HANDSOME COPY OF THE PREMIER EARLY ITALIAN ATLAS


Italia.

Bologna, impensis Auctoris, 1620 (1632).

£22,000

Folio, pp. (x) 24, 61 engraved maps (59 double page, 2 single). Italic letter, text within printed double-rule borders, engraved architectural title page by Oliviero Gatti, depicting allegorical figures of the sciences with instruments and globe within typographical border, early case number at head, full page medallion portrait of the author dated 1632. Light water stain to earlier maps around centrefold, else a fine, large and thick paper copy, the maps in admirable, very clear impressions. In contemporary French calf, triple panels with ornamental cornerpieces to corners, all gilt, spine in eight compartments gilt (small repair at tail), edges speckled red, early paper labels ‘F’ and ‘Italie’ on upper cover.

A handsome, very well margined copy of the second edition of the premier early Italian atlas, which dominated Italian cartography for at least the next half century. Most of the main C17 cartographers, including the Dutch compiler-editors, followed, copied, or incorporated Magni’s regional maps. Ortelius, with whom Magini corresponded, Brahe, Kepler, and Blaeu are among the illustrious names who used some of his maps.

Magini (1555-1617), Paduan astronomer, astrologer, cartographer, and mathematician, studied at Bologna, and was famously appointed to the chair of Mathematics there in preference to Galileo. His chef d’oeuvre however was the present atlas, designed to include a detailed map of every region of Italy with exact nomenclature and historical notes. Began in 1594, it soon proved ruinously expensive and Magini assumed the posts of astrologer to Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and tutor to his sons to pay for it. The Duke Ferdinando, to whom the atlas is dedicated, provided assistance for the project and allowed for maps of the various Italian states to be brought to Mantua. The governing authorities of Messina and Genoa also helped financially.

Magini was not an engraver and had considerable problems from the mid-1590s onwards in keeping the service of those, such as the Dutch Arnold brothers, who were. Eventually, he engaged the Englishman Benjamin Wright who completed the series in between his habitual bouts of drunkenness. The process took so long that Magini did not live to see its completion and the atlas was eventually published by his son Fabio, after a good deal of further revision. The result, according to Almagia (cit. inf.) eliminated numerous earlier errors in longitude and latitude, accurately indicated political boundaries and physical features, and added numerous topographical names.

See Almagia, Bibliographico Note to the Facsimile of Magini’s Italia, Shirley BL T., MAG 1c.

L1211

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