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Hartmann Schedel: Secunda Etas Mundi

Map: WLD3888
 
Cartographer: Hartmann Schedel
Title: Secunda Etas Mundi
Date: 1493
Published: Nuremberg
Width: 19 inches / 49 cm
Height: 14 inches / 36 cm
Map ref: WLD3888
Description:
Hartmann Schedel’s “Nuremberg Chronicle” has been referred to as the first world wide travel book and one of the most important books ever printed. It is a chronicle of the history of the world from its creation to modern times. Some of the events it narrates are a mixture of legend, myth and fable but it also refers to new inventions and contains multiple geographical descriptions and urban illustrations, many of which are the first recorded engraved image of that particular location. It also includes two maps, one of the world and one of the Holy Roman Empire, although this is called Greater Germany and includes Scandinavia and the British Isles. There were multiple contributors to both the engravings and the text, including the wood cutters, Michael Woldemutt, his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff and most notably, a young Albrecht Durer who was apprenticed to Woldemutt between 1486-89 and godson to Anton Koberger, the publisher of the Chronicle. Although as an apprentice it would have been uncredited, Durer is believed to have been involved in the engraving of many of the plates.

The work was highly successful and issued in both Latin and German in 1493 together with a much reduced version published in 1497.

Current academic opinion credits Hieronymus Munzer as the author of the map of the world included in the Chronicle. Munzer was a doctor, traveller and polymath who contributed to many of the geographical sections within the volume. He was also a friend of Martin Behaim, the maker of world’s oldest globe.

Geographically, the map is believed to be based on the small map added to a new edition of Pomponius Mela’s “Cosmographia Geographia” published in Venice in 1482 by Erhard Ratdolt. Erhard was known to have settled in Augsburg after 1486, explaining the availability of his map. Generally it follows the orthodox belief of a landlocked Indian Ocean with a distorted but clear depiction of the lands of the Far East. It also bears a very early depiction of Scandinavia and the Orkney Islands. Stylistically, it continues to emulate Ratdolt in its clarity, with few features in the interior. This draws particular attention to the great rivers of the world such as the Nile in Egypt and the Volga and Ural, both discharging into the Caspian Sea. This clarity is a marked departure from its predecessors published in Ulm in 1482 and 1486. The major innovation on Schedel’s map is the inclusion of Portuguese discoveries on the west coast of Africa, accounting for the much longer coastline of the continent in comparison to previous Ptolemaic maps. In addition this map also has a large unidentified island off the west of the continent, possibly referencing the discovery of the Cape Verde Islands.

Aesthetically, the map bears a collection of wind heads on its borders, a common feature on early Ptolemaic maps. It also illustrates the sons of Noah, Shem, Japhet and Ham. Finally, and most unusually, a border on the left, bears a continuation of a gallery of unusual and legendary beings initially illustrated on the previous page. The descriptions for these images are thought to have been sourced mostly from the classics, mainly the “De Mirabilibus Mundi” or “Wonders of the World” by Solinus who in turn used Pomponius Mela and Pliny’s Natural History as sources for his work.

Schedel’s map is considered to be one of the cornerstones of any collection of world maps and is the most accessible of the 15th century maps of the world.[Shirley 19] [WLD3888]