Today we introduce the oldest map that is stored in the museum Collection exposition

Interest in the world around us, and its research were expressed in the form of perspective drawings or maps even in the pre-literate period. Studying the ancient geographical drawings, we can build a complete picture of the history of humanity.

The oldest known maps date back to the Babylonian period, this cuneiform writing dates from about the 2nd millennium BC. Cartography of Ancient Greece can already be considered advanced. All geographers subsequently accepted the concept of a spherical Earth, common among the majority of philosophers of that time, Pythagoras or Aristotle were among them.

We would like to draw your attention to the peculiar maps that are presented the section “Prints”. The oldest of them played a prominent role in Roman expansion, integrating knowledge from East and West. Maps of Asia, number three and five (from the second Viennese edition), stored in the museum Collection repository feature excellent xylographic samples of the most authoritative and oldest atlas of the entire world.

Claudius Ptolemy, astronomer, mathematician, mechanic, optician, music theorist and geographer, who lived in Alexandria between the 85 and 165 years of Common Era, created a “Guide to Geography” circa 150. This tractate contained a list of points with geographical coordinates and the methodical description of the known to the author parts of the earth; Oecumene, from the Greek "inhabited." The substantial work that remained one of the most authoritative resources until the Renaissance. The Ptolemaic methods for locations description were based on astronomical surveillance from different navigation areas. The information that he formalized was enough for medieval cartographers to reconstruct the lost graphic drawings from the texts of Ptolemy.

German scientist Nicolaus Germanus Donnus played a pivotal role in updating the ancient cartographic heritage. He revised the planar projection of Ptolemy from a new angle and offered conditional fixation of the width and narrowing of the lines of longitude to the poles. Instead of copying existing maps, he proposed, literally, new perspectives, what are called today the Donnus projection, or trapezoidal projection. Nicolaus Donnus created new ways of featuring the contours of countries, oceans, mountains and lakes and proposed a new choice of cartographic proportions. He supplemented the original text with updated scientific information and new maps. Her first revision covered only 27 Ptolemy maps: one world map (mappa mundi), 10 maps of Europe, 4 maps of Africa, 12 maps featured Asia. The second edition was comprised of 30 maps, including additional, close to the contemporary, maps of Spain and Italy, and the Nordic countries - Sweden, Norway and Greenland. The third version already consisted of 32 maps, with practically contemporary image of France and the Holy Land added.

The work of this German cartographer had a huge impact on the subsequent development of cartography, combining the first and third editions of Donnus, the famous 16th century cartographer Martin Waldseemüller created his version of the maps in Strasbourg in 1513, which was then duplicated in multitude until the 19th century. It was Waldseemüller, who named the New World as America. The 1507 world, referring to the work of Donnus “Geography” was created according to the Ptolemy conception on the one hand, hence, judging by the image of the Northern Europe countries on the other hand, was the evidence of emerging of the New World intertwined with the Old continent by the system of geographical coordinates.

After the first quarter of the 16th century, new cartographic publications appeared in France, then in Switzerland. "Geography", published by Gaspard and Melchior Treselle in Lyon in 1535, for the first time was translated in French and exquisitely reviewed in the works of Spanish theologian and doctor Michael Servetus. It is interesting that Servetus did not like the name America, in his notes he expressed the opinion that the new continent should have the name of Christopher Columbus that held precisely the “Geography” of Ptolemy on his chart table.

Today, when in isolation we are unable to travel, let us look at the ancient maps from the museum Collection exposition, which can narrate us about the diversity of our world.

Keeping with the theme, you can be acquainted with the history of cartography in Russia that is reflected in the review article “History of the Russian cartography: the key points” in the section “Articles and reviews”.