Trapezoid projection of the Caspian Sea
By PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius , 1490

Septima Asiae Tabula

Asia Central Asia
  • Author: PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius
  • Publication place: [Rome
  • Publisher: Petrus de Turre
  • Publication date: 1490].
  • Physical description: Double-page engraved map, on two sheets joined, with a watermark of an open 'T' within a circle in both sheets, large part of lower gutter skillfully repaired in facsimile, right hand margin with loss, skilfully repaired.
  • Dimensions: 400 by 558mm. (15.75 by 22 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 12982


This striking map on a trapezoid projection shows the Caspian Sea and bordering countries.

Ptolemy’s work was the first to draw a distinction between geography and chorography: between the mapping of countries and the mapping of regions within those countries. In the latter, the mapmaker should strive to recreate as closely as possible what the landscape actually looked like, explaining the perspective views of trees and mountains in this map.

A map from the beautiful second Rome edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. “This handsome edition is a reprinting of the copper-plate maps of the 1478 Ptolemy [the first Rome edition by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Buckinck, whose] maps are considered the finest Ptolemaic ones produced up to the time that the great Mercator engraved his Ptolemy of 1578… It is believed that Sweynheym was the one who first thought of applying the very new art of copper-engraving to the printing of maps, and he might have taken a hand in the actual engraving of them himself” (World Encompassed). While the Bologna edition of 1477 was the first atlas to use copperplate maps, the present series is generally regarded as superior for its clear captions, accurate projections and overall design. Also, there are indications the Bologna edition was hurried through the press: the captions were not engraved but stamped into the plates. The early Italian Ptolemys, particularly the Rome editions, are “superb testimonials of Italian craftsmanship without the picturesque but unscientific monsters of the medieval maps or the addition of the adventitious decoration of later work, relying for their beauty solely on the delicacy of their execution and the fineness of the material employed” (Tooley).