The First Woodcut Map of the World
Ptolemaeus, Claudius & Johannes Schnitzer of Armszheim
Date of Creation:
A FINE MAP OF THE WORLD, FIRST ISSUED BY HOLL OF ULM IN 1482, AND SHOWING GREENLAND AND SCANDINAVIA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A PTOLEMAIC MAP.
This magnificent map of the world comes from the second edition of the first atlas to be printed in Germany, the first atlas to contain maps made from woodcut blocks, the first to be issued with hand-coloured maps, and the first to name the cartographer of the maps.
The world map is of particular interest as it is the first to be signed, by Johannes Schnitzer (ie woodcutter) of Armszheim, who in trade mark fashion has reversed every capital N, and inadvertently provided two Tropics of Cancer. This map is the first to be based on Ptolemy's second projection, in which both parallels and meridians are shown curved to convey the sphericity of the earth. Armszheim furthermore, updated the Ptolemaic world picture by incorporating improvements that were probably based on a manuscript of the 1470s by Nicolaus Germanus (ca 1420-1490), a Benedictine monk of Reichenbach Abbey in Bavaria, who is depicted in the first illuminated letter of the atlas presenting his book to the dedicatee Pope Paul II. One notable addition is a rudimentary depiction of Scandinavia to the north, within an extension of the map's top border. This is also the earliest printed map to show the northernmost reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. The world map, moreover, embodies what is perhaps the most readily apparent feature of the Ulm Ptolemy: its beauty.