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

The Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster

Describing the World in the Reformation, 1st Edition

By Matthew McLean


392 pages

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Hardback: 9780754658436
pub: 2007-09-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315615059
pub: 2016-03-23
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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.


’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

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.

About the Author

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

About the Series

St Andrews Studies in Reformation History

With the publication of its 100th book in 2012, the St Andrews Studies in Reformation Studies series celebrated an impressive publishing achievement. Since its establishment in 1995 the series has consistently offered high-quality, innovative and thought-provoking research in the field of early modern religious history. By encouraging authors to adopt a broad and inclusive interpretation of ’Reformation’, the resultant publications have done much to help shape current interdisciplinary interpretations of early-modern religion, expanding attention far beyond narrow theological concerns. Each title within the series has added to a body of international research showing how the ripples of the Reformation spread to virtually every corner of European society, both Protestant and Catholic, and often beyond. From family life, education, literature, music, art and philosophy, to political theory, international relations, economics, colonial ventures, science and military matters, there were few aspects of life that remained untouched in some way by the spirit of religious reform. As well as widening conceptions of the Reformation, the series has for the last fifteen years provided a publishing outlet for work, much of it by new and up-and-coming scholars who might otherwise have struggled to find an international platform for their work. Alongside these monographs, a complementary selection of edited volumes, critical editions of important primary sources, bibliographical studies and new translations of influential Reformation works previously unavailable to English speaking scholars, adds further depth to the topic. By offering this rich mix of approaches and topics, the St Andrews series continues to offer scholars an unparalleled platform for the publication of international scholarship in a dynamic and often controversial area of historical study.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century