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SEBASTIAN MUNSTER (1489-1552)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 11 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SEBASTIAN MUNSTER (1489-1552), German geographer, mathematician and Hebraist, 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 aller Lander, the first detailed, scientific and popular description of the world in Munster's native language, as well as a supreme effort of geographical study and literature in the Reformation period. In this Munster was assisted by more than one hundred and twenty collaborators. The most valued edition of the Cosmographia or Beschreibung is that of 155o, especially prized for its portraits and its city and costume pictures. Besides the works mentioned above we may notice Munster's Germaniae descriptio of 153o, his Novus orbis of 1532, his Mappa Eurepae of 1536, his Rhaetia of 1538, his editions of Solinus, Mela and Ptolemy in 1538–154o 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 Munster (1898), in vol. xviii. of the Publications of the Royal Society of Sciences of Saxony, Historical-Philological Section).
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