Universalis tabula iuxta Ptolemaeum
MERCATOR, Gerard / HALMA, François

Universalis tabula iuxta Ptolemaeum

vers 1678
Size : 45 x 52 cm (sheet)
Color : Hand Colored
Condition : Restorations
Technique : Woodcut
Reference : 851-18

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Second state of Mercator's map of the ancient world based on Ptolemy's geography, surrounded by allegorical figures of the four elements in the margins.

This map of the ancient world shows Africa, Europe, and Asia, highlighting a large Taprobane (modern-day Sri Lanka) in the Indian Ocean. The Indian subcontinent is greatly truncated, and the Indian Ocean appears almost isolated. Only the northern part of Africa is represented, with the Nile originating from the twin lakes south of the Equator, in the Mountains of the Moon.

Although Mercator is primarily known for his modern maps and his eponymous cartographic projection, one of his major goals was to produce his own version of Ptolemy's "Geographia." As part of his "Atlas sive Cosmographia," Mercator published an authentic version of Ptolemy's work, deliberately rid of the distracting interpretations and alterations of previous editors who sought to enhance the fundamental work of the Egyptian geographer. His aim was to faithfully present Ptolemy's worldview in the 2nd century, believing that understanding the present required appreciating the past.

The atlas, "Tabulae geographicae CI. Ptolemaei ad mentem autoris restitutae et emendatae per G. Mercatorem," first published in 1578, included twenty-seven carefully restored and beautifully engraved Ptolemaic maps, accompanied by a index of place names and an enlarged map of the boundaries of the Nile delta. In total, eight editions were published between 1578 and 1730.

This map is the second state of Mercator's Ptolemaic world map of 1578, as described by Van der Krogt. It was published in a later edition of this atlas by HALMA?. The map is identical to that of the first state; the decorative border was re-engraved, replacing the strapwork ornaments and wind heads of previous editions. Now, the map is surrounded by allegorical figures personifying the four elements, with Zeus representing Fire, Hera representing Air, Neptune representing Water, and Gaia representing Earth.

Van der Krogt, I, [0900:1.2]; Shirley 139

MERCATOR, Gerard / HALMA, François

Gerard Mercator (1512-1594), originally named Gerard de Cremer, was a renowned 16th-century cartographer born in Rupelmonde near Antwerp. He was called the "Ptolemy of our time" by Abraham Ortelius as he published the first book with the title atlas Tabulae Geographicae mapping the ancient world based on Ptolemy's descriptions. After studying philosophy and mathematics at the University of Leuven, he became proficient in the construction of mathematical instruments, land surveying, and cartography under the guidance of Gemma Frisius. Mercator's career began as an engraver, with his name first appearing on Gemma Frisius's terrestrial and celestial globes in 1537. In 1538, he published his first map, a six-sheet wall map of the Holy Land. Mercator's innovative contributions include the introduction of italic handwriting to cartography and the production of a pair of globes in 1541 and 1551, a format that became standard for centuries.

In 1552, Mercator moved to Duisburg, where he continued his cartographic work and earned a living as a land surveyor. His notable works from this period include the wall map of Europe (1554), the map of Lorraine (c. 1564), the wall map of the British Isles (1564), the famous twenty-one-sheet world map with increasing latitudes (1569), the first book with the title atlas.

Van der Krogt, I, p. 31, 33

François Halma (1653-1722)

In 1687, François Halma was appointed printer-librarian at the University of Utrecht, marking the start of a flourishing career. He also received the title of Printer of the University of Franeker in 1701, and the honor of Printer to the States of Friesland in 1709. Originally from Langerak, today the Dutch municipality of Liesveld, François Halma established himself as a citizen of Utrecht in March 1699 and joined the guild in April of that year. His influence spread to Leeuwarden, where he became a citizen in December 1710 and a member of the guild in February 1711. Beyond his achievements as a printer, Halma left a varied literary legacy, with works of history, poetry and lexicography. On his death, his widow and son Hendrik Halma continued his work, ensuring the continuity of the family tradition in printing and literature.