Home
Panel 2

Ptolemy - Center of the Universe

A portrait of Claudius Ptolemy is the first remarkable feature of this plate. Ptolemy was the father of mapmakers. It was his view of the world that had persisted for 1500 years and upon which Waldseemuller would stage his depiction of the known world. It had become a conventional by this time to show the world in two hemispheres.

Waldseemuller added this first Inset to include new information that percolated back to Europe as a result of Columbus's and Vespucci's later voyages. It appears above the "Circulus Articus"(Arctic Circle) and shows the traditional view of Europe, Asia and Africa. The Equator, the tropics, the Arctic Circle, and other lines of latitude are accurately shown. He underestimated the circumference of the Earth so the degrees of longitude are not correct.

To the west of Norway the mythical island of Brassyle sits alone in the great sea Occeanus Occidentalis. Brassyle was a land that was variously described in Irish and other mythology as a land where souls could find happiness after death. This island later turned out to be Newfound Land.

Ptolemy was a renowned mapmaker and his cartographic rendition, drawn around 150 AD, depicting the known world at that time became the accepted standard until Waldseemuller's World Map (1507). Ptolemy introduced revolutionary improvements to the craft of mapmaking. He was responsible for the establishment of the first grid, a network of lines (latitude and longitude) just as mapmakers do today, so that places could be accurately located and described. A detailed gazetteer of the world listing approximately 8,000 place names and their coordinates accompanied Ptolemy's map. Ptolemy's grid method was abandoned during the middle ages, when mapmakers reverted to drawing circular and artistic depictions of the Earth that were, for the most part, aesthetically beautiful but rarely very accurate.

During the renaissance (1400s), mapmakers again discovered Ptolemy's craft, and in the 1480s a standard Ptolemy map was available from several European mapmakers. Henricus Martellus (see Fig. 1) produced a version of Ptolemy's map in the year 1490.

<-- Previous Panel    Next Panel -->

1 - Beyond The Stars2 - Ptolemy3 - Vespucci4 - Cathay
5 - Southern New World6 - Spice Trade7 - The Silk Road8 - Catigara
9 - America10 - South of Africa11 - Africa to India12 - Nutmeg and Cloves

Click on section of map for details

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12



top of page . home . authors . mission statement . contact us . news . annals

©2001 Educare Press