Astronomical Images : Geography

William Cuningham

Astronomical Images

<p style='text-align: justify;'>William Cuningham (1531 ' post 1586) was a Norwich-born physician, educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His <i>magnum opus</i>, <i>The Cosmographical Glasse</i>, was published in 1559 by John Day (1522-1584). In it, Cuningham discussed many aspects of practical mathematics and surveying in particular. He promoted the use of instruments including the quadrant and Ptolemy's rulers. The text and images combined elements derived from the works of Peter Apian and Oronce Fine, as well as those of the English mathematician, Robert Recorde. The author gratefully recognised Day's skill and expense in producing the many images in the work. Cuningham also produced a series of almanacs and prognostications during his career, for which he was heavily criticised in William Fulke's <i>Antiprognosticon</i> (London, 1560). This image representing geography is the second in a series of three that explores the Ptolemaic distinction between cosmography, geography and chorography. Having established that cosmography is 'the art which does set forth and describe the universal World', Cuningham makes reference to Ptolemy's definition of geography as: 'the imitation and description of the face and picture of the Earth with her parts known, and of such things as are to it connected and joined'. Thus, whilst cosmography describes the principal divisions of the Earth in terms of the five principal parallels, or equidistant circles of the heavens, geography delineates prominent parts of the Earth's surface, such as hills, mountains and seas, without any reference to the heavenly circles. Chorography takes the process one step further, by dividing each part of the Earth into its smallest units: rivers, cities and buildings. This image is clearly related to one that had appeared in Peter Apian's <i>Cosmographia</i> (Antwerp, 1550). To this basic model, Cuningham adds representations of the four winds in the corners of his image (including the deadly, disease-baring southerly one, represented by a skull). The woodcut is signed ID.</p>


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