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Collectio nova patrum et scriptorum Graecorum , Eusebii Caesariensis, Athanasii, & Cosmae Aegyptii...
Paris: Cl. Rigaud, 1707. Two volumes, large folio; double-column text and translation printed in Greek and Roman letter; four full-page engravings and two woodcuts in the text illustrating the Cosmas section; some light browning of text but in sound condition in a modern library binding of quarter calf lettered in gilt, speckled paper sides, red edges. 6th century: the earliest Christian maps. A rare and important travel book, not much noticed in the literature. The account of his sixth century travels by Cosmas Indicopleustes appears here in print for the first time, accompanied by what have been described as - in all probability - the earliest Christian maps. The great palaeographer Montfaucon's eighteenth-century collection of Greek patristic (early Christian) writings prints for the first time newly discovered works by Athanasius and Eusebius of Caesarea, but is of most interest now for publishing for the first time the {i Topographia Christiana} of the sixth-century traveller Cosmas - known as Indicopleustes, or the Indian Voyager - from the tenth-century manuscript in the Vatican, illustrated with four full-page engravings and several woodcuts in the text. A merchant from Alexandria, around the year 530 Cosmas sailed in the Red Sea and visited Ethiopia. 'He definitely visited Adulis (= Zula), where he found an inscribed marble seat, and described the Persian Gulf, Socotra, India and Ceylon, although there is no proof that he travelled that far. In fact he is quite honest about the places he visited and it can be assumed unlikely that he sailed far beyond the coasts of the Red Sea and South Arabia. His description of Ethiopia documents some of the large expeditions sent by the Kings of Aksum to the coast of Sasu, thought to be southern Somalia. 'In about 548 Cosmas became a monk and retired to Sinai where he wrote his Topographia Christiana. It is for this, probably the first work of Christian geography and containing the first Christian maps, that he is best known. He regarded the Earth as a rectangular plane covered by the vaulted roof of the firmament, with heaven above. He recognized Ceylon as an entrepot in the trade between India and the Far East, and was aware that to reach China (he calls it 'Tzinitza') one had to sail east then turn north...' (Howgego, I, C200). Cosmas was a flat-earther, who scoffed at the idea of an antipodes on the basis that people there would have to hang on upside down: the illustration reproduced by Montfaucon from the early mansucript that he examined shows how absurd Cosmas found the idea of a globe with antipodeans thus disadvantaged. The chief object of his "Topography" was 'to denounce the false and heathen doctrine of the rotundity of the earth, and to vindicate the scriptural account of the world. According to Cosmas our terrestrial home is a tabernacle or tent: the earth is a rectangular plane, covered by the vaulted roof of the firmament, above which lies heaven. In the centre of the plane is the inhabited earth, surrounded by ocean, beyond which lies the paradise of Adam. The sun revolves round a conical mountain to the north - round the summit in summer, round the base in winter, which accounts for the difference in the length of the day. 'The best known and most celebrated part of the "Topography" is the description, in the ninth book, of Ceylon and of the plants and animals of India... The work also contains in all probability the oldest Christian maps, either made by Cosmas himself or prepared under his direction... He attacked the theory that the earth was a sphere, both on the grounds of its pagan origin and common sense, and he was particularly anxious to discredit the existence of the Antipodes. How can rain fall up in the southern hemisphere? How could people hang upside down by their toes? Beazley notes that 'he carried the popular tradition to the furthest extreme. His vituperation against Greek science is a sign of its continuing vitality in Alexandria on the eve of the Arab invasion...' (Evelyn Edson, {i Mapping Time and Space: How Medieval Mapmakers Viewed Their World}, The British Library, 1997, pp. 145-148). There are evidently two issues of the book, dated 1706 or 1707 but otherwise without difference. A very substantial article on Cosmas and the significance of his mapping can be found at http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/EMwebpages/202mono.html.
      [Bookseller: Hordern House]
Last Found On: 2014-10-10           Check availability:      Direct From Bookseller    

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