MÜNSTER, Sebastian.. Sei libri della Cosmografia universale, ne quali secondo che n’hanno parlato i più veraci scrittori son disegnati.

Basel:, Henrich Petri, ., 1558

Folio (330 x 225mm.), [24], 1237 pages; printed title-page showing a world map, portrait of Sebastian Münster on verso, 14 double-pages woodcut maps, 3 folding plates and 38 double-page woodcuts maps, and upwards of 900 illustrations in the text including maps, plans, town views, portraits and natural history subjects; woodcut printer's device on verso of last leaf. Contemporary Bolognese binding of brown calf richly tooled in blind over pasteboards. Covers with two borders one with intersecting foliated circles, four corner pieces. In the center of both covers is the pecking crow tool, a right hand clasping a flowering stalk topped by a crow. This is one of the devices or supralibros, of the famous German collector Marcus Fugger (1529-1597). Spine in six compartments richly decorated in blind. Edges gilt and gauffered with leaves. Extremities somewhat worn, corners bumped, small tear to upper joints. Some browning in places, slight spotting, slight marginal dampstaining to last leaves, marginal restoration in the white margin of last leaf. A fine copy of the rare first edition in Italian edition.

The very rare first edition in Italian. Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia was an immensely influential book that attempted to describe the entire world across all of human history and analyze its constituent elements of geography, history, ethnography, zoology and botany. First published in 1544, it went through thirty-five editions and was published in five languages, making it one of the most important books of the Reformation period. Münster acquired the material for his book in three ways. He used all available literary sources. He tried to obtain original manuscript material for description of the countryside and of villages and towns. Finally, he obtained further material on his travels (primarily in south-west Germany, Switzerland, and Alsace). Cosmographia not only contained the latest maps and views of many well-known cities, but also included an encyclopedic amount of detail about the known and unknown world, and was undoubtedly one of the most widely read books of its time. Münster's aim was to write in a way that combined the two traditions of cosmographical description: the descriptive, historical, and anthropocentric approach with that of empirical investigations, expressed through mathematics and geography. The book contains two world maps: the new Figura del mondo universale and the Discrizione generale del mondo secondo Tolomeo and twelve double page maps: Europa, Spagna, Gallia Germania, Helvezia, Svevia & Bavaria, Bohemia, Polonia & Ungheria, Grecia, India, Africa, Mondo Nuovo. Our copy of this rare book probably belonged to one of the great libraries of the Sixteenth century, collected by Marcus Fugger (1529--1597), son of Anton, chief banker to the Emperor Charles V and one of the great book collectors of the sixteenth century. He combined his business and civic duties with scholarly pursuits, central to which was the formation of an extensive library. Although there is no documentary evidence of his visit to Paris, he acquired and had bound there a number of books in the early 1550s. Characteristic of these bindings is the use of one of two tools at the centre: a crowned double-headed eagle or a hand-branch-bird tool, the pecking crow. The eagle usually appears on small-format books while the pecking crow on great-format books. Marcus Fugger probably acquired our copy of Munster's Cosmografia, already bound, in Italy and then he sent the book to his binder in Paris where his supralibros, the pecking crow, was stamped at the center of covers.

VD 16; M 6712; Sabin 51402.