Ptolemaeus, Claudius & Sylvanus, Bernard
Date of Creation:
British Isles, Bernard Sylvanus, 1511
Prima Europae Tabula. In: Claudii Ptholemaei Alexdrini liber geographiae… Venice, 1511. Published by Jacobus Pentius de Leucho.
Bernard Sylvanus’ atlas is unusual both for its printing, and its map.
From a printing standpoint, it is unique as an early atlas printed entirely in color, two separate strikes being used to print black and red. It is also unusual (and at the time unprecedented) as an atlas printed back-to-back: With the exception of its non-Ptolemaic world map, its maps are printed on both sides of the sheet.
Geographically, Sylvanus’ work is intriguing for his quirky attempt to correct Ptolemaic maps without actually treating them as distinct, “modern” maps.
His map of the British Isles depicts a better-formed Ireland, better-oriented Scotland, and additional nomenclature – yet all the while maintaining the Ptolemaic basis, not making it into a “tabula moderna,” a modern map.
Sylvanus was aware that his audience might find this approach awkward. In an apologia in the atlas’ introduction, he explains his purpose, and defends his decision to revise Ptolemy’s geography while retaining the Alexandrian’s nomenclature.