Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of Ceylon, Taprobana by Ruscelli after Ptolemy

Stock number: 18833

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Girolamo Ruscelli (biography)


Tabula Asiae XII

First Published

Venice, 1561

This edition

1562 first state


17.7 x 24.1 cms




First state, with the copperplate running off the top edge.

Ptolemy's twelfth map of Asia depicting Taprobana, from Girolamo Ruscelli's edition of "La Geografia", first published in 1561 in Venice. Enlarged copy of Gastaldi's 1548 map. Decorative picture of elephant and descriptive text next to the map, verbatim after Münster's 1540 issue of this map.

This text identifies the island of Taprobana with Sumatra, as often in the sixteenth century, although it is now generally believed to correspond to Ceylon.

Girolamo Ruscelli (1504-1566)

Girolamo Ruscelli (1504 Viterbo -1566 Venice), an Italian Alchemist, Physician and cartographer, was editor of a revised and expanded Italian edition of Ptolemy's 'Geographia', published as 'La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo. The newly engraved maps were based, generally, on those compiled by Giacomo Gastaldi for the Venice miniature atlas edition of 1548.

Ruscelli's atlas was issued several times between 1561 and 1599 by the following publishers

- Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1561
- Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1562
- Venice, G. Zileti, 1564
- Venice, G. Zileti, 1574
- Venice, Heirs of Melchior Sessa, 1598-99

The Ruscelli and Gastaldi atlases were the most comprehensive atlases produced between Martin Waldseemüller's 'Geographia' of 1513, and Abraham Ortelius 'Theatrum' of 1570. The significance of the Gastaldi and Ruscelli atlases cannot be overestimated. They defined the known geography of the world for decades. These atlases also reintroduced the use of copper engraving into the service of cartography, which was dominated by woodcut printing after several not very succesful attempts to print from copper in the 15th century. The Gastaldi and Ruscelli atlases proved that maps could be beautifully engraved on copper. As it was a harder material than wood, it was harder to engrave but also gave the ability to render much more detail. The Gastaldi and Ruscelli atlases marked a turning point in the history of cartography, from then on the majority of cartographic works used this medium.

"Ruscelli was editor of a revised and expanded edition of Ptolemy's Geographia which was issued in Venice several times between 1561 and the end of the century.

The newly angraved maps were based, generally, on those compiled by Giacomo Gastaldi for the Venice edition of 1548."

(Moreland & Bannister).