Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of the East Coast by Ruscelli / Gastaldi

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Stock number: 18805

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Girolamo Ruscelli (biography)
Giacomo Gastaldi (biography)


Tierra Nueva

First Published

Venice, 1561

This Edition

1574 Italian, state 2


18.0 x 24.5 cms




This Item is On Hold


"One of the first obtainable maps to concentrate on the North East coastline of North America and one of the first to name Bermuda."



1574 Italian edition, second state, re-touched, most noticeably the graduation marks are now cross-hatched. The copper plate is now cut creating a plate mark accross the top. Wide margins. No restorations or imperfections. Faint shinethrough of verso text as always. Overall an excellent collector's example of a seminal map of the east coast.

The mapping of North America

Ruscelli's edition of Ptolemy's 'Geography' included newly engraved copper plates by Giulio and Livio Sanuto. This map of the east coast is an enlarged version of Giacomo Gastaldi's map published in 1548. The nomenclature and cartography are unchanged, with the exception of the depiction of the rivers. Here he borrowed the assumption of Ramusio that the Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers, as we know them today, were connected upriver. It is one of two [maps] that were engraved on the same plate, printed and then separated for the book. Evidence can be seen from the fact that plate mark of the maps runs off the top of the page.


Shedding the Veil

Gastaldi has combined data from the Verrazano and Cartier voyages to create this the first printed map devoted to the East Coast of North America. Originally published by Gastaldi in 1548, it is here re-engraved about twice the size by Ruscelli.

When Verrazano scouted the East Coast of North America, he cautiously headed out to sea after Narragansett Bay to avoid treacherous shoals, but in doing so missed Cape Cod and much of the New England coast. Cartier, on the other hand, did not venture further south than Cape Breton. As a result, Gastaldi grafts eastern Canada onto southern New England, with Cape Breton Island sprouting directly from Narragansett Bay. Mercifully, Gastaldi ignores Verrazano's famous Outer Banks "isthmus" report and spares the coast the distortion that arose therefrom; unfortunately, though, he does not incorporate data from Cartier's exploration of the St. Lawrence on his second voyage.

Fresh influence from Verrazano is seen in the Northeast, where a new domain makes its debut on a printed map: along with the familiar regions of Laborador and Bacalaos lies Tierra de Nurumberg.The term originated with the voyage of Verrazano, or at least it first appeared on the portolan made by his brother Girolamo. It appears as "Oranbega" on the Girolamo Verrazano portolan (manuscript, 1529). Although Gastaldi's spelling suggests that he associated it with the German city, it was more commonly spelled "Norumbega" and was probably derived from an Algonquian Indian word which meant something on the order of 'quiet place between two rapids.' The term soon came to denote the region of New England. Further south is New York, calibrated about 5 degrees too far north, and called Angoulesme after Verrazano's designation, Angoleme. The flat shore just up the coast from it, near the name Flora, is Long Island but without Long Island Sound. Near Larcadia are two inlets, probably the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.


Girolamo Ruscelli (1504-1566)

Girolamo Ruscelli (1504 Viterbo -1566 Venice), an Italian Alchemist, Physician and cartographer, was editor of a revised and expanded Italian edition of Ptolemy's 'Geographia', published as 'La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo. The newly engraved maps were based, generally, on those compiled by Giacomo Gastaldi for the Venice miniature atlas edition of 1548.

Ruscelli's atlas was issued several times between 1561 and 1599 by the following publishers

- Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1561
- Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1562
- Venice, G. Zileti, 1564
- Venice, G. Zileti, 1574
- Venice, Heirs of Melchior Sessa, 1598-99

The Ruscelli and Gastaldi atlases were the most comprehensive atlases produced between Martin Waldseemüller's 'Geographia' of 1513, and Abraham Ortelius 'Theatrum' of 1570. The significance of the Gastaldi and Ruscelli atlases cannot be overestimated. They defined the known geography of the world for decades. These atlases also reintroduced the use of copper engraving into the service of cartography, which was dominated by woodcut printing after several not very succesful attempts to print from copper in the 15th century. The Gastaldi and Ruscelli atlases proved that maps could be beautifully engraved on copper. As it was a harder material than wood, it was harder to engrave but also gave the ability to render much more detail. The Gastaldi and Ruscelli atlases marked a turning point in the history of cartography, from then on the majority of cartographic works used this medium.

"Ruscelli was editor of a revised and expanded edition of Ptolemy's Geographia which was issued in Venice several times between 1561 and the end of the century.

The newly angraved maps were based, generally, on those compiled by Giacomo Gastaldi for the Venice edition of 1548."

(Moreland & Bannister).

Giacomo (Jacopo) Gastaldi (c.1500-1566)

"In Venice in 1548, Giacomo Gastaldi engraved a fine series of maps for what is seen as the first 'pocket' or miniature atlas."

(Potter p38)

"Praised as 'that most excellent of cartographers', Gastaldi was a native of Piedmont and worked in early life as an engineer in the service of the Venetian Republic before turning in the early 1540s to cartography as a profession. Eventually he was appointed Cosmographer to the Republic.

From 1544 onwards he produced a large number of maps beautifully engraved on copper, using a style which was widely copied by his contemporaries, indeed, his technique marked the final transition away from woodblock printing which had been predominant for so long.

Apart from compiling maps of the world and the continents he was responsible for the maps in an edition of Ptolemy issued in 1548 and in a noted collection of voyages and travels called 'Delle Navigazioni e Viaggi' by Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557). Many of his maps were included in the Lafreri collections of maps in the 1560–80 period.

Gastaldi is credited with popularizing the idea that a route round the north of the American continent led to a passage which he called the Strait of Anian, named after Marco Polo's Kingdom of Anian. The name appeared on many maps well into the seventeenth century."

(Moreland & Bannister p66)

"Jacopo Gastaldi, 'most excellent' of cosmographers, produced a pocket version of Ptolemy in 1548. 'La Geografia di Claudio Ptolemeo' (with 'criticisms and additions' by Sebastian Münster) contained 26 maps from Ptolemy [..], and 34 new maps (some of the New World)."

(Tooley & Bricker)

"Jacopo Gastaldi, born in Piedmont in about 1500, and by the 1540s cosmographer to the Venetian Republic. At least a hundred maps are attributable to Gastaldi, including his 1548 'Geographia' (published by Nicolo Bascarini). It was a popular edition in Italian prose, and expressly designed in quarto, with maps only 5 by 6.75 inches, so that it could be carried 'nella manica' - in the sleeve. (Quarto is the page size that results when a full-sized printed sheet is folded twice instead of a single time that gives a 'folio' page.).

Gastaldi's contemporaries usually described him as the 'most excellent Piedmontese cosmographer'. As a dedicated professional he worked for a number of publishers, accepting occasional private commissions, as when Venice's all-powerful Council of Ten commissioned him to make fresco maps of Asia and Africa for the walls of a room in the Doge's Palace"

(Tooley & Bricker)

"A small but very elegant Italian [Ptolemy] edition with plates, handsomely engraved in copper by the famous cosmographer Gastaldi. [...]. A whole series of plates of the New World is here met with, for the first time, and some of them are of no slight interest to the history of cartography."

(Nordenskjöld 28)

"Sixty maps are engraved in copper in Mattiolo-Gastaldi's Ptolemy of 1548. [...]. On the title-page is written: 'Con alcuni comenti et aggiunti fattevi da Sebastiano Munstero Alamanno, but this evidently refers to the text, not to the maps, which, from a geographical point of view as well as in their technical execution, are immensely superior to those of the learned geographer and Hebrew professor at Basel.

The work is dedicated by Iacobo Gastaldi to Leone Strozzi, 'dignissimo Signore di Capua', whereupon follows an 'A li lettori', where the publisher, Giovanbattista Pedrezano, is highly complimented, for not having spared any expense in getting the maps as finely and well executed as possible, and for having reduced their size as to allow of anybody, without difficulty, carrying the work 'nella manica'. We thus have here the first atlas expressly said to be published in a pocket form."

(Nordenskjöld 40)

"This edition of Ptolemy's 'Geography' was the most comprehensive atlas produced between Martin Waldseemüller's 'Geographia' of 1513, and the Abraham Ortelius 'Theatrum' of 1570. It was the first to contain regional maps of the American continent.

Giacomo Gastaldi had the maps beautifully engraved on copper. This marks a turning point, from now on the majority of cartographic works used this medium. As it was a harder material than wood it gave the engraver the ability to render more detail. Born in Villafranca, Piedmont, Gastaldi became Cosmographer to the Venetian Republic, then a powerhouse of commerce and trade. He sought the most up to date geographical information available, and became one of the greatest cartographers of the sixteenth century."

(Burden 16)