Rare 1475 book with world's first printed maps acquired by James Ford Bell Trust

Volume will be displayed at James Ford Bell Library at Univ. of Minnesota

Dec 08, 2015, 13:02 ET from The James Ford Bell Trust

MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A rare example of the Rudimentum Novitiorum, a chronicle of the world printed in 1475, containing the first printed maps, has been acquired by the James Ford Bell Trust for the benefit of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.

"The Rudimentum Novitiorum is one of the rarest and most significant pieces we have," said Dr. Ford W. Bell, trustee and the grandson of James Ford Bell, who was the founder of General Mills. "We are thrilled to have acquired it and are looking forward to sharing it."

Written in Latin and roughly translated as "Handbook for Beginners," the 474-page volume was intended as an encyclopedic collection of human knowledge, incorporating history, geography and scripture. Its authorship is unknown but it was printed in Lubeck, Germany, then a principal European trading center, shortly after the invention of printing on the Gutenberg press in the 1450s.

Among the Rudimentum's thick eighteen-by-twelve-inch folio pages and some 150 pictorial woodcuts, the most important are those that contain what are said to be the first printed maps. The maps incorporate Biblical history and mythology, including the Garden of Eden and the Pillars of Hercules, suggesting that they were not intended to be literal, but rather broad teaching aids for new learners. The first is a map of the world in a circular form, with a hill representing each country. The second is a more familiar-looking map of the Holy Land, which features Jerusalem at its core and the Red Sea to the south.

The rare volume "is exactly what James Ford Bell envisioned for his library, which is showing the growth of human knowledge through trade. There are very few books that do that as well as the Rudimentum," said Daniel Crouch, a London-based rare book expert and renowned map dealer.

"As part of the first information revolution including the first printed history of the world, the Rudimentum is the 'Wikipedia' of its time," Ford Bell and fellow trustee Diane B. Neimann said in a letter to the university's James Ford Bell Library.

The Rudimentum Novitiorum will be on initial display at the James Ford Bell Library through January 31, 2016.

To learn more visit, www.lib.umn.edu/bell.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151208/294178

SOURCE The James Ford Bell Trust