The complete set, hitherto considered unobtainable

Petrini, Paolo. [Wall Maps of the World and Four Continents].

Naples, ca. 1700.

Five separate four-sheet maps, ca. 140 x 110 cm each, with extra decorative borders added in manuscript. Old colour, recently refreshed.

Exceedingly rare separately-issued set of wall maps of the world and four continents, by the Neapolitan mapmaker Paolo Petrini. One of only a few known surviving examples. The present set possesses additional decorative baroque borders outside the decorative image.

Each of the four maps of the continents is embellished with scenes from the major countries and cultures within them, drawing upon the wall maps of the four continents published in Paris by Nicolas De Fer for the geography as well as for many of the decorative elements. The world map is of particular note: this large-scale double-hemisphere world map represents the high point of geographic printing in Naples at the end of the 17th century. Petrini's world map is one of the finest and most fascinating of his many rare works and the only one of his wall maps that can be called truly original and unique to him.

The hemispheres are set aloft amidst a finely engraved allegorical tableau. Importantly, unlike much of Petrini's work, this map is an original composition, although his cartographic sources can be traced to important French and Italian sources. The depiction of the Americas is in good part based on Coronelli's maps of North and South America from his Atlante Veneto (Venice, circa 1690). Eastern North America is reasonably well-defined, with all five of the Great Lakes delineated. The Mississippi River is present, although its mouth is located far southwest of its true location. In the west, California is shown as a large island, while in the Pacific Northwest the coast curves inwards to include the mythical Strait of Anian. South America takes on an exaggerated, widened form, although the Andes and major rivers are depicted with a broad degree of accuracy.

The depiction of much of the rest of the world, including the choice of nomenclature, is derived from the monumental 1694 wall map of the world by the French Geographer Royal, Nicolas de Fer. Europe is well-defined and Africa assumes a conventional depiction for the period, with well-conceived coastlines, but a largely conjectural interior. Much of Asia is also well-charted, based largely on Dutch (for Southeast Asia) and Jesuit sources (for areas such as China), although the coastlines north of Korea (which is correctly shown here to be a peninsula) curve northward into oblivion. Australia is here said to have been "discovered in 1644" (referring to Abel Tasman's 1642-43 voyages, although the continent had actually been first encountered in 1606). Petrini delineates much of the coastlines of western and northern Australia and the southern tip of Tasmania. The east coast of Australia remains a complete enigma.

The pageant of allegory that surrounds the map includes images of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury, after Cassini, along with zodiacal signs and figures form classical mythology. Below are finely conceived allegorical depictions of trade, industry, science and art. The cartouche in the lower-center features a dedication to one of Petrini's key patrons, Cesare d'Avalos, who reigned as the Marchese of Pescara from 1697 to 1729.

Petrini's biography remains something of mystery: based in Naples, then one of Europe's largest cities, he published the very rare atlas, "Atlante Partenopeo" (1700-18). However, his greatest works included the present world map and set of wall maps of the four continents, which in modern times have proven virtually unobtainable to collectors. Petrini's wall maps of the world and continents are extremely rare as separate maps, and we are not aware of any other examples offered in a complete set. Writing in the early 1980s, Rodney Shirley stated that he had great difficulty in tracking down even a single example of the world map, and we are aware of only a few surviving examples of the remaining maps.

Restoration within the printed image, including some minor facsimile.

Shirley 625 (with plate 429). Wagner 168.