Altera Generalis Tab. Secundum Ptol.

Woodcut, coloured. Basel

Early woodcut map of the world according to Ptolemy by the German cartographer Sebastian Münster, depicting Europe, North Africa and Asia shown joined to a great southern continent named ‘Terra Incognita Secundum Protemeum’. Surrounding the map are decorative clouds and personified depictions of the twelve winds of the wind-system proposed by Aristotle with their names appearing in banners. A Professor of Hebrew at Basel University and an eminent mathematician and geographer, Münster first issued his first edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia in 1540.


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Description

The concepts of Terra Australis Incognita and a landlocked Indian Ocean were first proposed by Ptolemy in his Geographia and remained influential until Bartolomew Diaz’s discovery of the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope in 1487 provided the Portuguese with direct access to trade with Asia, allowing them to avoid the Venetian-controlled spice trade into Europe via the Middle East.

Sri Lanka, named Taprobana and the source of precious cinnamon, is shown as a very large island incorrectly placed to the west of a truncated Indian subcontinent. Cinnamon was one of the most prized spices available and its exact source was closely guarded by the Arab spice traders. European merchants knew that the cinnamon was transported via the Red Sea to the Egyptian port of Alexandria but its prior origins were unknown.

Additional information
Date

c1541

Author/Maker

Sebastian Münster

Material

Ink, Paper