The extraordinary treasure of the Biblioteca Estense is one of the most important works of Renaissance cartographic art, testifying the scientific and political interest for the discovery and the knowledge of the world. This essential document was used to support and stimulate sea and land expeditions to discover new peoples and faboulous riches. The Atlas of Borso, for its bulkiness and its artistic refinement, was an object to be exhibited, not to be consulted, but its presence in one of the most famous libraries of the time put the new geographical science among the most interesting subjects for Renaissance's men.
The Ptolemaic tradition codified in Greek manuscripts, was rediscovered in the 15th century when in the intellectual and artistic capital of Florence the scientific and cartographic research, which marked the age of great geographical discoveries, was developed. Florentine workshops compiled and illuminated the most beautiful copies ever realized of Ptolemy’s treatises. The most powerful rulers of the Renaissance – Borso, Federico da Montefeltro, Matthias Corvino of Hungary, Louis XII of France – competed to have these extraordinary manuscripts, bound in fine calf leather, with wonderful illuminations and 27 maps of the world.
This illuminated manuscript on parchment is composed of 128 folios of 45 × 31 cm and was bought in 1466 by Borso d’Este directly from the author, the German humanist Nicolò Germanico. This Latin version of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia by Jacopo Angelo da Scarperia is accompanied by the 27 traditional double paged geographical maps (45 × 62 cm) re-elaborated by the author using trapezoid projections. The first of the 27 maps shows the whole world while the other maps, preceded by an explanatory text, display the individual regions of the world as they were then known. The first folio of the manuscript is the dedication to Borso d’Este, great collector and commissioner of illuminated codices, who paid 100 golden florins to the author.
The facsimile edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia is limited to 499 numbered and certified copies. It is printed according to the strict principles and methods of facsimile editions, on 250 g paper and in the same atlas size as the original. Only the twenty-seven fullpage geographical maps are reproduced in the facsimile codex, whereas the theoretical Ptolemaic text is reproduced, unabridged and in colour, in the commentary (272 pages, size 24 × 32 cm), with an essay by Laura Federzoni and a note on the codex by Mauro Bini. Maps are commented by Annalisa Battini. The codex and the commentary are boxed together in a refined silk case with impressions.