"Geographia" by Claudius Ptolemaeus

Alexandrian scientist Claudius Ptolemaeus (90 - 168 AD.) was the first geographer to attempt a description of the world by way of cartographic presentation. His Geographia, including 26 maps or numbered tables, was a considerable achievement at the time. The work provided mathematical foundations for creating maps, and listed known rivers, peoples and settlements, giving their terrestrial coordinates. In order to collect so many data, Ptolemy co-operated with other scientists and made use of the works by his predecessors, such as his teacher Marios of Tyre. The presentation of Polish territories on the maps appended to the Geographia was far from perfect. Ptolemy called that part of the word SARMATIA, which referred to lands inhabited by Sanna-tians, or tribes of Pers sian origin. Later, in 15th - 18th centuries, many writers considered Sarmatians to be forefathers of Polish nobility.

Regrettably, Ptolemy found no followers and his work fell into oblivion until the beginnings of the 15th century. However, it attracted interest of Arab scientists, who even translated it. Their works in this area failed to influence the development of cartography, in contrast to Arab achievements in other fields, astronomy in particular.

In the Middle Ages, cartography was a "forgotten science," although it must have been known in some monasteries, and perhaps it had even been a subject of study there. Possibly, the data from Geographia were used by the Church for political purposes. However, no written works have been discovered to prove such thesis. The Middle Ages could boast of few cartographic achievements worth attention. Among them are Mapae Mundi, which are works of imagination rather than of research. They had enjoyed considerable popularity and, all the reservations considered, provided at times some useful information. More significant are so-called Portolanas - amazingly precise maps of coastal regions of the Mediterranean, Atlantic and the North Sea, made by Italian and Catalan sailors with the help of compass. Many ofthese extremely valuable maps lasted until our times. In the 13th century, Matthew of Paris issued a map of the world whi-ch is very significant from our point of view: the cartographer used the name POLONIA for the first time in history, and it has been used ever since to describe Polish territories.

In the years 1406 - 1409, at the dawn of Renaissance, Geographia came into the Ii-melight again, making scientists appreciate mathematic model of the globe or its parts. Gradually, new editions of Ptolemy's work were supplemented with new maps, called TABULAE NOVAE. Two brilliant issues were printed in 1482 in Ulm and in Florence. Cartographia Rappersvilliana Polonorum prides itself to have five maps of the Florence edition: two copies of the second map TABVLA SECONDA, the fourth map TABVLA QUARTA, the eighth one TABVLA OCTAVA and the ninth - TABVLA NONA. They constitute the oldest part of the Rapperswil collection. The fourth and the eighth map show Polish territories. The Florence issue was prepared by Francesco Nicolo do Berlinghieri. It includes the 26 original old maps and 4 new maps, and is considered to be the closest to the original. The text is a free translation into Italian, written in verse similar to that of Dante Alighieri. The edition was published by Nicolao Tedesco, an Italian printer coming from the diocese of Wroclaw.

The discovery of Geographia prompted intensive research, chiefly by German scientists, aiming at the creation of the new map of Central Europe - Grand Germany and European Sarmatia. The work involved making lists of settlements, so called itineraria, which, together with the abeve mentioned navigating maps (Portolanas), provided most of the data for new maps. In the result, many maps were created, among them a map of Central Europe, made in the 15th century by Nicolaus of Kuza, whose many va-riants were inc!uded in subsequent editions of Geographia. Analysis of the contents of the map, and in particular the territories of Poland and Russia, suggest co-operation of   
Cardinal Nicolaus of Kuza with some Pole - probably Jan Dlugosz the historian, who also was a diplomat, canon, author of chronicles and secretary of the Bishop of Cracovia. Dlugosz was also the author of the first synthetic historiography of Poland. Before the work of Nicolaus of Kuza was copied in the editions of Ptolemy's work, it was included in the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartman Schedl (1493), edited by Hieronimus Muenzer. The Rapperswil collection has three maps which belonged to that work: two untitled maps of Central Europe, which are re-worked versions of the map of Nicolaus of Kuza, and a map of the world: Das ander alter der Werlt Blat XIII - a picture modelled afier Ptolemy's map, but of lesser quality, precision and aesthetic value. The two maps of Central Europe are the oldest items in the Rapperswil collection which show the name of Poland: POLONIA.

In the years 1507 and 1508 two first 16th century editions of Geographia are issued - in Rome, by Marco Beneventano. One of them is kept in Rapperswil. Regrettably, the copy, donated by Roman Umiastowski, has no original maps - they are replaced by copies which were traced and collected by Mr. Umiastowski. Together, they combine into one of the oldest and most interesting exhibits. There are seven maps belonging to this edition: the fourth - QUARTA EUROPĘ TABVLA, the eighth - OCTAVA EUROPĘ TABVLA, the tenth - DECIMA ASIAE TABVLA, the eleventh -UNDECIMA ASIAE TABVLA, the twelfth - DUODECIMA ET ULTIMA ASIA[E] TABVLA, and two of the "new maps" - TABVLA MODERNA PRVSSIĘ, in fact showing the Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltics, and a map of the Central Europe, which is version of Nicolao of Kuza's map: TABVLA MODERNA POLONIE VNGARIE BOHEMIE GERMANIE RVSSIE LITHVANIE. The map may have been prepared with the assistance of a Polish geographer, the founder of Polish cartography Bernard Wapowski. Marco Beneventano met him in Rome in 1506, and may have received from him information on the territories of Poland and neighbouring countries, which he used the following year while working on his version of the Kuza map, included in bsoth Roman editions of Geographia. Since that time the eastern part of the map of Central Europe is equal, or even better, in precision to the Western part. This is true also for later editions of Ptolemy's work Beneventano's co-operation with Wapowski is confirmed by the Italian's placing on the map of Central Europe the villages of Radochonice and Wapowice, which are Wapowski's birthplace. 
In 1513, Alsatian cartographer Martin Waldseemueller issues in Strasbourg another edition of Geography. The outlook of these maps reminds of the Nuremberg Chronicle: there are inferior in aesthetic quality and precision to the marvellous Roman editions. The Rapperswil collection includes four maps from Waldseemueller's edition: two copies of OCTAVA EVROPIE TABVLA (the eighth), and two versions of the re-worked Kuza map TABVLA MODERNA SARMATIE SIVE HVNGARIE POLONIE RVSSIE PRVSSIE VVALACHIE, which again show the names of Wapowski's estates - a hint pointing to the sources used by Waldseemueller. According to another theory, Waldseemueller was not acquainted with the Roman edi-tion, and he used some other materials by Wapowski to work out the map of Central Europe. He could have received them by co-author of the Strasbourg edition Ringmann, who made many trips to Rome in the years 1505-1508 and could have met the Pole there at the time.

In Lyons, in 1535, Caspar Trechsel in co-operation with Servet issued an edition of Geographia, which today is extremely rare: the few copies that exist now survived Calvin's order to burn the book. The Rapperswil collection prides itself to have two maps from this edition: the fourth - EVROPAE TABVLA quarta continent Germaniam Magnum, and the eighth - EVROPA tabula octaua continent Sarmatiam Europae et Tauricam Chersonesum (both titles on the reverse of the charts).

After the failure of the Lyonese edition, Caspar Trechsel re-edited his version of Geographia in Vienna. Rapperswil has three maps from it: the fourth (untitled) and two copies of the map of Central Europe, most probably basing on copies by Sebastian Muenster - Tabula Noua Poloniae I Vngariae, & Russiae.

Swiss humanist, geographer and editor Sebastian Muenster edited in Basel in 1535 his own version of the Ptolemaic work. The edition includes 48 woodcut maps (ofwhi-ch 22 are new maps), done in an obsolete technique (even for those times) by a renowned engraver H. Holbein. Muenster's chief achievement was editing and publishing the famous Cosmographia, issued for the first time in 1544. A bestseller of the 16th century, with many re-editions, Cosmographia was published simultaneously in Latin and in German. The work included 26 maps, partly copied from Ptolemaic charts. Rapperswil collection has many maps from various editions of Cosmographia, and four maps from the 1545 Basel edition of Geographia by Muenster: the eighth -TABVLA EVROPAE VIII, two copies of the fifteenth (new) - SILESIAE DESCIRIPTIO XV NOVA TABVLA, and the twentieth (new) - POLONIA ET VNGARIA XX NOVA TABVLA.

In 1561, Vincenzo Valgrisi issues in Venice a small size edition of Geographia, with maps by Giacomo Gastaldi, who used Muenster's work as his source. The famo us Italian geographer, publisher and engraver was involved in work on Ptolemy's treaty is the 1561 version. The Library of Rapperswil has two maps from the 1561 book: thm sued in 1548. Re-worked versions of map from the 1548 edition were used by him map of Prussia and Latvia - TAVOLA NVOVA DI PRVSSIA ET DI LIVONIA
the map of Poland and Hungary - POLONIA ET VNGARIA NVOVA TAVOLA. Different versions of Gastaldi's maps appeared in various editions of the treaty until beginnings of the 17th century.

The same matrices were used also by Giordano Ziletti in his edition of Venice of 1574. Among Rapperswil exhibits there are three maps from this version: map eight - EVROPAE TABVLA VIII. and two copies of the map of Poland and Hungary 

In 1578, famous Flemish geographer, cartographer and scientist Gerard Mercator of Duisburg, an author of numerous maps and atlases and initiator of many cartographic research projects, presented his edition of Geographia, originally limited to maps, and afterwards supplemented with the text. Mercator maps are easily identifiable due to precise line and attractive design, but - what is more important - they are supplied with a reliable description of terrestrial co-ordinates on the framing. Regrettably, Rapperswil collection has only one copy of that extraordinary work - map eighth Eur. VIII. Tab. Surprisingly, the contents of the map is less developed than the earlier map of the Nicolaus of Kuza. Mercator's edition was in print until 1730, when the last issue of Ptolemy's Geographia saw the light in Amsterdam.

In 1596, Girolamo Porro of Italy engraved aagain maps for another edition of the Ptolemaic treaty, this time almost in "pocket edition," which was edited by inheritors of Simonis Galignani de Karera's publishing house in Venice. Porro's matrices were used for Latin and Italian editions by the end of 1621. In Rapperswil, one may find two maps of Poland - POLONIAE REGNVM from various issues of that edition. The maps are based on the Amsterdam edition of the famous map of Poland by Waclaw Grodecki, published in the atlas of Abraham Ortelius. The maps are another new supplement to the collection of charts in Geographia.

The latest Ptolemaic maps found in the Cartographia Rappersviliana Polonorum were printed from matrices made for the 1561 edition, basing on Gastaldi's version. The library has six charts: (29) map fourth - TABVLA EVROPAE IIII, (53) map eighth - EVROPAE TABVLA VIII, (82) two copies of the new map of Poland and Hungary - POLONIA ET HVNGARIA NVOVA TAVOLA, (86) two copies of the map of Prussia and Latvia - TAVOLA NVOVA DI PRVSSIA ET DI LIVONIA. The fourth map, decorated with images of European bison, elk and aurochs, deserves particular attention. That edition was prepared twice, in 1598 and in 1599, by Melchior Sessa of Venice.

The review of all the modern editions of Claudius Ptolemaeus' work shows the fundamental importance of his treaties and the keen interest in mathematical principles of map making, which arose in post-medieval times. For more than 300 years, scientists and researchers were returning to these marvellous works, drawing from them, translating and reworking the text and maps, often without any changes, or only with slight alterations. One may wonder, whether Geographia was really so neglected in the Middle Ages. However, there are no traces of its influence at that period, although it does not seem probable for the monks, who studied some ancient works in their monasteries, not to be acquainted with Geographia. The first modern edition of that treaty was translated and re-worked by monks and clergy; an investigation of this fact may prove to be of supreme interest. Another unsolved puzzle is the heritage of Arab researchers who translated and analysed the work of Ptolemy at the time when Europe was experiencing medieval standstill, and achievements of the ancients fell into oblivion. Why the research by Arab scientists had no influence on the development of modern cartography in later times? What was the cause of the total, as it seems, blockage of the flow of information between the Arab and European civilisations in this area? Such questions still pose a challenge to researchers of our times.