Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of Africa by Ruscelli after Ptolemy

Stock number: 18873

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Girolamo Ruscelli (biography)


Tabula Africae IIII

First Published

Venice, 1561

This edition

1562 first state


17.8 x 23.7 cms




Ruscelli's version of Ptolemy's fourth map of Africa, covering the continent as a whole.

Ptolemy was of opinion that the Indian Ocean was landlocked, and Africa connected to the undiscovered southland, and there is no sea route around the African continent. Little is known of the interior, and the undiscovered sources of the Nile are believed to originate in the mountains of the Moon (Lunae montes). In the south east are Anthropophagite or "man eaters", i.e. cannibals. In the lower left are Ichthyophagi or "fish eaters". At the bottom is Terra Ptolemeo incognita.

First state, with the copperplate running off the top of the map.

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).