Probably born in Utrecht, he is thought to have lived in a monastery in Cologne before settling in Rome, where he produced this map. According to the editor of the 1507-8 edition of Ptolemy's Geography, Ruysch had personally taken part in a voyage from England to North America. As such, this map is the first printed depiction of America by a mapmaker who had himself visited the New World. 

Offered at $475,000. For more information, please email info@aradernyc.com or call our 72nd Street NYC gallery at (212) 628-3668. 

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