Inside the Chronicle: Reuniting the Two Halves of an Extraordinary Annotated Book: The Princeton 1525 Ptolemy
This series gives readers an inside look into the scholarly articles that grace the pages of the Princeton University Library Chronicle.
The following is excerpted from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue; Volume LXXIX, No. 1.
Reuniting the Two Halves of an Extraordinary Annotated Book: The Princeton 1525 Ptolemy, by Chet Van Duzer
This article begins with the story of my engagement with a remarkable book, a very heavily annotated copy of the 1525 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography. For a few hundred years the two parts of the book, the text and the maps, had been separated, but they are now together again in the Princeton University Library. Following that history I will describe some features of the book’s prolific program of annotation, which—unusually among early modern annotated books—was composed for a student, so that the annotations represent a program of geographical education in the early sixteenth century.
I first encountered Princeton’s 1525 Ptolemy during a presentation by Professor Nicholas Popper at the 2014 conference of the Renaissance Society of America.1 In that presentation he included an image of one of the heavily annotated maps from the 1525 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography at Princeton.2 I had seen quite a few annotated copies of the Geography, but the map he showed from the Princeton copy was extraordinary for the abundance of its handwritten notes, both in the margin and on the map proper (see image above). From Princeton’s online catalog, I learned that the library had acquired the volume with the purchase of Grenville Kane’s collection of rare books in 1946.3 Stephen Ferguson, then curator of rare books at Princeton, generously provided some images of a few of the maps that allowed me to read some of the annotations, which are written in Latin. In addition to starting to get an idea of their contents, I realized that the annotations had been written by a scribe: they were much more neatly written than the crabbed notes by scholars that I had seen in other annotated Ptolemys.
1. Nicholas Popper, “Notes in Space: Geography and Note-Taking in Early Modern Europe,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, March 27–29, 2014, New York.
2. Princeton’s copy of Claudii Ptolemaei Geographicae enarrationis libri octo (Strasbourg: Johann Grüninger for Johann Koberger, 1525) has the shelfmark exka Ptolemy 1525; high-resolution images of the book are available at https://dpul.princeton.edu/catalog/np193c809.
3. On Kane’s collection of Americana, to which the 1525 Ptolemy belongs, see Boies Penrose, “The Grenville Kane Americana,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 11, no. 1 (1949): 4–25. See also John Bidwell, “The Grenville Kane Collection,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 78, no. 1 (2020): 145–73.
About the Princeton University Library Chronicle
The Princeton University Library Chronicle is an interdisciplinary journal sponsored by the Friends of Princeton University Library since 1930. Its mission is to publish articles of scholarly importance and general interest based on research in the collections of the Princeton University Library (PUL). The Chronicle welcomes submissions of articles relating to all facets of the collections. We also welcome articles relating to the history of the University and the Princeton region. The entire archives of the Chronicle (1939-) and its predecessor, Biblia (1930-1938), are available, open-access, full-text on JSTOR.
Join the Friends of Princeton University Library to receive the current print edition of The Chronicle and all future print editions, in addition to a host of other benefits. The next issue of The Chronicle will be published in the first half of 2023.
Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications
Published November 2, 2022.