Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

Urb. lat. 277 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus, Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemäus

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Alternate Titles

Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemaeus
Cosmographia des Claudius Ptolemäus

Extent / Format

170 pages / 59.3 x 43.5 cm


Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1448 - 1482)

Artist / School

Author: Claudius Ptolemaeus
Miniaturist: Florentine Pietro del massaio
Scribe: Ugo de Comminelli


44 maps including 29 double page spreads and numerous illustrations and decorative borders

Short description

The Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy is a world atlas that originates from Italy in 1471. The work is a refashioning of the cosmography of the Greek scholar Ptolemy and contains 44 geographically correct maps. The large format maps and other colorful and gilded depictions were designed by several talented artists of the Italian Renaissance.

Facsimile editions available


Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy

The cosmography was the science of description of the Earth and outer space in the Middle Ages. Cosmographic works were devoted to geography, geology, and astrology and were concerned with historical, spiritual, or moral aspects of the medieval worldview. The first globes and cartographical depictions of our Earth are attributable to medieval cosmographic works. An especially beautiful version of these teachings is the Cosmography of Claudius Ptolemy. The work originates from the second century after Christ and was lost for over 1,000 years, until it reemerged during the early Italian Renaissance. It contains 44 maps, of which 29 fill a double page. Furthermore, there are numerous colorful and golden miniatures and depictions in bordures that decorate the margins of the pages.

The Renaissance Man Claudius Ptolemy

Ptolemy was a Greek mathematician, geographer, astronomer, astrologer, music theorist, and philosopher. His works on astronomy, geography, and astrology were regarded in Europe as important, comprehensive collections of data and standard scientific texts until the early modern period. His earlier world atlas revolutionized the geographic perceptions of the Renaissance. Claudius Ptolemy created maps of the world he knew and followed mathematical principals, which founded modern cartography. He introduced the system of longitude and latitude. His cosmography was given new life by some of the most gifted Renaissance artists.

The Cosmography in a New Garment

The important didactic piece originally spanned eight scrolls. These were incorporated into a single codex during the refashioning. The new edition was commissioned in 1471 by Duke Federigo da Montefelatro. This manuscript is divided into eight books, exceedingly talented masters inscribed and illustrated the pages. Applications of various colors and gold make treasures of the special miniatures. Scientific insights were made understandable through charming pictures. As such, these early cartographical achievements succeed in impressing their beholder up to today.

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