The vision of a wise man
It is a richly illuminated and unusually manageable sized manuscript of the famous Geography (cosmografía) of Ptolemy, one of the greatest wise men of our era. Ptolemy was well versed in Astronomy, Astrology and Geography; he lived in 2nd century A.D and in his last years he wrote this important Geography, rediscovered in Western World at the beginning of 15th century and translated to Latin by the Florentine Jacopo Angelo.
This Ptolemaic vision of the world will eventually incite to Christopher Columbus to try his celebrated journey to the West. The French National Library has a splendid copy of that master piece, which can also be considered a precious treasure: the Parisinus Latinus 10764.
The allegory of the images
In contrast to huge manuscripts and documents, its small size, of just 267 x 145 mm, similar to a Book of Hours and above all its extremely beautiful allegoric images representing the geography of the three continents then known, set it apart from the rest and give it the category of an extremely rich and rare piece. It is also innovative the change it offers regarding to the usual display of maps, because Africa does not follow Europe, as it was usual according to the Ptolemy’s text, but it follows Asia. The traditional world maps, brightly coloured, are displayed with sumptuous framings which reminds of the Padua style.
The manuscript, dating back to 1490, was written in Naples in the studio of Bernardo Sylvano d'Eboli from the Latin translation by Jacopo Angelo de Scarperia and ordered by Andrea Matteo III Acquaviva, Duke of Atri, a bibliophile with common sense who wanted an atlas that was easy to look up and use. It was one of the great advantages in comparison to the big copies which came out of the Florentine workshops, which only once they were finished, it was added the pediment with the weapons of the proprietary.
An excellent witness of the Neapolitan art
In our “Little Ptolemy”, everything is handcrafted and specific since the beginning. It was later purchased by Francis I of France, and ended up in the French National Library; nowadays it might be considered as the rarest copy of all which collect the Geography of Ptolemy. It is an excellent witness of the Neapolitan art and a singular manuscript not only for its size but also for its display and illustrations.
After diverse influences, it acquired a strong personality, like the own image of the Duke of Atri, who was a brave soldier and intellectual with a great character who greatly contributed to the splendour of his homeland. He refused to follow the Italian fashion at that time that favoured the Florentine studios (suppliers of all great lords) and gave job to artist of his small country, bursting of ideas and talent. Andrea Matteo III Acquaviva is a perfect son of the Renaissance, scholar patron and a man of a refined taste, as it is testified by our “Petit” Ptolemy.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Ptolemy Cosmography": Le Petit Ptolomeo. Claudii Ptolomei Cosmographiae facsimile edition, published by Siloé, arte y bibliofilia, 2006