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Geography: Documentary Sources

1350 - 1600: Geography: Documentary Sources

Pietro Martire d'Anghiera (Peter Martyr), De Orbe Novo (1530)—Written in Latin for a specialized audience, this text is the best early account of the New World.

Peter Apian, Cosmographia (1533)—A discussion of how to draw accurate land maps by using trigonometric formulas.

Nicholas Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) (1543)—An astronomical and mathematical explanation of the heliocentric theory, the belief that the sun is the center of the universe.

Leonardo Fibonacci (Pisano), Liber Abaci (Book of the Abacus) (1400)—Originally published in 1202, Book of the Abacus popularized the use of Hindu-Arabic numerals, which proved to be useful to mariners during the period of the Renaissance and Reformation.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Travel Journey (1580)—A traveler's account of Europe.

Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Ibn Batuta, Rhilah (Travels) (circa 1353)—An important source for the history and geography of the medieval Muslim world.

Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum orbis terrarum (Epitome of the Theater of the Worlde) (1570)—Considered to be the first modern atlas. It contains seventy maps drawn by eighty-seven cartographers and is engraved in a uniform style. It was revised and updated in successive editions until 1612. Mapmaking in early modern Europe was one of the means that political authorities had of staking and maintaining territorial claims and was therefore an important part of the European expansion and hegemony process.

Enea Silvio Piccolomini, De ritu, situ, morbus et conditione Germaniae (Germania) (1457)—Silvio became Pope Pius II one year after the publication of Germania. Contemporaries used Book II as a model for geographical and historical descriptions of the region and people. Silvio's defense of the papacy and scathing comments about Germans also made the work a target of German hostility to Rome on the eve of the Reformation.

Claudius Ptolemy, Geography (1410)—Originally written in the second century C.E. by an astronomer, mathematician, and geographer from Alexandria, it contains an estimate of the size of the earth, geographic and topographic descriptions, and a list of places located by a crude form of latitude and longitude.

Ptolemy, Megale Syntaxis tes Astronomias (Almagest) (1515)—It describes a system of astronomy and geography based on the theory that the sun, planets, and stars all revolve around the earth.

Martin Waldseemüller, Carta marina (1516)—A chart version of the author's famous Cosmographiae introductio.

Waldseemüller, Cosmographiae introductio (1507)—The tome in which the German humanist suggests that the newly discovered world should be named “ab Americo Inventore . . . quasi Americi terram sive Americam” (“from Amerigo the discoverer ... as if it were the land of Americus or America”).

Waldseemüller, Quattuor Americi navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo) (1507)—A compilation of Amerigo Vespucci's private letters to the Medici, his employers. Although this volume indicates Vespucci made four expeditions to the New World, only two of those can be dated with any certainty (1499-1500 and 1501-1502).

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