Descriptionis Ptolemaicae augmentum.



Cornelius Wytfliet (1555–1597).


Descriptionis Ptolemaicae augmentum.


Douai [France],




Provenance: Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637), with his cipher stamped on the cover.

This extremely rare work is the first atlas devoted exclusively to the Americas, and contains the first maps of America to have appeared in any book of geography. Cornelius Wytfliet, a Flemish cartographer, created his maps based on writings by contemporary geographers José de Acosta, Richard Hakluyt, Théodore de Bry and Giovanni Battista Ramusio. The work was intended as a supplement to Ptolemy's Geographia, and covers the history of the first European encounters with North and South America, their geography and natural history. The nineteen double-page, engraved maps include the two hemispheres, Patagonia, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Cuba and Jamaica, Florida, Virginia, Canada, Greenland, and Labrador (among others). All this barely one hundred years after Columbus sailed perilously across the seas to discover the New World!

This particular copy is also fascinating for its provenance. Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc was one of the leading French intellectuals and bibliophiles of his day, friend to Galileo as well as the Cardinal Richelieu, the painter Peter Paul Rubens, and french poet François de Malherbe, among others. He was a counselor to the provincial parliament, a brilliant and prolific man of letters, a talented astronomist and scientist, and one of the most eminent collectors of art and antiquities who ever lived.

As a bibliophile, I find terribly exciting the confluence of this major and groundbreaking atlas having belonged to such a fascinating and erudite individual. Genius touched by genius!


Rodolphe Chamonal