Tel 44 (0)20 7589 4325
Fax 44 (0)20 7589 4325
Email:[email protected]



Simon Grynaeus: Typus Cosmographicus Universalis

Map: WLD3491
Cartographer: Simon Grynaeus
Title: Typus Cosmographicus Universalis
Date: 1532
Published: Paris
Width: 22 inches / 56 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: WLD3491
The irresistible combination of Sebastian Münster’s map with the superb border decoration, usually attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger, make this one of the glories of the early age of mapmaking.

Geographically, Münster has based the configuration of the Americas on Peter Apian’s map of 1520 while radically adjusting the projection from cordiform to oval. He has retained Apian’s tentative separation of South and North America while naming the latter, “Terra de Cuba”. Münster used different sources for Africa and was to use much of this information later for his continental map in his “Cosmographia” including the image of the splendid sailing ship.

It is the spectacular border, which makes this map so very special. The border decoration and the numerous figures and animals are attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger who worked for several Basle publishers at this time. The illustrations in the four corners loosely represent the four continents. The top left shows Africans with grossly extended lower lips together with another unfortunate being trampled by an elephant. Below that, representing the Americas, are the graphic and gruesome preparations for a cannibal feast. Somewhat incongruously one of the cannibals is shown leading in the next course, tied to the back of a horse, despite the Spanish having introduced the first horses to the continent less than twenty years earlier.

Pepper, nutmeg and cardamom, together with three archers, characterise Asia. In the bottom right corner Ludovic di Varthema (“Vartomanus”) the extraordinary traveller and explorer is shown striding along towards a stylised building. Varthema’s sensational account of his travels throughout the Middle East (he is the first recorded non-believer to reach Mecca) had been published in 1510 and would have been well known to Münster and Holbein’s contemporaries.

One further intriguing aspect of the decoration is the two angels energetically turning cranks at the top and the bottom of the centrefold. While Copernicus had not yet published his great work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543) propounding a helio-centric solar system and a rotating Earth, his theories had achieved considerable currency among the European intelligentsia. Ptolemaic celestial theory, the generally accepted orthodoxy, demands a stationary earth and it seems likely that this splendid image is one of the earliest visual references to Copernicus’ hugely important, and, indeed, literally earth moving theory.

Framed. [WLD3491] [Shirley (R.): The Mapping of the World 67]