Daniel Crouch Rare Books, the London-based merchant of maps, atlases, and other high-end cartographic items, recently released their Catalogue IV. This is a thick, 127-page tall volume offering just 25 items. Naturally, these are all very special selections. With an average of five pages each, the descriptions are thorough, the illustrations copious. For anyone who collects maps at the highest level, the catalogue is a must. Here are a few of the pieces being offered.
We will start with the quintessential look at the pre-Columbian world, Cosmographia, better known as the Ulm Ptolemy, the great atlas printed in 1482. It was the first atlas printed outside of Italy, and it displays the world as known for almost 1,500 years, since the age of Ptolemy. Little could its editor, Nicolaus Germanus, have known that maps that had so long stood the test of time would soon be outdated by the Age of Discovery, then just beginning to dawn. This was a much smaller world than we know today. It consisted of Europe, northern Africa, and eastern and central Asia, including India and as far as the Malay Peninsula. Newer discoveries of Iceland and Greenland make it to the corner of the world map, and a massive southern continent attached to Africa turns the Indian Ocean into a closed sea. Vasco da Gama could not have made his journey to India around the southern tip of Africa just 15 years later if he took this map too seriously. The atlas contains 32 maps. Item 2. Priced at £750,000 (British pounds, or approximately $1,190,600 in U.S. currency).
Just as the Ulm Ptolemy was the greatest collection of pre-Columbian maps, this next item was the greatest history of the world up to that time. Item 4 is the Liber Chronicarum, better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, by Hartman Schedel. Crouch describes it as “a mixture of fact and fantasy,” starting with creation, Adam and Eve, and moving through Noah, antiquarian times, ancient Greece and Rome, and right up to the present, which in the case of this book was 1493. That was the year Columbus returned from his discovery of America, so the great explorer’s findings were not yet available to Schedel. His map is of the Ptolemaic world, to which he has added creatures at times fantastic, such as a four-eyed man and one with six arms. Imaginations ran wild in the days when no one knew what was out there beyond the horizon. The book includes 1,809 woodcut illustrations taken from 645 blocks (Schedel frequently repeated his illustrations). Among those who likely worked on the woodcuts was a young assistant named Albrecht Durer. £320,000 (US $509,500).