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Peter H. Meurer:

Tabula moderna Tartariae: an unprinted map of Ptolemy's 1525 Strasbourg edition

Cartographica Helvetica 47 (2013) 37–49


The described manuscript map (47 x 36 cm) is unsigned and bears no date. It shows the area of Tartary from northern Scandinavia to central Asia north of the Caspian Sea. The text on the back of the map refers to travels to Persia from 1474 to 1477 by Venetian diplomat Ambrogio Contarini. An analysis resulted in the following conclusions:

  • The authentication of the ink as well as the paper showed no evidence of a forgery.
  • The map content is based on the Carta Marina by Martin Waldseemüller (Strasbourg 1516) with selective supplements from other sources.
  • The most recent source originated in autumn 1524. No traces can be found of the spectacular map of Russia by Paolo Giovio and Dimitry Gerasimov, published in Italy in 1525.
  • The graphic representation of the map as well as the text on the reverse side indicates a clear relationship to Ptolemy's 1522 and 1525 Strasbourg editions published by Johann Grüninger.
  • A conspicuous detail is the numbering of the sheet, which changed from 41 to 27. This matches with the addition of page numbers for the 1525 edition.

A conclusive set of evidence and arguments leads to the interpretation that the 'Tabula moderna' was a draft meant for publication in Ptolemy's 1525 Strasbourg edition by the publishing house of Johann Grüninger. It dates from the turn of the year 1524/25 and can be attributed to Laurent Fries. The careless and amateurish compilation of maps and texts corresponds exactly to the procedure found in other geographic works by Fries. The result, however, was neither a final draft nor a printed map.

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