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Details 1574 Ruscelli Map of Brazil

1561 Ruscelli Map of Brazil

Brasil Nuova Tavola. - Main View

1561 Ruscelli Map of Brazil


First Specific Copperplate Map of Brazil.



Brasil Nuova Tavola.
  1561 (undated)     7 x 10 in (17.78 x 25.4 cm)     1 : 17000000


This is a 1561 first plate issue of Girolamo Ruscelli's map of Brazil. It is among the first, detailed specific maps of any part of South America. While most of the maps in Ruscelli’s edition of Ptolemy were based on those appearing in Gastaldi's 1548 Ptolemy, this map was a new composition. It is predated only by the Ramusio woodcut map of 1556, whose geography is also credited to Gastaldi, and from which much of the detail of the Ruscelli is derived.
The Map
The map shares the Ramusio's westward orientation. Its coastal place names are also a close match to the Ramusio, and are indicative of the early period of Portuguese exploration and colonization prior to the establishment of the Captaincies by which Portugal would eventually administer the region. The coastline shows place names starting from the Rio de la Plata in the south, and the R. Sallec in the north, possibly the Orinoco. The Amazon river is shown, here using the name 'Marannon,' with its source in the 'Mullobamba' province marked with an exploding volcano. A key divergence between this map and the Ramusio is that while Ramusio chooses to illustrate natives harvesting brazil wood (the primary cash crop prior to the Portuguese establishment of sugarcane plantations) Ruscelli instead falls back on the sensationalistic portrayal of cannibalism, a notion which Vespucci’s letters entrenched. Brazil's abundant forests are depicted pictorially, but in the middle of the map the Italian text appears: 'Gli indi natij di questi paesi mangiano carne humana' (the Indians of these lands eat human flesh).
The Transition From Italian to Global Geography
The cardinal directions are marked on the map, not on a compass rose, but at the four quarters of the map. The names used here for the directions - Tramontana, Ostro, Ponente and Levante - were typical for 16th century Italian cartographers, but would be abandoned in short order. These names were taken from the names of predominating winds in the Mediterranean: Tramontana, for example, referred specifically to the winds that came down across the Alps. While these had once been useful and communicative terms, their use far from Italian waters became increasingly nonsensical. 'Tramontana' would by the end of the 16th century be replaced by 'Septentrionale'.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved for the 1561 first edition of Ruscelli'sLa Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo. The maps of this edition were engraved two-to-a-plate, and consequently the platemark runs off the edge of the sheet at top. Later editions were engraved to a new plate. We see five examples of this separate map catalogued in OCLC.


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