Schedel after Ptolemy
Secunda etas mundi
37.5 x 52.0 cms
Hartmann Schedel's fantastic incunabula world map, after Ptolemy, cut by Michael Wohlgemut.
"The last of the Ancient Worlds. A famous wood-cut map featuring an outdated Ptolemaic world with a land-locked Indian Ocean with flanking portraits of Noah's sons - Japhet, Shem and Ham. The bizarre figures outside the map but on the same printed page add to the curious nature of this sought-after piece."
"The renowned Nuremberg Chronicle [...] is one of the great books of the Renaissance [...]. The World map is undoubtedly one of the most curious of any and is really the last pre-Columbian view of the World."
"Amongst all the magnificent books printed in the fifteenth century - which are known as incunables - one stands out as being the finest illustrated topographical work of the period: the 'Liber Chronicarum' or Nuremberg Chronicle. Published by Hartmann Schedel and printed by Anton Koberger in July 1493 it contained a total of 1,809 woodcuts which include a ptolemaic world map, a 'birds-eye' map of Europe and the first known printed view of an english town. These woodcuts were made by Michael Wohlgemut (Wolgemut) (1434-1519), and his son-in-law, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. Wohlgemut was Dürer's tutor between 1486 and 1490. [..].
Apart from its general interest as a very early descriptive topographical work, the Nuremberg Chronicle is also, by virtue of its date of publication, an historical document of the greatest importance. Issued seven months after Columbus landed in the New World, the Chronicle presents us with a 'last' view of the known medieval world as seen by the peoples of Western Europe."
(Moreland & Bannister).
"The Nuremberg Chronicle, as this compendium is popularly known, was one of the most remarkable books of its time. The text is an amalgam of legend, fancy, and tradition interspersed with the occasional scientific fact or authentic piece of modern learning. The many illustrations include two maps - one map of the world and one of Northern Europe - together with views of the principal cities, and a host of repeated decorative woodcuts. Hartmann Schedel, a physician of Nuremberg, was the editor-in-chief; the printer was Anton Koberger, and among the designers the most famous were Michael Wohlgemut and Hanns Pleydenwurff, masters of the Nuremberg workshop where Albrecht Dürer served his apprenticeship.
The world map is a robust woodcut taken from Ptolemy without great attention to detail. The border contains twelve dour windheads while the map is supported in three of its corners by the solemn figures of Ham, Shem, and Japhet taken from the Old Testament.
What gives the map its present-day interest and attraction are the panels representing the outlandish creatures and beings that were thought to inhabit the further-most parts of the earth. There are seven such scenes to the left of the map and a further fourteen on its reverse. Pliny, Pomponius Mela, Solinus, and Herodotus' Fables have been the sources for many of these mythological creatures; others were doubtless born of medieval travellers' tales.
Among the scenes are a six-armed man, possibly based on glimpses of a file of Hindu dancers so aligned that the fromt figure appears to have multiple arms; a six-fingered man, a centaur, a four-eyed man from the Simien Mountains, a cyclops, one of the men whose heads grow beneath their shoulders, one of the crook-legged men who live in the desert and slide along instead of walking; a strange hermaphrodite, a man with one giant foot only (stated by Solinus to be used as a parasol but more likely an unfortunate sufferer from elephantisis), a man with a huge underlip (doubtless seen in Africa), a man with waist-length hanging ears, and other frightening and fanciful creatures of a world beyond.
The first edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle in July 1493 was in Latin and there was a reprint with German text in December of the same year."
"Asia, like Africa, was supposed to be full of bizarre humanoid creatures. Such legendary beings from ancient cosmographies were given new life in printed books like Hartmann Schedel's 'Nuremberg Chronicle' of 1493. There were, in 'eastern parts', little horned men, bird men, Scythian 'hippopeds', and bald but bearded ladies - all faithfully and graphically illustrated in handsome woodcuts."
(Toolet & Bricker).
"Among them is one of those curiously afflicted people of India with only one leg. The size of his foot compensates, however; it makes a good sunshade. There is a cruelly taloned Scythian gryphon, here menaced by hunters. And there are a headless race of men with faces set into their chests and hill-men with dogs' heads who 'barked for speech'."
(Tooley & Bricker)
For classical sources of some these creatures see
- "umbrella-foot" man
(Pliny Historia Naturalis VII.2: ".. because in the hotter weather they lie on their backs on the ground and protect themselves with the shadow of their feet ..")
- person with dog's head
(Strabo Geographia 1.2: ".. men who are half dog ..")
- creatures having no heads but face on their breast
(Strabo Geographia 1.2: ".. men with eyes in their breasts ..").