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Incunable Edition with the World Map

In Somnium Scipionis Expositio ex Ciceronis libro de republica excerptum... [With]... Saturnaliorum.

Venice: Phillipus Pincius, 29 October 1500.

Price: $12,000.00


About the item

Two parts in one. Folio, ff. XXXVI; LXXXVI [122 leaves total], roman letter with some Greek characters, with woodcut map and diagrams, spaces for initials. Scattered early marginalia. Incunable Edition with the World Map. Contemporary wooden boards, leather spine worn, clasps missing; scattered minor worming and minor dampstaining to inner margins; coverall in good original condition. Housed in a green morocco backed box. Provenance: R. David Parsons (booklabel). Campbell, Earliest Printed Maps, 90 (reproducing the map) &, pp.114-117; Sander, Le livre à figures Italien, 4075; Shirley, 13 (block 4); Bod-inc M-005; BMC V 499; BSB-Ink M-5; Goff M13; GW M19705; HC 10430*; Oates 2079; Pr 5326; Walsh 2472, 2473; ISTC im00013000.

Item #368341

The last fifteenth-century edition of the influential text by the fifth-century writer Macrobius. “The works of Macrobius... were of great popularity throughout the Middle Ages. His neoplatonic commentary on Cicero includes, among many references to the pseudo-sciences, a geographical concept which is different from that of Ptolemy. The inhabited world north of the equator is balanced by a southern continent divided from it by water” (Shirley).
This printing complete with that woodcut world map figuring a massive antipodal southern continent (Fol. XXX). One of the very earliest world maps, this half-page woodcut depicts a world split into two – Europe and the balancing Antipodes – and surrounded by ocean at the edges. This remarkable image, which survived by manuscript transmission from the fifth century into the age of printing, had a strong and lingering effect on post-Renaissance and pre-discovery geography. Reprints appeared throughout the next century in at least editions of 1521, 1528, 1565 and 1574, as well as additional crude variants.
This splendid Venetian incunable printing was only the fifth or sixth edition of Macrobius to appear in print. The first edition (Venice, 1472) did not include a map; in the subsequent fifteenth-century printings Shirley has identified four varying woodblocks: Brescia, 1483; Venice, 1489 (in another work); Venice, 1492; and Venice, 1500 (the present printing).
There is an immense literature on the Macrobian world view: in terms of its relationship to the later history of voyages and discovery, Carlos Sanz (El primer mapa del mundo con la representación de los hemisferios concebido por Macrobio, Publicaciones de la Real Sociedad Geográfica, Serie B Número 455, Madrid, 1966) has studied the significance of the maps with regard to Quiros and subsequent voyages of discovery into the southern hemisphere, while Beaglehole in his great edition of the journals of Cook has neatly written of ‘the circular maps of another cycle, that of Macrobius… [who] goes rather further than Cicero or St. Isidore; for whereas Cicero thought the southern zone habitable, and St. Isidore noted that there ‘the Antipodes are fabulously said to dwell’, Macrobius considered that the heat of the torrid zone would forever keep men from providing any proof. There however is the neatly balanced round of the Macrobian map: in the middle the broad Bath of Ocean, bounded on either side by the wavy coastline of an insular continent, northern and southern, snugly fitted into the waters of its half-circle. Each is divided into three bands: the first, rather narrow, facing on the Alveus Oceani and labelled Perusta - ‘burnt up’… So seductive, in the field of science, was harmony, symmetry, balance, the fitness of things; so difficult has it been for the geographer, as for other men, to wait on facts. So little, one is tempted cynically to add, has it mattered in the long run…’ (Beaglehole, Journals, I, pp. xxv-vi).