Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of the World by Eckebrecht / Kepler

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Stock number: 18667

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Eckebrecht / Kepler


Nova Orbis Terrarum Delineatio Singulari Ratione Accommodata Meridiano Tabb. Rudolphi Astronomicarum

First Published

Ulm, 1658

This Edition



38.5 x 68.5 cms




This Item is Sold


One of the most iconic and significant world maps of the Renaissance Scientific Revolution. The map is magnificent in both its content and its design, unlike other early world map. The map is one of the first to show the Dutch discoveries of Australia.

The map in combination with Kepler's tables were the gold standard for determination of longitude until the invention of of maritime chronometers.


Uncoloured with very fine dark impression. Minor amendments to the folds as always. Otherwise an almost mint example of an unobtainable map of highest significance.


Ex collection Frank Benevento.


This large map is the brainchild of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), one of the foremost astronomers of all times. In 1627 he published his Tabulae Rudolphinae (Rudolfine Tables), one of the major publications in the history of astronomy and the crowning achievement of a great scientific life. The book of ephemerides gives, for the first time in history, an accurate method for the calculation of longitude anywhere in the world, based on observations of celestial events like eclipses and conjunctions, and for this purpose an adjusted new map of the world is necessary and had also been prepared for as early as 1626.

Indeed, some copies of the book contain Kepler's revolutionary world map, dated 1630 and published in Nuremberg by his confidant and amateur astronomer Philipp Eckebrecht (1594-1667). However, because the map is dedicated to emperor Leopold I, it cannot have been finalized before 1658. This dichotomy made the history of the map unclear.

A recently discovered unique proof-copy from 1630 confirms the hypothesis that the contruction of the map's original content had indeed been finished in 1630. But because of the early deaths of Kepler (1630) and the copper engraver Johann Philipp Walch (1631), and possibly the legal disputes between the heirs, the printing plate was not used. It seems that the coronation of Leopold I in 1658, presumably in combination with the expiration of the 30 year copyright mentioned on the map, were the reason that the map was updated and subsequently published in this form for the first time.

The map is different from any other world map in several ways. In his correspondence, Kepler states that the map is specifically intended for celestial navigation, but is also essential for astronomy, and for astrology. He also stated that he wanted a double hemisphere projection because in his opinion it had the least distortion when projecting a globe onto a flat map. But unlike other double hemisphere maps of the world, he stated that he needed one that has the meridian of Uraniborg (where Tycho Brahe had done his celestial measurements) in the center. As a result of his decision, this is the only world map that has a full hemisphere in the center flanked by two half hemispheres on the side (else Europe would have been split over two hemispheres), and the only world map that uses the meridian of Uraniborg in Denmark as the zero longitude meridian. It is also the only world map that gives longitude not by degrees but by time difference relative to the zero meridian. Along the equator are hours to subtract (to the left) or to add (to the right), relative to this zero meridian. They are marked in Roman Numerals I-XII, 24 hours for the total circumference of the earth. Each hour is divided in three meridians 20 minutes apart, which in turn have been divided in intervals of 4 minutes (equal to one traditional degree of longitude, 360 degrees corresponding to 24 hours).

The discovery and image of the proof-copy of 1630

A proof-copy was discovered in 2013 by the late Peter Meurer in a 1629 copy of the Tabulae Rudolphinae in the University Library of Kiel.

The 1630 proof state of the map of the world in this copy of the book is consistent with the latest world maps that were available in Amsterdam in the period 1626-1630, and the details of the Dutch discovery of the west coast of Australia come from the Jodocus Hondius II of the world of 1622-24. That Hondius map is the first map to show any of the Dutch discoveries in Australia, and was sold as a separately issued map in Amsterdam. This demonstrates that Kepler indeed used the most up-to-date information when designing his map, and it cements the significance of this map for the history of discovery of Australia.

Note that the descriptions below from the traditional literature are not aware of this ground-breaking cartographic discovery.

Reference: Peter H. Meurer, Die Werkgeschichte der Weltkarte von Johannes Kepler und Philipp Eckebrecht (1630/58), Cartographica Helvetica 49 (2014), pp. 27–38.



This striking and unusual map was conceived by the German cartographer Philip Eckebrecht at the request of his friend Johann Kepler, to be used with his Rudolphine Astronomical Tables for the calculations of longitude which were first published at Ulm in 1627. However, although the map is dated 1630, all copies known today must have been issued considerably later, certainly after 1658 when the Emperor Leopold to whom the map is dedicated came to the throne.

A note in the lower right-hand part of the map says that it was designed by Philip Eckebrecht of Nuremberg and engraved by J.P. Walch. The central hemisphere's prime meridian is based on the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe's observatory in Uraniborg: the remaining parts of the world are in bifurcated form on either side. A magnificent double headed eagle embraces the continents, and the map is dedicated to the Holy Roman Emperor. The design harks back to Braun's imposing wall map of 1574 which is also headed by the Imperial double-eagle and has the continents in bifurcated form.

At one time Eckebrecht's map was believed to be the first to show the Dutch landings in Australia but this claim is now superceded. Until a copy of the 1630 issue comes to light it is impossible to say how much of the 'new' geographical information on the map, particularly with regard to Australia, was added later. As it stands, the map combines the discoveries on the west coast of Hartog (1616), Houtman (1619), and those of Cartensz. and Colsten further north in 1623. New Guinea is erroneously linked to Australia. On the North American continent, Eckebrecht records the new colonies on the east coast — Nova Britannia, Nova Anglia, New South Wales (located south of Button's or Hudson's Bay) and Nova Belgium. Baffin's Bay is also marked. In the west, California is an island with the lands beyond still recognised as Nova Albion.

Only very rarely is Eckebrecht's map found on the open market.

BL Maps 184.i.1.(2). Schilder, p. 96 and plate XVI.

(Rodney Shirley map 335)


The landfall of the Eendragt under the command of Dirck Hartog, 1616 1623

In previous studies of the history of the discovery of Australia the world map by Philipp Eckebrecht, dated 1630, has been seen as a pioneer work in relation to the early Dutch discoveries, and it has been pointed out that this German map contains more information about Australia than is to be found in early editions of the atlases of Blaeu, Hondius and Janssonius. However, the map as known today is later than 1630. All extant copies are dedicated to the Emperor Leopold who only came to the throne in 1658: thus all surviving copies of the map can only have been published in that year, or later. It is probable that this map was originally drawn in 1630, but then for some unknown reason was not published at that time.

(Günter Schilder)

ECKEBRECHT, Philip 1630


Philippus Eckebrecht civis Norimbergensis sumptus faciente Jo Kepplero Sculpsit Norimberge J.P. Walch A’o 1630 (lower r.h.s. cartouche)

Cum Privilegio casario ad Annos XXX (lower l.h.s. cartouche)

68.5 x 38.5 cms

Probably first published in 1630 to accompany Johann Kepler's 'Rudolphine Astronomical Tables' Ulm 1627.

World map depicted on one central hemisphere with two flanking half hemispheres, showing the early Dutch discoveries in Australia on Cape York Peninsula and the west coast. Probably first published in 1630 to accompany Johann Kepler's 'Rudolphine Astronomical Tables' Ulm 1627.

A rare and magnificent world map showing the early Dutch discoveries made by Hartog in 1616 and those of Houtman in 1619, on Australia's west coast as well as the 1623 discoveries of Carstensz and van Colster on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. The place names given by Carstensz are shown here on Eckebrecht's map, which at one stage was thought to be the first to show the Dutch discoveries in Australia (Tooley 541). That viewpoint is no longer valid. Certainly with it's 1630 date, the Eckebrecht map ranks as one of the first to show those discoveries, however no known examples in the first state have come to light. According to Shirley this map "...was conceived by German cartographer Philip Eckebrecht at the request of his friend Johann Kepler...” to be used in Kepler's astronomical tables calculating longitude, first published in Ulm in 1627. However, all copies of Eckebrecht's map sighted contain a dedication to Emperor Leopold. Leopold came to the throne in 1658, therefore the known copies of Eckebrecht's map must be after that date. Not until Blaeu's 1634, first state East Indies chart ‘India Quae Orientalis...', do we see another representation of the Dutch discoveries in Australia on both the north and the west coast of Australia. However without seeing a 1630 example of Eckebrecht's map, it is impossible to say if those Dutch discoveries were present in that state or whether in fact they were added later in the Leopold issue. The map features a magnificent Imperial double-headed eagle and is dedicated to the Holy Roman Emperor. Remnants of Terra Australis Incognita still persist and New Guinea is erroneously linked to Australia.

Shirley 335, pl.255; Clancy Terra Australis, map 6.4, illust. p.76; Schilder p.68; Tooley 541, pl.36; Tooley Landmarks, illust. pp.252-3; Sotheby's November 1997.

(Simon Dewez)


It was well-understood since the ancient Bablylonians and Greeks, that celestial events could be used as an external clock to determine longitude on earth by observation of simultaneity. If an eclipse or conjunction (of planets, stars, sun or moon) can be observed from two different places on earth, then the difference in local time of the observation is the difference in longitude on earth. As an example, if a lunar eclips is observed in Athens at noon, and that very same event is observed at 4pm local time in another place, then the latter place is on a meridian four hours or 60 degrees longitude ahead (i.e. east) of the former place. Local time can be easily determined at any position on earth because the apex of the sun is due south (or north, when on the southern hemisphere) at mid-day (1200 noon) which is used to calibrate local clocks (for instance sandglasses). For this paradigm to work in practice, it is essential to have a method to determine the accurate position of celestial bodies at any given date and time to know what future events to look for. Nowadays we have computers and calculators, but from ancient times onwards the data was provided by tables giving celestial positions at regular intervals (used in conjunction with linear interpolation for intermediate dates/times). Such astronomical tables are known as ephemerides and had been published since antiquity, for instance in Ptolemy's Almagest from the 2nd century AD. Ephemerides were published through Medieval times and in Renaissance, and for instance Columbus carefully timed Lunar Eclipses on two separate occasions in the West Indies, only to completely botch the corresponding longitude calculations.

Up to Keplers Rudolfine Tables, ephemerides were very inaccurate. This was on the one hand caused by inaccuracies of the given positions of the (fixed) stars, which sometimes were several degrees off their real position. But more importantly, the orbits of the (fast moving) planets were considered to be circular and of constant speed, both in the old Ptolemaic geocentric system but also in the modern heliocentric Copernican system. This introduced large discrepancies between the predicted and observed movements and positions of the planets.

The first problem (of the positions) Kepler could solve by including the data of his tutor Tycho Brahe, measurements that had been collected over a period of 30 years, and were the most accurate pre-telescopic measurements of all times. The second problem (of the planetary movements) was solved by Kepler because he had discovered that planet orbits are elliptical and with varying speeds (now known as Kepler's first and second law). This allowed him to accurately calculate the position of the planets for any given date and time in the past or future. To enable the calculations in the first place, he specifically developed the theory of logarithms as a mathematical tool. He calculations resulted in tables that were far more accurately then any others had been up to that time.

Using the tables, particular events like eclipses and conjunctions of planets, stars and the moon, can be found very precisely for the past and the future. The tables are relative to the meridian of Uraniborg in Denmark, which was convenient because Tycho Brahes observatory there was the origin of most of the celestial positions collected over more than three decades. Kepler had worked there as an apprentice and bought the rights to this data from the heirs of Brahe.

To use this for accurate determination of longitude for any place on earth, the method is as follows.

- From the tables, the observer computes the exact date and time of a predicted celestial conjuncton or eclipse, as per the zero meridian of Uraniborg.

- The observer uses the map to add or subtract the time difference according to this world map, based on the estimated longitude given on this world map.

- Assuming that the event can be observed at the longitude and latitude (it obviously has to occur above the observer's horizon), the local time of the event will accurately determine the time difference and therefore the longitude difference with the zero meridian of Uraniborg.

For one and a half century, Kepler's tables and map were the gold standard to determine longitude anywhere in the world, until it was superseded by the invention of the maritime chronometers by John Harrison.

Kepler's method worked very well on land, where accurate pendulum clocks for local time were available after 1656 and where accurate observations were relatively easy, and one could patiently wait for a proper event and clear skies. Kepler's idea that it could be used for navigation at sea was totally impracticable, because navigators did not have the luxury of accurate clocks, of clear skies and usable celestial events when you need them.

Interestingly, it was Kepler's laws of the movement of the planets that led Isaac Newton to the discovery of the law of gravity (not the apple).

(Leen Helmink)