Atlas of Borso d'Este

Lat. 463 = α.X.1.3 - Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)

Alternate Titles:

Atlante di Borso d'Este, Atlas des Borso d'Este

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Alternate Titles

Atlante di Borso d'Este
Atlas des Borso d'Este

Extent / Format

256 pages / 45.0 x 31.0 cm


Borso d'Este (1413 - 1471), Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Artist / School

Author: Niccolò Germanico

Short description

The Atlas of Borso d’Este was produced by the German humanist Nikolaus Germanicus ca. 1466. The illuminated manuscript is oriented on the scientific findings of Claudius Ptolemy and was influenced by the scientific discoveries of the Renaissance. Alongside 27 world maps, the document is embellished with additional, high-quality geographic representations.

Facsimile editions available


Atlas of Borso d'Este

Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek mathematician, geographer, astronomer, astrologer, musical theorist, and philosopher. His works were considered to be the most important collections of data and standard scientific references in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. His cosmography, a geographic treatise concerning the Earth, was copied and reworked countless times. Borso d’Este, Duke of Modena and one of the most powerful Renaissance princes, commissioned a version of the cosmography ca. 1466 from a German humanist Nikolaus Germanicus. The personal work is one of the most masterful feats of the Renaissance and contains numerous gorgeous illustrations alongside 27 geographic charts.

An Ancient Example

The Italian city of Florence was the intellectual and cultural center of Europe in the 15th century. Florentine art studios completed numerous breathtaking map series, based on the findings of the Greek scholar Claudius Ptolemy and his heliocentric world view. The ancient worldview was reworked with new discoveries of contemporary expeditions. The first 27 world maps of the atlas show extensive charts, while the other representations illustrate the geography and typical lifestyles of various geographic regions. The depictions were accompanied by excerpts of Latin text.

Science and Art Unified

The Atlas of Borso d’Este is one of the most important cartographical works of the Renaissance and documents the scholarly interest in the discovery of distant lands and cultures during the Middle Ages. The unbelievably richly furnished and artistically highly-valuable work is the jewel of the Biblioteca Estense in Italian Modena, one of the richest libraries in Europe. The first page of the manuscript displays an inscription to the commissioner, Borso d’Este, who compiled a huge collection of the most beautiful geographical manuscripts of the Renaissance during his reign. His world atlas gives proof of the great creativity of humanist artists and shows a perfectly executed connection between science and art in the Middle Ages.

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