Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Edition of Ptolemy

A Swiss research team has produced the first modern edition of Ptolemy's Geography, using a copy from Istanbul's Topkapi Museum and other versions of the book from the Vatican, Venice, Florence, and Paris. The new edition is also the first full German translation of the book, which was originally written in the first century CE (and which shows the world to be round).

"The book begins with an introduction to the science of mapmaking, including the problem of how to project a curved surface onto a plane.

It then presents a catalogue of names with the coordinates (longitude and latitude) of some 6,000 places, which Ptolemy drew up using information gathered from sailors, merchants and the Roman military archives. In Switzerland the list includes the names of the important Roman towns now known as Avenches, Nyon and Martigny.

The last section of the book contains a map of the world, drawn according to Ptolemy's instructions, stretching from the Canaries to eastern China, and from just south of the equator to southern Scandinavia. This is supplemented by 26 country maps."

Ptolemy's work made its way to Europe in the 14th century, and it was influential in changing the flat-earth worldview in the pre-Columbus period. This is the first complete Greek text of the Geography printed since 1840, and the researchers have used the oldest known copies in order to remove some of the errors that have found their way into the text over the centuries.

The book, Klaudios Ptolemaios Handbuch der Geographie, is published by Schwabe AG of Basel in two volumes with a CD-ROM (ISBN 3-7965-2148-7; SFr250/€170/$220).

(h/t Bibliophile Bullpen)

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