Sixth Map of Asia


Claudius Ptolemaeus (circa 100–circa 170), known as Ptolemy, was an astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent who lived and worked in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. In his Geography, Ptolemy gathered all the geographic knowledge possessed by the Greco-Roman world. He invented the geographic coordinate system and devised a method of using a grid or graticule made up of lines of latitude and longitude to plot the locations of some 8,000 places on the map that encompassed the known world at the height of the Roman Empire. Ptolemy’s work was lost to Europe in the Middle Ages, but at the beginning of the 14th century Byzantine scholars began introducing versions of it into Italy. This is the second map of the Arabian Peninsula ever printed, preceded only by the Bologna edition of Ptolemy in 1477. The first printer-publisher associated with this second edition was Konrad Sweynheim (died 1477), who established the first printing press in Italy in 1464 and who probably started work on the Geography several years before his death. The quality of the engraving and print for this Rome edition is held to be much superior to the Bologna edition. After Sweynheim’s death, the engraving and printing was completed by Arnold Buckinck. As with other maps from the 1478 atlas, this one is printed from two plates and joined in the middle. Ptolemy’s Geography included major inaccuracies, attributable in part to his miscalculating the size of the Earth, which he believed was smaller than it is. European explorers gradually completed and corrected Ptolemy’s maps, but the ancient geographer’s methods remained important as a basis for modern cartographic practice. The print run of the edition is not known; however, this map from the collections of the Qatar National Library is considered to be rare and important. Until the 1477 edition was definitively dated, the 1478 edition was believed to be the first-ever printed atlas.

Last updated: May 2, 2017