Sebastian Munster

Birth: 1489


Sebastian Munster (1489-1552) was a German geographer, mathematician and Hebraist. He was born at Ingelheim in the Palatinate. After studying at Heidelberg and Tubingen, he entered the Franciscan order, but abandoned it for Lutheranism about 1529. Shortly afterwards he was appointed court preacher at Heidelberg, where he also lectured in Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis. From 1536 he taught at Basel, where he published his Cosmographia universalis in 1544, and where he died of the plague on the 23rd of May 1552.

A disciple of Elias Levita, he was the first German to edit the Hebrew Bible (2 vols., fol., Basel, 1534-1535); this edition was accompanied by a new Latin translation and a large number of annotations. He published more than one Hebrew grammar, and was the first to prepare a Grammatica chaldaica (Basel, 1527). His lexicographical labours included a Dictionarium chaldaicum (1527), and a Dictionarium trilingue, of Latin, Greek and Hebrew (1530).

But his most important work was his Cosmographia, which also appeared in German as a Beschreibung alter Länder, the first detailed, scientific and popular description of the world in Münster's native language, as well as a supreme effort of geographical study and literature in the Reformation period. In this Münster was assisted by more than one hundred and twenty collaborators.

The most valued edition of the Cosmographia or Beschreibung is that of 1550, especially prized for its portraits and its city and costume pictures. Besides the works mentioned above we may notice Münster's Germaniae descriptio of 1530, his Novus orbis of 1532, his Mappa Europae of 1536, his Rhaetia of 1538, his editions of Solinus, Mela and Ptolemy in 1538-1540 and among non-geographical treatises his Horologiographia, 1531, on dialling (see Dial), his Organum uranicum of 1536 on the planetary motions, and his Rudimenta mathematica of 1551. His published maps numbered 142.

See V. Hantzsch, Sebastian Münster (1898), in vol. xviii. of the Publications of the Royal Society of Sciences of Saxony, Historical-Philological Section).


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 19

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