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C. Van Duzer, Johann Schoner's Globe of 1515: Transcription and Study.

C. Van Duzer, Johann Schoner's Globe of 1515: Transcription and Study.

Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 100, Part 5, The Society, Philadelphia, 2010.

ISSN 0065-9746; ISBN 978-1-60618-005-1. Paperback: 324 pp., 40 illustrations, 351 notes, index. $US35.

Johann Schoner (1477-1547) was a German cosmographer and mathematician who from 1526 held the position of professor of mathematics at the Aegidianum Gymnasium in Nuremberg. He was also a Catholic priest who converted to Lutheranism, an astronomer, astrologer, geographer, cartographer, globe and scientific instrument maker, editor and publisher of scientific texts. He was influential in seeing to publication Nicolaus Copernicus' De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium in Nuremberg in 1543. He produced a series of terrestrial globes in 1515, 1520, 1523 and 1533, which incorporated the latest geographical information with current cosmographical theory. The globe he made in 1515 was based on the world map and globe made by Martin Waldseemuller and his colleagues at St. Die in Lorraine in 1507, with the notable addition of an annular antarctic continent which he called Brasilie Regio (the Region of Brazil).

Schoner accompanied his globe with an explanatory treatise, Luculentissima quaedam terrae totius descriptio ("A Most Lucid Description of All Lands"), which has now been published in facsimile on the Web by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

In May 2007, the Library of Congress completed its purchase of the only surviving copy of Waldseemuller's 1507 world map; this was Schoner's own copy, which had been preserved in the library at Wolfegg Castle in Baden-Wurttemburg where it had reposed in oblivion since Schoner's death, bound into a volume of his personal papers. Bound into the same volume were fragments of a set of gores of Schoner's 1515 globe, of which otherwise only two exemplars survive, one at the Historisches Museum in Frankfurt and the other at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, at Weimar.

The acquisition of the fragments of the gores of Schoner's 1515 globe by the Library of Congress prompted Chet Van Duzer to prepare the careful study of it here under review.

The globe of 1515 owes an obvious debt to Waldseemuller's world map of 1507, which in turn was derived from the globe constructed in Nuremberg in 1492 by Martin Behaim. Schoner's 1515 globe follows these in representing India Superior (eastern Asia, called India superior sive orientalis in the Luculentissima) as extending to around longitude 270[degrees] East. Westward from Spain, the discoveries of Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and the other Spanish and Portuguese navigators are represented as a long, narrow strip of lands stretching from about latitude 50[degrees] North to about 40[degrees] South. The western coasts of these lands, America in the south and Parias in the north, are labelled Terra ultra incognita and Vlterius incognita terra, indicating it was unknown how far westward they extended. The sea to the west of these lands is labelled Oceanus orientalis indianus (Eastern Indian Ocean), in accordance with the conclusion reached by Columbus after his third voyage of 1496-1498, when he encountered the South American mainland, which he called a Nuevo Mundo and identified with Marco Polo's "greatest island in the world", Java Major, lying southwest of the India Superior province of Ciamba (Champa). Reflecting this concept, Schoner explained in another of his writings, the Opusculum Geographicum (cap.xx): "the Genoese Columbus and Americo Vespucci reaching only the coastal parts of those lands from Spain across the Western Ocean, considered them to be an island which they called America".

Or, as Copernicus put it in De Revolutionibus (lib.I, cap.iii): "Ptolemy extended the habitable area halfway around the world, leaving beyond it unknown land, where the moderns have added Cathay and very extensive regions as far as 60 degrees of longitude, so that now a greater longitude of land is inhabited than is left for the ocean. Moreover, to this should be added the great islands discovered in our time under the Princes of Spain and Portugal, especially America, named after the captain of the ship who discovered it and thought because of its yet hidden size to be another world, besides many other islands heretofore unknown, which we do not marvel to regard as being the Antipodes or Antichthones."

Where Schoner departs most conspicuously from Waldseemuller is in his globe's depiction of an antarctic continent, called by him Brasilie Regio. His continent is based, however tenuously, on the report of an actual voyage: that of the Portuguese merchants Nuno Manuel and Cristobal Haro to the Rio de la Plata, and related in the Newe Zeytung auss Presillg Landt ("New Tidings from the Land of Brazil") published in Augsburg in 1514. The Zeytung described the Portuguese voyagers passing through a strait between the southernmost point of America, or Brazil, and a land to the south west, referred to as vndtere Presill (or Brasilia inferior). This supposed "strait" was in fact the Rio de la Plata. By "vndtere Presill", the Zeytung meant that part of Brazil in the lower latitudes, but Schoner mistook it to mean the land on the southern side of the "strait", in higher latitudes, and so gave to it the opposite meaning. On this slender foundation he constructed his circum-antarctic continent to which, for reasons that he does not explain, he gave an annular, or ring shape. In the Luculentissima he explained: "The Portuguese, thus, sailed around this region, the Brasilie Regio, and discovered the passage very similar to that of our Europe (where we reside) and situated laterally between east and west. From one side the land on the other is visible; and the cape of this region about 60 miles away, much as if one were sailing eastward through the Straits of Gibraltar or Seville and Barbary or Morocco in Africa, as our Globe shows toward the Antarctic Pole. Further, the distance is only moderate from this Region of Brazil to Malacca, where St. Thomas was crowned with martyrdom."

On this scrap of information, united with the concept of the Antipodes inherited from Graeco-Roman antiquity, Schoner constructed his representation of the southern continent. His strait served as inspiration for Ferdinand Magellan's expedition to reach the Moluccas by a westward route. He took Magellan's discovery of Tierra del Fuego in 1520 as further confirmation of its existence, and on his globes of 1523 and 1533 he described it as TERRA AVSTRALISRECENTERINVENTA SEDNONDUMPLENE COGNITA ("Terra Australis, recently discovered but not yet fully known"). It was taken up by his followers, the French cosmographer Oronce Fine in his world map of 1531, and the Flemish cartographers Gerard Mercator in 1538 and Abraham Ortelius in 1570. Schoner's concepts influenced the Dieppe school of mapmakers, notably in their representation of Jave la Grande. Subsequent generations of map-makers and geographic theorists continued to elaborate the beguiling image of a vast and wealthy Terra Australis to tempt the cupidity of merchants and statesmen, a process which reached its peak with the proposals of John Callander and Alexander Dalrymple in the 1760s for Great Britain to send out expeditions to discover the fabulous land, which led to James Cook's great voyages of 1768-1771 and 1772-1775 that finally destroyed the extravagant vision by revealing the true delineations of the Southern Hemisphere.

For this reason, Schoner's globe is of particular interest to Australians and New Zealanders, who therefore owe a debt of gratitude to Chet Van Duzer for his groundbreaking study. His transcription with 40 illustrations of all of the toponyms, legends and images on the globe has entailed a meticulous examination of textual, cartographic, and graphical sources which has shed light on the relationship of the globe to maps, globes, and literature of the period. The scholarship is of the highest standard, as may be expected from a publication of the American Philosophical Society. It will be an essential reference for research into the geography and cartography of the early sixteenth century.

Robert J. King

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Author:King, Robert J.
Publication:The Globe
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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