Images of providence : Sebastian Muenster's cosmography and the study on nature within the Reformation
Title: Images of providence : Sebastian Muenster's cosmography and the study on nature within the Reformation
Author: PUHAKKA, Ismo
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2015
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia was printed in Basel, in the Swiss Confederation, for the first time in 1544. It was a richly illustrated combination of mathematical geography and descriptive history-writing. Moving from country to country, Münster offered his reader an extensive display of peoples and lands of the whole world. The global scope and coherent structure of his book secured a lasting popularity and made it an emblem of cosmography's new status and universal ambition. Münster's work marked an important turning point in the history of the modern geography, though scholars have time and again reminded readers of the religious (often taken as unmodern) aspects of the book. This study seeks to understand Münster's unique combination of geography and religion by looking at his work within the context of the Protestant Reformation and seeks to demonstrate how Sebastian Münster's geographical thought was influenced by the new ideas of the rising evangelical natural philosophy. The Last decades have witnessed a growing awareness of the importance of Luther's co-reformer and humanist Philip Melanchthon's work in shaping a Protestant approach to the study of nature in the mid- Sixteenth century. Although Melanchthon's influence on Münster has been speculated upon, traditional views have often considered the boundary between Reformed and Lutheran communities intellectually unbridgeable. Focusing on the agency of Münster's close collaborator, humanist Simon Grynaeus, this study seeks to demonstrate that Melanchthon's intellectual impact went beyond the Lutheran circles. Despite religious disputes, exchange of ideas on geography, mathematics and natural philosophy was taking place between Wittenberg and Basel. Accordingly, the development of Melanchthon's natural philosophy may be re-assessed as a broader evangelical debate on nature. Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia can be seen as a contribution to this debate. This study pays also particular attention to the illustrations of the Cosmographia. Although scholars have been aware of a significant descriptive impulse in the northern renaissance art, only very recently has this phenomenon been connected with Protestant theology. This study aims at raising the question of whether the new theological currents endorsing minute recording of natural appearances could be seen as a key factor behind the emerging descriptivism in the Sixteenth Century images of nature.
LC Subject Heading: Münster, Sebastian, 1489-1552. Cosmographia; Cosmography -- Early works to 1800; Geography -- Early works to 1800; Reformation
Defence date: 28 September 2015; Examining Board: Professor Martin van Gelderen (EUI/Lichtenberg-Kolleg, University of Göttingen); Professor Thomas Kaufmann (University of Göttingen); Professor Antonella Romano (EUI/ EHESS); Professor Markku Peltonen (University of Helsinki).
Type of Access: openAccess