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Map of Asia from Sebastian Munster's atlas, 1540

Map of Asia from Sebastian Munster's atlas, 1540

A woodcut map of Asia from 1540 showing central Asia, its rivers and mountains.
Photo: George Serras.

This woodcut map of Asia, produced by German cartographer Sebastian Münster in 1540, shows central Asia, its rivers and mountains. Monstrous figures represent the supposed inhabitants of antipodean regions, including the Great South Land.

The map comes from Münster's edition of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographike Hyphegesis, an atlas produced around 150 AD.

Detail from the back of Sebastian Munster's atlas, 1540.

 

In Münster's time, Ptolemy was considered antiquity's most important geographer. Münster's maps combined Ptolemy's ancient representations of the earth with medieval ideas about the horrible creatures that lay beyond Christian lands.

Münster's atlas was illustrated with 48 woodcut maps — 27 from Ptolemy and 21 based on modern knowledge. The maps were printed from woodblocks, while the geographical names and map inscriptions were printed from metal type.

Left: Detail from the back of Münster's map of Asia. Photo: George Serras.

A 1600s wood engraving of Sebastian Munster.

 

Left: This 1600s wood engraving of Sebastian Münster comes from a publication by the French Franciscan priest, explorer and cosmographer André de Thevet. Courtesy: National Library of Australia.

 

Drawing of printmakers at work.

 

Left: Printmakers are shown at work in 1568, taking printed pages from the press (front left), inking a plate (front right) and working with case type (back). By Jost Amman.