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Ruysch’s 1507 world map, with the earliest obtainable depiction of the Americas

Stock No. 22807 Category: Tags: , Cartographer: RUYSCH, Johann.

Universalior Cogniti Orbis Tabula Ex Recentibus Confecta Observationibus.
Rome: Bernardinus Venetus de Vitalibus, 1507-8. Two sheets, 400 x 280mm & 400 x 275mm.


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An important map of the world on a coniform projection, a new map engraved for the 1507-8 reprint of the 1490 Rome edition of Ptolemy, based on the most up-to-date information. According to Shirley, it is the second known printed map to depict the Americas, beaten only by the Contarini world map of 1506, known through the single example held in the British Museum. The Waldseemuller world map, the first to use the word 'America', was published the next year and is also known through one example.
North America appears on the map as ''Terra Nova', depicted as a protrusion of Asia, just to the north of 'Cathaya', based on what John Cabot's believed about his discoveries. Off the coast is 'Baccalavras', a very early reference to the Cod fishing industry already established in American waters.
South America is a large and separate continent labelled 'Terra Sancte Crucis' (Land of the Holy Cross), 'Sive Mundus Novus', the first use of 'New World' on a printed map.
In between are the West Indies. Cuba is large and triangular, perhaps confused by Columbus's insistence that Cuba was part of the American continent, with a legend obscuring the west coast stating this was as far as the ships of Ferdinand (i.e. Columbus) had reached. Hispaniola has a note stating that the island was Marco Polo's 'Cipango' (Japan), based on Polo description of it being 1400 miles to the east of the port of Zaiton.
At the top centre of the map is the North Pole, surrounded by four islands with strong currents flowing out, a concept later adopted by Gerard Mercator.

For the East Ruysch had access to the latest Portuguese discoveries. For the first time the true relative proportions of Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent are shown, with the Ptolemaic name 'Taprobana' being reassigned to Sumatra. He also drops Ptolemy's concept of a landlocked Indian Ocean. Arabia is named 'Arabia Felix' and marks 'Mecha', Barba Modi', 'Chiara, 'Adem', Barpoti', Cadil', 'Limaraqui', 'Cargasa' and the islands 'Saramui', 'Amarain' and 'Calisca'.

Other corrections to Ptolemy include a reduction of the size of the Mediterranean, allowing the removal of the resultant eastward orientation of Scotland for the first time on a printed map.

According to Shirley this is state 5 of 5, all being minor changes to names. In 1989 Donald McGuirk's census counted 64 examples, of which only three were state 1 and the majority state 5, suggesting states 1-4 were proofs; only 14 examples of the map were privately owned.

Johann Ruysch (c.1460-1533) is believed to have been born in Utrecht and to have sailed from Bristol to America. It has suggested that this was John Cabot's voyage of 1498, based on legend on this map referring to the variation of the compass, noted by Cabot on this expedition. About 1505 he entered the Benedictine monastery of St. Martin in Cologne as a secular priest, working as a manuscript illustrator and painter. He then travelled to Rome to work for Pope Julius II; he was perhaps the 'Fleming called John', a close friend of Raphael. After serving as cartographer and astronomer at the court of Manuel I of Portugal he returned to the Monastery of St Martin, where he died.

Additional information

Dimensions 555 × 400 mm



Extra Info

Universalior Cogniti Orbis Tabula Ex Recentibus Confecta Observationibus.


Rome: Bernardinus Venetus de Vitalibus, 1507-8. Two sheets, 400 x 280mm & 400 x 275mm.


Trimmed c.10mm into printed area at top, a frequent occurence, otherwise in superb condition and an excellent impression.


SHIRLEY: World 25, fifth and last state; McGUIRK: "Ruysch World Map'', Imago Mundi 41.