Venice, Paolo Manuzio for Federico Torresani, 1547.


Folio, ff. (10), 74. Roman letter; title in black and red with printer’s device within elegant floral border with dolphins; few decorated and historiated initials; 120 woodcut maps, of which two full-page, eight double-page, one printed upside-down at f. xliir; tiny minor worm hole to title and first two leaves, a few spots at head of first double-page map, light water stain towards outer margin of one leaf. A very good, well-margined copy in early pasteboard; all edges mottled; two early ms shelf marks to title and price inscription to rear pastedown.

Third, most correct and complete edition of this curious and informative atlas of islands, first published in Venice in 1528. This is the first and only Aldine edition, issued at the expense of Federico Torresani, Aldus’s brother-in-law and younger son of Aldus’s partner Andrea Torresani. Despite not being presented as a product of the main branch of the Aldine press, it retains the accuracy and the typically elegant layout of the familial output. Unusually for Aldine books, it also enriched by numerous illustrations taken directly from the blocks used in the first edition, but appear particularly bright and neat in this copy. It may well be one of the last collaborations between Federico and Aldus’s main heir, Paolo, who remained in touch with his uncle even after the family quarrel and the consequent split of the partnership between the Manuzio and the Torresani about 1540.

Benedetto Bordone (c.1460-1530) was an eclectic Italian artist of the Venetian Renaissance. Born in Padua, he was a skilled miniaturist, editor and cartographer. He is very likely to be the artist behind the exquisite and ground-breaking illustrations of the Aldine Hypnerotomachia. One of his two sons was the famous scholar Giulio Cesare Scaligero, who later made up his surname claiming to be affiliated with the noble Italian family of Della Scala.

His most famous work was the Isolario, accomplished a few year before his death. It consists of a broad illustrated survey of the world’s islands and peninsulas as they were known in the early sixteenth century, including learned mythical and historical remarks, drawn especially from Greek and Roman authorities. The book opens with Bordone’s dedication to his nephew, who had travelled the world on board the Venetian and Spanish fleets, probably acting as a military physician. Isolario is an intriguing mix of pioneering intuition and folkloristic belief. In it, Bordone provides the first printed map of Japan, as an island named ‘Ciampagu’, and the earliest depiction of the globe as an oval (this was later developed by Karl Mollweide into the model familiar to us). The final Copia delle Lettere de Perfetto della India la Nova Spagna detta alla Cesarea Maesta rescritte offers the earliest printed account of Pizzarro’s arrival in Peru and it is not included in the princeps.

Twelve of the illustrations relate to America, including a rather distorted New World with the Northern portion of South America and the North America as a huge island named as ‘Land of the worker,’ probably hinting at the growing slave trading in the area. Alongside the maps of Western Europe, Eastern Mediterranean Sea, British Isles and Sicily, Bordone also drew detailed plans of Venice and some of its lagoon islands, as well as of the lavish capital city of the Aztec empire (Tenochtitlan, modern Mexico City) before Cortez razed it to the ground in 1521. Finally, one can find sketchy depictions of: the Canaries; Madagascar and Zanzibar; Java and Sumatra (as ‘Iava minore’); Ceylon (‘Taprobana’); Cuba, Guadalupe, Jamaica, Venezuela and Brazil; Thailanda, mistakenly thought to be an island called Lochac. Far east, Bordone includes, for the first time in print, two legendary isles, one exclusively inhabited by women (‘Imangla’), the other by men (‘Inebila’).

Not in Brunet or Graesse. BM STC It., 120. Adams, B 2485; Renouard, 141:9; Mortimer It., 82; Harrisse, 221; Phillips 164; Alden, 547/2; Sabin, 6421.


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