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Original Antique Maps by Sebastian Münster

Antique maps from the 16th and early 17th century.

Persia Pakistan Afganistan antique map by Munster

Persia to Northern India
Tabvla Asiae VII

Sebastian Munster
circa 1540-1552

Sebastian Münster (20 January 1488 – 26 May 1552)

Sebastian Münster

A cartographer who had the widest influence in spreading geographical knowledge throughout Europe in the middle years of the 16th century. His Cosmographia, issued in 1544, contained not only the latest maps and views of well-known cities, but also included an encyclopaedic amount of detail about of detail about the known and unknown world and undoubtedly must have been one of the most widely read books of its time, with nearly forty editions in six languages.

An eminent German mathematician and linguist, born in Ingelheim, near Mainz, as the son of Andreas Munster. After studying initially at Heidelberg (1503-1508), he completed his studies at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen in 1518 and then entered the Franciscan order, but abandoned it for Lutheranism about 1529. His graduate adviser was Johannes Stöffler. He was appointed to the University of Basel in 1527. As Professor of Hebrew at Heidelberg, he edited the Hebrew Bible, accompanied by a Latin translation. Later moved to Basle in 1529.

In 1528 following his first mapping of Germany, he appealed to German scholars to send him 'descriptions, so that all Germany, with its villages, towns, trades may be seen as in a mirror', even going so far as to give instructions on how they should map their own localities. The response was far greater than expected and much information was sent by foreigners as well as Germans so that, eventually, he was able to include many up-to-date, if not very accurate, maps in his atlases.

In 1530 he married a widow of late printer Adam Petri, thus gaining for himself a measure of financial security and the services of the substantial printing-house of his stepson Heinrich Petri, who was to produce, sometimes in collaboration with Michael Isingrin, most of his later works.

Münster wrote the Dictionarium Trilingue in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and Mappa Europae in 1536. In 1537 he published a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew which he had obtained from Spanish Jews he had converted. In 1540 he published a Latin edition of Ptolemy's Geographia with illustrations. The 1550 edition contains cities, portraits, and costumes. These editions, printed in Germany, are the most valued of the Cosmographias.

His work, the Cosmographia from 1544, was the earliest German description of the world. It had numerous editions in different languages including Latin, French, Italian, English, and even Czech. The Cosmographia was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century. It passed through 24 editions in 100 years. This success was due to the fascinating woodcuts (some by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudolph Manuel Deutsch, and David Kandel). It was most important in reviving geography in 16th century Europe. The last German edition was published in 1628, long after his death.

He was to provide a separate map of each of the four known Continents and the first separately printed map of England. His maps, printed from woodblocks, the place names in Münster's maps are thought to have been printed from stereotype slugs glued onto the woodblocks.


1525 - Map of Germany
1532 - Typus Cosmographia Universalis, re-issued 1537, 1555.
1538 - Maps in Münster's editions of the Polyhistor by Solinus and De Situ Orbis of Pomponious Mela.
1540 - Ptolemy's Geographia: Basle, Henri Petri 48 maps,re-issued 1541, 1542, 1545 re-issued with some amendments and 6 new maps, 1551, 1552 re-issue of 1545 maps.
1544 - Cosmographia Universallis: Basle, Henri Petri, 1546/46/48/50 (enlarged) and further editions, about 30 in all to 1578, also 1588/92/98/1614 and 1628.
1571 - Münster's maps issued in an edition of Strabio's Geographia - Strabonis noblissimi et doctissimi philisophi acque geographi rerum geographicarum.