Northwestern Africa

By PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius, 1490 

Prima Africae Tabula

Africa Northern Africa
  • Author: PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius
  • Publication place: [Rome
  • Publication date: 1507].
  • Physical description: Double-page engraved map, on two sheets joined, on laid paper, no watermark, a few words underlined in red ink, large tear to left hand side of map, skilfully repaired.
  • Dimensions: 412 by 563mm. (16.25 by 22.25 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 12984


This map shows an area of northwestern Africa, covering most of Algeria and Morocco. The Strait of Gibraltar is marked by the two Pillars of Hercules. Spain is outlined in the north.

Map from the beautiful third Rome edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. This handsome edition is a reprinting of the copper-plate maps of the 1478 [and 1490] Ptolemy [the first Rome edition by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Buckinck, whose] maps are considered the finest Ptolemaic ones produced up to the time that the great Mercator engraved his Ptolemy of 1578… It is believed that Sweynheym was the one who first thought of applying the very new art of copper-engraving to the printing of maps, and he might have taken a hand in the actual engraving of them himself” (World Encompassed). While the Bologna edition of 1477 was the first atlas to use copperplate maps, the present series is generally regarded as superior for its clear captions, accurate projections and overall design. Also, there are indications the Bologna edition was hurried through the press: the captions were not engraved but stamped into the plates. The early Italian Ptolemys, particularly the Rome editions, are superb testimonials of Italian craftsmanship without the picturesque but unscientific monsters of the medieval maps or the addition of the adventitious decoration of later work, relying for their beauty solely on the delicacy of their execution and the fineness of the material employed” (Tooley).