Leen Helmink Antique Maps & Atlases


Ruscelli / Gastaldi - Arabia Felice Nuova Tavola

Certificate of Authentication

This is to certify that the item illustrated and described below is a genuine and
original antique map or print that was published on or near the given date.

Dr Leendert Helmink, Ph.D.

Antique map of Arabia by Ruscelli / Gastaldi

Girolamo Ruscelli

First Published

Venice, 1561

This edition

1562 first state


18.0 x 24.7 cms


Copper engraving

Stock number





Pristine example of Ruscelli's modern map of Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. One of the first separate maps dedicated to the region.

Ruscelli's famous map of Arabia Felice is an enlarged engraving of Giacomo Gastaldi's 1548 miniature map of the Arabian peninsula, the first "modern" map dedicated to the region, superseding the anomalous Ptolemy sixth map of Asia and entirely based on Portuguese and Italian sources and the latest discoveries. Latitude and longitude marks on all sides. MAR ROSSO (Red Sea) is also named GOLPHO ARABICHO (Gulf of Arabia).

Arabia Felix (literally: Fertile Arabia; also Ancient Greek: Eudaemon Arabia) was the Latin name previously used by geographers to describe South Arabia, or what is now Yemen. The term "Fertile Arabia" is a translation of the Latin "Arabia felix". Felix means "fecund, fertile" but also "happy, fortunate, blessed." Arabia Felix was one of three regions into which the Romans divided the Arabian peninsula: Arabia Deserta, Arabia Felix, and Arabia Petraea. The Greeks and the Romans called Yemen Arabia Felix.


First state, with the copperplate running off the top edge, because the map engravings were originally engraved as pairs on one plate. After 1562 the plates would be cut in half so each map would be printed from its own plate. A very early strong and even imprint of the copperplate. Wide margins all around. Excellent collector's condition.

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).