Rare and Early Engraving of Fra Mauro's Pre-Galilean and Pre-Columbian World Map

[Fra Mauro Mappa Mundi - Zurla, Placido (ed.)]. Abbozzo del mappamondo di F. Mauro Camaldolese. Cosmografo incomparabile alla Meta des Sec. XV.

[Venice, Picotti, 1806].

Engraved map, 394 x 404 mm. Framed.


Rare, early 19th century Italian engraved facsimile of the greatest medieval map of the world: the famous world map made around 1450 by Fra Mauro, "considered the greatest memorial of medieval cartography" (Almagià). At the time it was the most detailed representation of the world ever produced, and it remains one of the most important works in the history of cartography, marking the new embrace of scientific method which placed accuracy ahead of religious or traditional beliefs. Strikingly, it is oriented with south at the top, recalling the Arab tradition and more specifically al-Idrisi's famous 12th century world map, copies of which Fra Mauro may have known: Europe is shown at the bottom, and Africa and Asia dominate the image, with Arabia (not Jerusalem) at the centre and America as yet missing. Fra Mauro incorporated "the discoveries of Marco Polo and the Portuguese", also showing "many countries later known, which the learned monk doubtless shaped after ideas gathered from the oral narratives of occasional travellers" (Müller). Much of the map's novel information was lost to early modern cartographers when printed Ptolemy atlases proliferated in the final decades of the 15th century, replacing the manuscript mappamundi tradition.

Today the original Fra Mauro Map, drawn on vellum, is held by the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice and shown at the Museo Correr. An impressive manuscript facsimile, now in the British Library, was prepared in 1804 by the British antiquarian William Frazer; a large engraving was made in Paris in 1849, and in 1869 the Venetian bookseller Münster produced the first photographic reproduction. The present edition of the map was issued with Placido Zurla's book "Il Mappamondo di Fra Mauro Camaldolese" (1806), the first study of Fra Mauro's map ever published and indeed the only substantial early work on the map. (Later, Zurla would also include the engraving in his 1818 study "Di Marco Polo e degli altri viaggiatori veneziani più illustri dissertazioni"). Rarely encountered on the market, this is at the same time a very early example of world map facsimiles in general.

A repaired tear to the left edge, touching the engraved border, otherwise in perfect condition.


OCLC 163267775. For Zurla's book cf. Cicogna 3323. For the mappamundi cf. A. Müller, Venice. Her Art-Treasures and Historical Associations. A Guide to the City (Venice 1873), p. 113; R. Almagià, Monumenta cartographica vaticana, vol. 1 (Città del Vaticano, 1944); P. Falchetta, Storia del Mappamondo di Fra' Mauro (Rimini, 2016).

Stock Code: BN#52368 Tags: , ,