Nicolaus Germanus

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Cosmographia, 1482

Donnus Nicolaus Germanus (born ca. 1420; † ca. 1490) was a German cartographer who wrote a pioneering Cosmographia and created two globes depicting earth and sky in 1477, thus predating the Erdapfel of Martin Behaim.

The places and dates of his birth and death as well as his exact name are unknown. He is also called "Donis", "Donnus", "Donmus" or "Donus", abbreviated forms of "Dominus".[1] and is sometimes referred to as a monk of the Benedictine order[2] possibly from Reichenbach Priory (Baden-Württemberg).[3]

In 1477, two years after the opening of the Vatican library, Germanus created a globe each for earth and sky, for which he was paid 200 Dukaten on 11 December 1477 according to a receipt[4]. An additional 3 Dukaten were paid the next day for the adding of the papal coat of arms, and 4 more on 20 December for two covers. The globes are listed in an inventory of 1481. The marchesa of Mantua, Isabella, asked for copies in 1505 (Intendiamo, che ne la libraria dil papa sono due spere solide: In una è depicto el Mapamundo, in l'altra li Signi Celesti, cio è el Zodiaco [...])

The globes were kept in Salle Pontifica (Magna Secreta) until they were lost in the Sacco di Roma of 1527. The earth globe of Germanus is considered the first modern globe to be documented. During production, he invented the "Donis" map projection, in which parallels of latitude are made equidistant, but meridians converge toward the poles.


  1. Nicolaus Germanus - Catholic Encyclopedia article
  2. The Benedictine monk Donnus Nicholas Germanus (fl. 1460-75) was particularly prolific in editing and expanding the Geographia. [1]
  3. Domnus Nicolaus Germanus, a Benedictine (of Reichenbach?) (1466), was the first scholar who modernized Ptolemy by means of new maps and made him generally accessible. The Benedictine Andreas Walsperger (1448) made a map of the world in the medieval style. That of the Camaldolese Fra Mauro (1457) is the most celebrated of all monuments of medieval cartography. It was already enriched by data furnished in Ptolemy's work. The map of Germany designed by Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64), a pupil of Toscanelli (1387-1492), was printed in 1491. This prelate was the teacher of Peuerbach (1432-61), who in turn was the master of Regiomontanus (1436-67), the most illustrious astronomer since Ptolemy.[2]
  • Józef Babicz: The Celestial and Terrestrial Globes of the Vatican Library, Dating from 1477, and their Maker Donnus Nicolaus Germanus (ca 1420 – ca 1490). In: Der Globusfreund. 1987, Nr. 35-37, S. 155-168

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