This is a complete set of Maria Coronelli's 1697 globe gore sections pertaining to Africa. They are printed from the plates engraved for Coronelli's 1688 3.5 foot terrestrial globe. These were the largest printed globes to date, and Coronelli himself considered them his greatest work in print. Their superb engraving and encyclopedic geographic detail, not to mention their great size, set them amongst the finest globes of the 17th century.
Challanging All Comers
Desiring to display his finest work to a broader audience, and to challenge competition, beginning in 1696 Coronelli published supplementary globe-gore sections in his Atlante Veneto
, variously titled Libro dei Globi
or Palestra Litteraria
containing his globe gores. Coronelli combined the gores from his terrestrial globe among conventional maps in these volumes, in a sensible reuse of expensive copperplates.
The six gores span from 50° north latitude to approximately 50° south. The northern three gores include the Iberian Peninsula, most of France, southeastern Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Near East as far as the Caspian Sea. These three encompass Africa as far south as the Equator. The southern trio embraces the tropical Atlantic Ocean south of the Sea of Guinea, sub-equatorial Africa, and the part of the Indian Ocean centered on Madagascar and covering the southeast coast of continental Africa. The gores thus embrace not only the continent of Africa, but also Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East. All are replete with Coronelli's characteristically informative text. The gores focusing on ocean areas show part of the track of Chaumont's embassy to Siam, but more arresting and engaging are the illustrations of indigenous watercraft (both African and American, pertaining to the neighboring gores) and the depictions of sea creatures both fantastic (a trio of sea putti
muscling an elephant's tusk through the waves) and realistic (flying fish, sargasso). The south Atlantic gore, in particular, is notable for its depictions of whaling:
not only in the seas of Spitsbergen and Greenland, but in these, and still others, there is fishing of whales and other monsters as well, in the manner shown.
A group of hunters can be seen stalking ostriches on foot, and in battle with lions. In addition to the lions, the map is abundantly decorated with camels, elephants, and less easily identifiable creatures: giant, snake-devouring geese, strangely-horned giraffe-like animals, and a hippopotamus. Giant birds carrying off lions probably refer to the mythical roc. There are also what appear to be the meanest-looking hedgehogs committed to print (probably based on African porcupines whose quills can grow to over a foot).
Correcting the Course of the Nile
Most maps of Africa produced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries showed the sources of the River Nile originating in two massive lakes - Zaire and Zaflan - well south of the Equator, and themselves fed by streams from the Mons Lunae
. This formulation was inherited by European geographers from the ancient geographical authority, Claudius Ptolemy. Hence, the most enduring geographical feature of the African continent was derived from 2nd century
geographical knowledge. By far the most dramatic geographical change on Coronelli's map is the near excision of the lakes (only the southern portion of Lake Zaire appears) and the eradication of the White Nile, instead depicting Lake Tana in Abyssinia as the source of the great river (which in the case of the Blue Nile, it is - sort of). Although this data was reported as early as 1618 by the Spanish Jesuit missionary Pedro Páez y Jaramillo, that information would not be presented cartographically for decades. Manuel de Almeida confirmed that information in his own travels, but he died before he could publish. His manuscript contained a map, a photographic copy of which survives in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, depicting Lake Tana as a horizontally oriented bean-shaped body of water in the curl of the Blue Nile. Almeida's work finally reached print in 1660, in abridged form as part of Baltazar Téllez's Historia Geral de Ethiopia
, which included a version of the map with a vertically oriented, heart-shaped Lake Tana as presented here. Both the Almeida manuscript and the Téllez disassociate the Nile from the Ptolemaic lakes and illustrate the Nile flowing from the southeast part of Lake Tana around Gojam, before heading north. This cartography would be reproduced faithfully in Jobi Ludolf's 1683 map of Abyssinia, of which Coronelli would include a copy in his 1690 Atlante Veneto
. Coronelli was certainly aware of Ludolf's work, possibly prior to its publication. Ludolf's model of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile appeared on Coronelli's monumental 1683 manuscript terrestrial globe, and the globemaker would retain that form in this 1688 engraving in preference over the model presented by Eschinardi in 1674, and Pierre DuVal in 1678.
A Superb Cartouche
Coronelli knew well the importance of the new mapping of the Nile, and so he emphasized it with a dramatic cartouche, the work of the Augsburg master-engraver Filipp Kilian. Coronelli's text appears on a grand tapestry, suspended on the right by a putto and on the left hanging from the pinnacle of a Great Pyramid. A geographer - identified as such by the globe he uses as a footstool - points out the names of the Tellez and Ludolf in the text, emphasizing the sources of the new information. A classical god pours the river out of his jar, dousing a crocodile and threatening to inundate the geographer's maps and books. The winged, classical avatar of Fame hovers atop, pointing out the new course of the Nile on the map, while playing one trumpet and brandishing another.
The text itself is of interest:
The flooding Nile River was called by the Abyssinians Abauri, that is, 'Father of Waters.' They sought his unknown source: King Sesostris, and Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt, Cambyses of Persia, Alexander the Great, and repeatedly without clarity, Nero. Ancient geographers and several modern ones believed him to be born from the Mountains of the Moon. The Portuguese then reported the glorious news, which I made for you to rule Abyssinia, according to the accredited relations of Fr. Baltazar Téllez, and of Ludolf.
Note that the searchers after the source of the Nile are not scholars, but rulers: Sesostris was a semi-legendary Pharaoh-king. Ptolemy Philadelphus was not the Alexandrian scholar of Geographia
fame, but one of the sons of Antony and Cleopatra. Cambyses, Alexander, and Nero were Emperors of Persia, Greece, and Rome, respectively. Coronelli here is addressing Louis XIV, and flattering him that of all these great rulers, only he has the knowledge of the true source of the Nile, by means of which he should naturally rule that place. Coronelli duly names his sources but does not leave himself free of credit.
Celestial and Terrestrial
Coronelli firmly established his reputation as a globe maker in 1683 when he created an astonishing pair of enormous manuscript globes for Louis XIV of France - each measuring 15 feet in diameter and the largest globes to date. The King declared these to be 'not the least of his ornaments' in Versailles. Basking in success - for which he was awarded a fifteen-year privilege - Coronelli was promptly issued a printed 3.5 foot terrestrial and celestial globe pair for sale to the public. In 1686, he contracted the French engraver Jean Baptiste Nolin to produce the celestial globe, and several geographical maps. Publication of his work through Paris expanded Coronelli's reach and provided the basis for much of his early cartographic output. The terrestrial globe was not executed in Paris but rather in Venice, where Coronelli was able to attract some of the era's finest artists. Augsburg engraver Filipp Kilian provided masterful work on the cartouches. Most of the engraving was assigned to Alessandro della Via, whose work on the Venice edition of the 1688 celestial globe Coronelli declared superior to that of the Nolin. Shirley enthused:
The engraving and design throughout is of the highest standard with neat contrasting lettering and five large cartouches of singular grace and elegance... Coronelli seems to have sought to omit nothing that might be of interest to geographers, navigators, and explorers. There are an unusual number of legends, all explanatory and informative, but which never crowd the space available. Many of the vignettes of ships and fishing scenes throughout the world are worthy of separate reproduction.
Complete sets of these gores are to be found in the British Library and the Library of Congress: they are of extraordinary rarity.
Seeking a Wider Audience
Even at the time of production, globes were prohibitively expensive to produce and purchase in comparison with printed books. To compare, the 3.5-foot globe pair with stands cost 1,240 Venetian Lire in 1697. The first volume of Coronelli's Atlante Veneto
was, by contrast, just 55.16 Lire. Therefore, to reach a broader audience with his globes, and to get better return for the expense of producing the copperplates for the gores, Coronelli produced his Libro dei Globi
which - though still tipping the scales at 310 Lire - would bring the magnificent engraving and detail of his work to those unable to afford a globe. It included the gores of all Coronelli's globes - though a buyer hoping to construct the largest of these globes with the gores therein would have been sorely disappointed. The format of the book would not allow for the printing of the full-length gores, which were therefore printed with portions masked off. Since this process did not change the plates, but merely obscured the parts which were not to be printed, it meant that different parts of the same gore could be chosen for different printings. This becomes significant when addressing the specific source of one or another of these bound gores, because many of the gores printed in the Libro dei Globi
were focused differently than the same gores printed in the 1697 Isolario
. Indeed, it is extremely likely that different copies of the Libro dei Globi
itself contained different maskings of the same gores. Studies of the book - of which there are but a dozen copies identified - show them to be made-to-order volumes with great variation in the inclusion of supplemental materials. No two are identical, and none of the books were intended to be full replacements for a globe. Scianna points out:
If Coronelli really wanted to collect all the prints he used for the gores of his globes in a single book, he would have to realize a volume of 180-184 plates, whereas no copy has that many. The most extensive copy is the one kept in Yale that has 167 plates; therefore even in this copy several plates are omitted.
Isolario and Libro de Globi
As alluded to above, Coronelli's Isolario, descrizione geografico-historia
would see the mapmaker again employing the terrestrial globe gores - not as a representation of a complete globe, but as illustrative maps accompanied by conventional maps, views, and diagrams. The plates for the globe were approximately six inches too long to fit the format in which his books would be printed, so for the books Coronelli had the plates masked off at one end or the other to restrict the printed image to the half-folio sheets, and occasionally even smaller portions for insertion to the text. For most of the gores, Coronelli chose to mask the portions closest to the poles and to have the sheets centered on the tropics, as is the case with all six of these gores. The publication of the Libro dei Globi
appears to began before and ended after the publication of Isolario
'Literary Wrestling Match'
A number of these - which seem to date as late as 1705 - bear the title Palestra Litteraria
. This translates roughly to 'Literary Gymnasium', but Dr. Helen Wattis rendered it as 'Literary Wrestling Match' to capture the spirit in which the book was produced. Coronelli presented the work as a direct challenge to any cartographer, geographer, or astronomer to 'criticize or to compare with any other globe, the globes of Coronelli.'
Publication History and Census
The engraving seen in these gores was executed in 1688, to be assembled into Coronelli's 3.5-foot terrestrial globe. The present examples were not intended to be constructed into a globe but were masked for inclusion in one of Coronelli's bound volumes. These six sheets correspond to those we have seen in editions of Coronelli's 1696 two-volume Atlante Veneto
. It should be noted that all six did not appear together in that work: sheets one, three, four, five and six all appeared in Tome I of the work, in the section pertaining to Africa. Sheet two, focused on central northern Africa but including Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean Islands was bound in Tome II, accompanying other material regarding Italy in general and Venice in particular. Thus, it is not surprising to find variations in tone and sheet size with sheet two, as is evident here. We see one example of this set cataloged in OCLC, joined, at Stanford University Library. Scianna has identified only thirteen copies of the full volume in institutional and private collections.
Very good. Six sheets, unjoined. Sheets 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 in excellent to fine condition. Sheet 2 exhibiting toning, some areas of hinge tape staining outside printed area, and trimming in the lower right corner with some loss. Size given is for individual gores.
OCLC 1016053856. Norwich, O., Norwich's Maps of Africa, 52. Afriterra 556, 557, 1058.