Bünting World 1581


Heinrich Bünting.  “Die eigentliche und warhafftige gestalt der Erden und des Meers.  Cosmographia Universalis.”  From Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae.  Magdeberg: H. Bünting, [1581].  10 1/2 x 14.  Woodcut.  Hand color.  Very good condition.  Framed to museum standards.  Shirley: 143.

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A wonderful sixteenth century map of Africa from Heinrich Bünting’s “Itinerary of Sacred Scripture.”  Bünting was a Protestant theologian who was born in Hanover in 1545 and died there in 1606.  This map shows the world as generally understood at the time, in the period after the first contact of Europeans with the New World, but before the extensive explorations and settlement of the seventeenth century.  Bünting’s purpose was to show the travels of biblical figures, so he does take, as Shirley says, “strange geographic license.”

The map focuses on the oikumene, or the world as known in ancient times, but with the outlines of the continents updated and just a bit of “America, Die Newe Welt” shown in the lower left.  One of the most unusual aspects of the map is the land shown in the lower right, entitled “India Meridionalis.”  This looks a lot like the western shore of Australia.  If it in fact is a mapping of that continent, it would show that there was knowledge (Portuguese?) of Australia before the commonly accepted discovery by the Dutch in 1606.  It might, however, reflect a crude depiction of part of Southeast Asia or even Tierra del Fuego.

Other interesting features abound, including the Nile shown arising in Southern Africa in the Mountains of the Moon and several sea monsters frolicking in the oceans.  Some major cities are shown, mostly in Asia and Africa, but including Constantinople.  Marked in southern Africa is also the legendary kingdom of Prester John.