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Map titled 'Tabula Asiae VIII', from 'Geographia universalis', by Sebastian Munster, 1540


Map titled 'Tabula Asiae VIII', from 'Geographia universalis', by Sebastian Munster, 1540

Object information

Physical description

Woodcut map on paper, in black ink, with the title "TABVLA ASIAE VIII" at the top edge. The map shows a Ptolemaic projection of India and Central Asia which is decorated with strange 'people', including the sciapod (a man with a single leg and large foot), the anthropophagi (or cannibals) busily butchering their next meal, men with their heads located below their shoulders and a man with the head of a dog. On the reverse is a design in black ink on one half of the page only, which consists of a body of text surrounded by a highly ornate border, the text is headed "OCTAVA ASIAE Ta". There is a small tear at the head of the map, and written on the reverse in pencil in the top and bottom right hand corners respectively are "610/640" and "LL/88".

Statement of significance

The Sebastian Münster 'Tabula Asiae VIII' map collection comprises one double-page woodcut map of Central Asia, decorated in the margins with images of Antipodean monsters, and printed on rag paper. The map represents the region of Scythia as it was understood during the height of the Roman Empire and was published in the first edition of Münster's atlas, the 'Geographia', in 1540. The map has a small tear at the head of the page which does not affect the image or text, and is in excellent condition otherwise.

Münster, skilled in ancient languages, mathematics and cartography, sought to represent the work of Antiquity's greatest geographic authority, Claudius Ptolemy, in an accurately translated and corrected edition. Ptolemy's atlas, showing the world as it was known in the 2nd century AD, had contained one world map and 26 regional maps to which Münster added another 21 modern maps. 'Tabula Asiae VIII' maps the survival of ancient conceptions about the world, including the existence of a monster-filled great south land, into the sixteenth century when improved navigation and a greater reliance on empirical evidence were challenging those beliefs.

Object information

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