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Cordiform Map of the World by: Bernardus Sylvanus, 1511

1511 Bernardus Sylvanus - Cordiform Map of the World

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By: Bernardus Sylvanus

Date: 1511 (published) Venice

Dimensions:  16.5 x 22 inches

The significance of this world map, one of the most important in the history of cartography, is in its use of the cordiform (heart-shaped) projection, one of the first known to make use of the projection, which had been devised by Johannes Stabius in Vienna in 1500. The map, published in Venice in 1511, uses graphic depictions of newly discovered territories including the whole of Cuba, much of Brazil, and of North America and Labrador. It is the first known map to include the discoveries of the Corte-Real brothers, dating to the early 16th century. The map was Sylvanus’ attempt to depict the world according to new information and  knowledge which was becoming available in the early years of the Age of Discovery.  

Visually stunning, the map features twelve compass winds resembling those used in antiquity. Signs of the zodiac are used to represent the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and the scales of Libra are used to denote the equator, where night and day are constantly equal. The map covers an area from 80 degrees north to 40 degrees south latitude, and excludes longitude from 250 to 290. Sylvanus is thought to have conceived these meridians by studying and altering Ptolemy’s renderings.

The left side of the map features seven climate regions above the equator, and four below. The number of hours in the longest day of the year at varying latitudes is noted. Scotland is included, and Africa is depicted as circumnavigable, with Ptolemaic toponyms in use almost exclusively for the continent. The eastern coast of Asia is undefined, but an attempt at locating Japan is present, the first western map to include it.

Condition: Map is in very fine condition with narrow top and bottom margins as issued. Color and print impression is sharp on relatively clean paper save for some soiling in the lower right. Contemporary annotations on the verso.

Inventory #12537

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