The Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster : Describing the World in the Reformation book cover
1st Edition

The Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster
Describing the World in the Reformation

ISBN 9780754658436
Published September 28, 2007 by Routledge
392 Pages

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Book Description

Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia was an immensely influential book that attempted to describe the entire world across all of human history and analyse its constituent elements of geography, history, ethnography, zoology and botany. First published in 1544 it went through thirty-five editions and was published in five languages, making it one of the most important books of the Reformation period. Beginning with a biographical study of Sebastian Münster, his life and the range of his scholarly work, this book then moves on to discuss the genre of cosmography. The bulk of the book, however, deals with the Cosmographia itself, offering a close reading of the 1550 Latin edition (the last and definitive edition worked upon by Münster). By analysing the contents of the Cosmographia it attempts to recreate how the world of the sixteenth century appeared to a scholar living in Basel, and understand what he saw and heard. Through this examination of Münster, his publications and scholarly networks, the conflicts and continuities between medieval scholarly traditions and the widening horizons of the sixteenth century are explored and revealed. Of interest to scholars of humanist culture, the Reformation and book history, this ambitious work throws into relief previously overlooked aspects of the intellectual and religious culture of the time.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Sebastian Münster: a brief biography; 16th-century cosmography: its sources, development and ambitions; The Cosmographia: genesis of an idea, methods of realisation, versions of the text; From centre to periphery: the organisation, topics and content of the Cosmographiae Universalis; Understanding the world of Münster's Cosmographia: evaluating man, celebrating his works and interpreting the book of the world; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Matthew McLean is a research fellow at the University of St Andrews, UK.


’In this book, his first, Matthew McLean demonstrates great depth of research, a mind capable of lateral thinking and the ability to capture the interest of his reader... this book delivers a well researched examination of the context and creation of Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia.’ Rare Books Newsletter ’...McLean has achieve a Herculean task in analysing one of the greatest publishing enterprises of the sixteenth century.’ The Library ’... a thoughtful and probing work, full of interesting asides and arresting turns of phrase...’ Bulletin of the German Historical Institute ’To sum up, this is a major study of one of the most outstanding works of Renaissance Europe that should be read by historians of science and technology, and by all those interested in the culture of this exciting time.’ Metascience ’The reader of McLean’s work will certainly feel his knowledge and understanding of early modern humanist scholarship enhanced; it is a worthy contribution to what is surely one of the most intellectually stimulating and attractively produced series on the market.’ Sixteenth Century Journal