This original woodblock engraved map is the earliest separate map specifically of Asia, published by Sebastian Munster (1488-1552), mathematician, cartographer, theologian and professor of Hebrew at Basle University in Geographia universalis vetus et nova, an updated edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. In addition to the Ptolemaic maps, Münster added 21 modern maps. Münster’s innovation was to include one map for each continent, This being one of them, a concept that would influence Ortelius and other early atlas makers. The Geographia was reprinted in 1542, 1545, and 1552. Münster died in May 1552, a victim of the plague that swept the city of Basle between 1550 and 1553.
Munster’s striking map of Asia significantly updated earlier European depictions of Asia that were based almost entirely on Claudius Ptolemy, the second century AD Alexandrian astronomer and geographer. The map shows Asia from the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf to the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean, which is largely unrecognizable, retains mention of Marco Polo’s 7448 islands east of China as seen on early maps. Although largely based on Ptolemy’s work, the map incorporates some of the more recent Portuguese discoveries. The outlines of the Indian subcontinent, between the Indus and the Ganges rivers are in a recognizable form, depicted as a single peninsula; and not in the double peninsular form; of earlier maps. Zaylon (Ceylon/Sri Lanka) is correctly shown as an island and corrected, from its earlier name, Taprobana. Taprobana, as a name has migrated to Sumatra, which itself is mis-located to the west of Malaysia. The Portuguese outposts of Goa and Calicut, the first place where Vasco da Gama landed in 1497, are depicted. The Portuguese trading port of Malaqua is shown. Moloca islands, centre of the spice island trade and the object of considerable conflict between Spain and Portugal is shown. The resolution of the dispute was the official purpose of Magellan’s epic circumnavigation. The treatment of Cathay (China) is here in more recognizable form, although much too slender and is consistent with the writings of Marco Polo and other Venetian travellers.
Embellished with a large fish, presumably a whale, and mermaids this is must for any collector of Maps of Asia.It was with maps like this, that Europeans finally began to gain insight into the real nature of the modern world, in contrast to the classical Ptolemaic vision.