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The Rare First State
Of a Very Early Americas Map
Western Hemisphere/ Southwest. .
RAMUSIO, G. B./ GASTALDI, G. [Venice, 1556]
Universale Della Parte Del Mondo . . .
11 ½ x 11 ¾ inches.
Mended centerfold splits, lightly toned along fold, overall very good condition.
The rare first state of an important and in some ways groundbreaking map. The woodblock for this map was destroyed shortly after its publication in a fire in November of 1557, hence its rarity. The map was compiled by the great Venetian cartographer, Giacomo Gastaldi, and appeared in a three-volume collection of voyage and travel accounts that was by far the most extensive, early compilation of this kind relating to the New World.
In its overall delineation of North America, the map is a great improvement over Munster’s 1540 Americas map in its general depiction of both North and South America. Yet “La Florida” is the only place name in what is now the United States, aside from the mythical cities of the Southwest. There are several tantalizing inlets along the eastern seaboard of the United States, which have given rise to much speculation as to their identity.
When he prepared this map, Gastaldi clearly had the benefit of the travel accounts included in Ramusio’s compendium. For example, this work was one of the first to contain a printed account of Coronado’s explorations in the Southwest, hence “this is the first printed American map to include any of the names from the travels of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado of 1540-42” (Burden). It was also the first map to show the Sierra Nevada mountain range and “Quivira,” one of the fabled cities that spurred the expeditions of Coronado and others. The map has a surprisingly good depiction of lower California and the Gulf of California. It visually hedges the question of whether America and Asia are connected.
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