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N.A.: Canada & Arctic

North America: Canada & the Arctic

RUSCELLI, Girolamo (ca 1500 -1566). Tierra Nveva. [Venice: Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1574].

RUSCELLI, Girolamo (ca 1500 -1566). Tierra Nveva. [Venice: Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1574].


Single sheet (9 x 12 4/8 inches, full margins, showing the plate mark). Fine engraved map of of the east coast of North America by Giulio and Livio Sanuto, showing the Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers.

Second state of this map from Ruscelli's edition of Ptolemy's "La Geografia", with the elevations of the mountains cross-hatched and a distinct plate mark along the top edge. Essentially an enlarged version of Giacomo Gastaldi's atlas of 1548.

In the sixteenth century, Italy was at the forefront of cartographic development and discovery. This was due to a number of different factors: Italy's geographical position in the center of the Mediterranean, the skill and daring of Italian explorers, and the tradition of craftsmanship of the peninsula's artisans. Many of the most important early explorers were Italian, from Marco Polo to Columbus, Vespucci to Verrazzano. Italy was also the first to revive an interest in classical geography during the Renaissance, and the first editions of Ptolemy were printed in Rome, Bologna, and Florence. Venice, in particular, was a center of cartographic activity. Venetian ships made regular trading voyages to the Levant and into the Black Sea, to the ports of Spain and Portugal, and along the coasts of Western Europe. 

Venetian mapmaking reached its highest point between about 1540 and 1570. At this time the art was still in its infancy -- the earliest printed map had been published in 1472, and the first atlas in 1477, but these had been crude attempts based on the geographical work of the second-century geographer Ptolemy. Giacomo Gastaldi dominated the output of these publishers, his superb, innovative work marking the debut of the Italian school. His 1548 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography was the most comprehensive atlas of the time and it is, therefore, not surprising that other mapmakers, such as Ruscelli, used some of Gastaldi’s maps as models for their own. 

Thus, Ruscelli’s “Tierra Nveva” is based upon Gastaldi’s 1548 map of the same region. Gastaldi’s atlas was the first to contain regional maps of the American continent and as the Cosmographer to the Venetian Republic he was privy to the most up-to-date geographical information. His map was the first ever produced of the east coast and relates to the discoveries of Jacques Cartier and Giovanni de Verrazzano. Cartier had travelled to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Verrazzano’s 1524 journey was made on behalf of the French king, Francis I with the purpose of discovering a passage to Asia. Verrazzano arrived at Cape Fear on his ship La Dauphine and after initial explorations to the south began a northward course. What is considered to be present day Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was named Larcardia, by Verrazzano, owing to the beauty of the trees. His next and most famous discovery was made on April 17, 1524 and was that of New York Harbor, which he named Angoulesme, the title of Francis I before becoming king. Other notable Verrazzano landmarks on the Gastaldi/Ruscelli map are Flora, which is believed to represent the southern shore of Long Island and p°: Refuge, today known as Narragansett Bay. Of the four regional names the only new addition is that of TIERRA DE NVRVMBERG. Its origins are derived from the Abnaki Indian word for a stretch of quiet water between two waterfalls and of course it is the name that Verrazzano later appended to the great German city. 

Verrazzano spent only a short time exploring the New England coastline and thus much of this region is portrayed with some confusion on the Gastaldi map. Ruscelli attempted to broaden the knowledge of this area by borrowing the assumption of Giovanni Battista Ramusio who in his 1556 publication Navigationi et Viaggi, postulated that the Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers were connected upriver. P. D. Burden, The Mapping of North America (Rickmansworth England, 1996), 30; B. B. McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps 1513-1800 (Providence R. I., 2001), 561.2.




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