Shirley 002

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The Rudimentum Novitiorum, a popular illustrated world history, was first published at Lubeck in 1475 and later became more widely known through its French translation under the title Mer des Hystoires, Among numerous fine woodcut illustrations and genealogical tables are two double-page maps: one of Palestine and one of the world. These are the first printed maps to try and show land forms and countries in topographical relation to each other. The world map derives from a Christianised medieval tradition without any reference to either Ptolemaic or portolan sources, and is a vivid piece of early cartographical design.

The world map is circular in form, oriented with east at the top and Jerusalem in the centre. The rough outline of Europe and the Mediterranean lands can be made out with the names of individual countries marked on clusters of hills. The Pope is prominent in the walled city of Rome. The Asian and African countries are all represented by hills surrounded by water. Numerous towns, throned kings, and mythical animals are depicted, and extend to Taprobana (beyond Persia and India), Ethiopia (beyond Egypt) and to Tartary and the Sea of Amazons to the north. The pillars of Hercules bar the way westwards at the bottom of the map. At its head – instead of the traditional Adam and Eve – are two priestly figures in a walled orchard holding what may be olive branches. These may be the Master and his Novice, source of rivers and all knowledge; alternatively according to H. Winter (Imago Mundi IX, 1952) they may represent ‘. . . two men of marvellous wisdom, Jew and Christian … united in love of God in one law and one road to wisdom’, as propounded by the medievalist Lull.

There were no further issues from the Lubeck blocks, and the later French versions from 1488 onwards are enumerated under Entries 15 and 17.

Other medieval-type maps similar to those in the Rudimentum Novitiorum may well have been printed less formally as unsophisticated broadsides. Occasional fragments of such maps (e.g. forming part of simple calendars) have been reported, and further examples may come to light. Note the woodcuts by Rust and Sporer of c. 1480 (Entries 6 and 7) and the late Russian derivative of c. 1670 (Entry 448).

BL C.3.d.11.

Bagrow-Skelton, pp. 99-100 and fig. 24; Destombes 46; A.M. Hind, A History of

Woodcut, London, 1935, p. 612; Nordenskiold pp. 35-36 and fig. 2; TWE 42.

See PLATE 3 (Introduction, page XXI).