SCHÖNER, Johannes (1477?1547)
Johannes Schöner was a mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer, a builder and theorist of the preparation and use of terrestrial and celestial globes, and a publisher and printer. In 1494 he entered the faculty of theology in Erfuhrt, the main town of Thuringia, in central Germany, but did not complete his studies. Instead he dedicated himself to the study of astronomy in Nuremberg, guided by the German patrician Bernhard Walther (1430?1504), who was among the first to theorize about and practice astronomical observation as an activity with
specific professional procedures (Walther was perhaps the first astronomer to use a clock to record the times of observations, starting in 1484.) In 1517 Schöner was ordained in the Catholic Church, but he converted to Lutheranism in 1527. He lived and worked in Bamberg until 1525, protected by Johann Seyler, who financed his publishing and research for almost twenty years. In
1515 he prepared and published in Nuremberg the first of a series of printed celestial and terrestrial globes, together with a work titled Luculentissima quaedam terra totius description (The Most Splendid ? or the Richest ? Description of the Whole Earth), dedicated to the bishop of Bamberg, Georg Schenk von Limberg. The Solidi et sphaerici corporis sive globi astronomici
canones usum et expeditam praxim ejusdem exprimentes (On the Rules to Use a Solid and Spherical Body ? e.g., a Terrestrial Globe ? and the Celestial Globe, Which also Explain the Correct and Fast Procedure [to Use] them) followed two years later, and a second, hand-painted wooden globe in 1520. This globe, now conserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, was first exhibited in the city hall, where it replaced the famous Erdapfel (Earthapple), a globe illuminated in 1492 by George Glockenthon and based on a planisphere by a famous German merchant, Martin Behaim (1459?1507), who had lived for many years in Portugal. If the Erdapfel by Behaim and the planispheres of the Insularium illustratum by Arrigo di Federico Martello represent the imago mundi that preceded the travels of Columbus in 1492, this globe is based on the erudite cosmographic synthesis elaborated by Martin Waldseemüller (1470?1521) and Matthias Ringman (1482?1511) between the end of the fifteenth century and the first decade of the sixteenth century in the Collegium vosagense (Gymnasium of the Vosges), founded by canon Gaultier Lud at St. Dié des Vosges, in Lorraine.
The main source of the cosmographic structure of the 1520 and the 1522 Schöner? globes is actually the famous map titled ?Universalis Cosmographia Secundum Ptholomaei Traditionem et Americi Vespucii Alioru[m]que Lustrationes,? drawn and printed in St. Dié des Vosges, in Lorraine, by Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringman to accompany the Cosmographiae Introductio, cum quibus dam geometriae ac astronomiae principiis ad eam rem necessariis. Insuper quatuor Americi Vespucci nauigationes, published by Lud in May 1507. This is the work in which the name ?america? appears for the first time, as a tribute to Amerigo Vespucci, to indicate the immense new terrestrial spaces in the ?Mare Oceano? (Ocean Sea). In the appendix, the Latin translation of Vespucci?s Letter to Soderini was published, which spread internationally Vespucci?s work, (real and imaginary) travels, and cosmographic hypotheses and led to his crowning as a ?second Ptolemy? (as clearly appears in the title of the 1507 map).
In 1523, Schöner published ?A letter from Johann Schöner of Carlstadt, concerning the Islands and Countries which have been recently discovered under the command of the Most Serene Kings of Castile and Portugal, and a terrestrial Globe for those who wish to follow the course of the Voyages.? This referred not only to the expeditions of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Vespucci, and Pedro Àlvares Cabral, but also to the very recent circumnavigation of the globe made between 1519 and 1522 by the small Spanish fleet led by the Portuguese Fernâo de Magalhâes and then the Spaniard Juan Sebastián Elcano. The final part of the letter reads, ?Being desirous to make some small addition to this wonderful survey of the earth, so that what appears very extraordinary to the reader may appear more likely, when thus 2 illustrated, I have been at pains to construct this globe, having copied a very accurate one which an ingenious Spaniard has sent to a person of distinction. I do not however wish to set aside the globe I constructed some time ago, as it fully showed all that had, at that time, been discovered; so that the former, as far as it goes, agrees with the latter.?
Due to his research into the construction and use of the globes, Schöner was named professor of mathematics at the Melanchthon Gymnasium in Nuremberg in 1526, at the invitation of the theologian Philipp Melanchthon himself (1497?1560), an assignment which he maintained until his death. In 1544 Schöner published a posthumous work by Bernard Walther, J[ohannes] de Monteregio et B. W.[Bernardus Waltherius] ad solem observationes. Canones pro compositione et usu gnomonis geometrici (?Observations of the Sun Made by Johannes Regiomontanus and Bernardus Waltherius. The Correct Rules to Build and Use a Geometrical Gnomon?) which continued the astronomic observations begun in Nuremberg by Johannes Regiomontanus, whose manuscripts and instruments had been purchased after his death by Walther in Rome in 1476. These observations were used by Nicolaus Copernicus for his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, published in Nuremberg in 1543 and (wrongly) attributed by Copernicus to Schöner.
Fischer, Joseph and Frederick. R. von Wieser, Die älteste Karte mit dem Namen Amerika aus dem Jahre 1507 und die Carta Marina aus dem Jahre 1516 des M. Waldseemüller (Ilacomilus), Innsbruck, Verlag der Wagner?schen Universitaets-Buchhandlung, 1903 (English Edition: Henry Stevens, Son & Stiles, 1903).
Johnson, Christine R., ?Renaissance German Cosmographers and the Naming of America,? Past and Present, 191 (2006), pp. 3?43.
Klemm, Hans Günther, ?Johann Schöner,? Allgemeine deutsche Biographie 32, pp. 295?7.
Oberhummer, Eugen and A. Feuerstein, ?Die Brixener Globen von 1522 der Sammlung Hauslab-Liechtenstein,? in Denkschr. der Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien, phil.-hist. Kl. 67, no. 3 (1926.), pp. 1?15.
Schottenloher, Karl, ?Johann Schöner und seine Hausdruckerei,? Zentralblatt für
Bibliothekswesen 24 (1907), pp.145?55.
Shirley, Rodney W., The Mapping of the World: Early Printed World Maps, 1472?1700, London, The British Library, 1983, pl. 30.
Autor: Angelo Cattaneo