Schemes of Annotation in Ptolemy’s Geography

Library of Congress – Sep 7, 2017

Chet Van Duzer discusses Ptolemy’s “Geography.” Claudius Ptolemy wrote his “Geography” in the second century A.D., and following its rediscovery in Constantinople in about 1300, it became one of the most popular geographical texts of the European Renaissance, copied in many manuscripts and printed in many editions. But Ptolemy offers very little in the way of description of different regions and peoples, so the work came to be supplemented in various ways. Non-Ptolemaic descriptive texts were added to printed editions of the book, and users of the book added descriptive material from various sources, providing excellent evidence regarding the reception of the work and early modern reading practices.

In this talk, Van Duzer examined the schemes of annotation in four different copies of “Geography”: the 1511 Thacher copy at the Library of Congress; the copy of the 1513 edition at the Lilly Library; the 1486 Thacher copy at the Library of Congress; and the copy of the 1525 edition at Princeton. By comparing these different schemes of annotation, Van Duzer revealed the extraordinary nature of the annotations in the Princeton 1525 Ptolemy, which is the object of his current NEH-Mellon fellowship research.

Speaker Biography: Chet Van Duzer is an independent scholar, former fellow in the John W. Kluge Center, current NEH-Mellon fellow and author of several books on collection material within the Library of Congress.

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