Fries's map of the New World
By PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius; Michael VILLANOVANUS, known as 'SERVETUS and Laurent FRIES , 1541

[Untitled map of the New World].

America North America
  • Author: PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius; Michael VILLANOVANUS, known as 'SERVETUS and Laurent FRIES
  • Publication place: [Vienna and Lyon
  • Publisher: Gaspar Trechsel for Hugues de La Porte
  • Publication date: 1541].
  • Physical description: Double-page woodcut map.
  • Dimensions: 360 by 500mm (14.25 by 19.75 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 14264


Titled ‘Tabula terrae nouvae’ above the accompanying text on the verso, this map is from the second edition of Ptolemy’s ‘Geographia’ to be published with Pirkheimer’s translation edited by Michael Villanovanus, better known as Servetus (1511-1553), born at Villanueva, in Aragon, Spain.

A reduced version of Martin Waldseemuller’s ‘Tabula Terre Nove’, this map of the New World shows the Atlantic coast of the Americas from latitudes 35 degrees south to 55 degrees north. While similarly including an apparent Gulf of Mexico, the Florida peninsula, Cuba as Isabella and Hispaniola, and across the Atlantic portions of the British Isles, Spain and Portugal and Africa, there are some notable differences: the Columbus name PARIAS found in North America, misplaced from South America, the addition of a Spanish flag over Cuba, and a scene in South America depicting cannibals and an opossum both of which had been reported by Vespucci, ‘Terra Incognita’ has been replaced by ‘Terra Nova’, and the reference to America’s discovery by Columbus is repeated. A large area of text below Hispaniola contains a description of that island’s location, its discovery by Columbus, and its products. (Burden)

While working as an editor for the publisher Trechsel, Servetus wrote the preface and many of the modern descriptions for the versos of the maps in his atlas. For his writings against the Holy Trinity and infant baptism, Servetus was burnt at the stake in 1553. However, there were forty counts of heresy against him, including the offence of having asserted, in the text accompanying map 41, ‘Tab. Ter. Sanctae’, of the Holy Land, that Palestine was not as fertile as it was generally believed. Many copies of the book were burned with him on the orders of John Calvin, although the offending passage was not actually written by Servetus, and had appeared previously in the 1522 and 1525 editions, and was pointedly omitted from his second edition of 1541.

The maps for Servetus’ editions are printed from the same woodblocks that were created by Laurent Fries for the 1522 edition of Ptolemy’s ‘Geographia’, after the original 1513 maps of Martin Waldseemuller (1470-1520). Fries was originally a physician, “at a succession of places in the Alsace region, with a short spell in Switzerland, before settling in Strasbourg, in about 1519. By this time, he had established a reputation as a writer on medical topics, with several publications already to his credit. Indeed, it was thus that Fries met the Strasbourg printer and publisher Johann Grüninger, an associate of the St. Die group of scholars formed by, among others, Walter Lud, Martin Ringmann and Martin Waldseemuller. It would seem that Gruninger was responsible for printing several of the maps prepared by Waldseemuller, and for supervising the cutting of the maps for the 1513 edition of Ptolemy, edited by the group.


  1. Burden 4