1574 Ruscelli Map of Brazil

Brasil Nuova Tavola. - Main View

1574 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 bold, sharp strike of Girolamo Ruscelli's 1561 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.
A Closer Look
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 bears 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 illustrated, 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 sensational portrayal of cannibalism, a notion which Vespucci's letters entrenched. Brazil's abundant forests are depicted pictorially, but in the middle 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 were soon abandoned. 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. By the end of the 16th century, 'Tramontana' was replaced by 'Septentrionale'.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved by Giulio Sanuto for inclusion in the 1561 first edition of Ruscelli's La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo. The maps of this edition were engraved two-to-a-plate, and 1561 editions exhibit a platemark running off the edge of the sheet at top. Later editions saw the plates cut, consequently showing the platemark all the way around the map, as here. This example conforms typographically to the 1574 edition of Ruscelli's book. We see five examples of this separate map cataloged in OCLC.


Girolamo Ruscelli (1500 - 1566) was an Italian polymath, humanist, editor, and cartographer active in Venice during the early 16th century. Born in Viterbo, Ruscelli lived in Aquileia, Padua, Rome and Naples before relocating to Venice, where he spent much of his life. Cartographically, Ruscelli is best known for his important revision of Ptolemy's Geographia, which was published posthumously in 1574. Ruscelli, basing his work on Gastaldi's 1548 expansion of Ptolemy, added some 37 new "Ptolemaic" maps to his Italian translation of the Geographia. Ruscelli is also listed as the editor to such important works as Boccaccio's Decameron, Petrarch's verse, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, and various other works. In addition to his well-known cartographic work many scholars associate Ruscelli with Alexius Pedemontanus, author of the popular De' Secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese. This well-known work, or "Book of Secrets" was a compilation of scientific and quasi-scientific medical recipes, household advice, and technical commentary on a range of topics that included metallurgy, alchemy, dyeing, perfume making. Ruscelli, as Alexius, founded a "Academy of Secrets," a group of noblemen and humanists dedicated to unearthing "forbidden" scientific knowledge. This was the first known experimental scientific society and was later imitated by a number of other groups throughout Europe, including the Accademia dei Secreti of Naples. More by this mapmaker...

Giocomo Gastaldi (c. 1500 - October, 1566) was an Italian astronomer, cartographer, and engineer active in the second half of the 16th century. Gastaldi (sometimes referred to as Jacopo or Iacobo) began his career as an engineer, serving the Venetian Republic in that capacity until the fourth decade of the sixteenth century. During this time he traveled extensively, building a large library relating to voyages and exploration. From about 1544 he turned his attention to mapmaking, working extensively with Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Nicolo Bascarini, and Giovanbattista Pedrezano, as well ask taking private commission for, among others, Venice's Council of Ten. He is credited with the fresco maps of Asia and Africa still extent in the map room of the Doge's Palace. Gastaldi was also one of the first cartographers to embrace copper plate over woodblock engraving, marking and important development in the history of cartography. His 1548 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia was the first to be printed in a vernacular; it was the first to be printed in copperplate. As with his Swiss/German contemporary Münster, Gastaldi;'s work contained many maps depicting newly discovered regions for the first time, including the first map to focus on the East Coast of North America, and the first modern map of the Indian Peninsula. His works provided the source for the vast majority of the Venetian and Roman map publishers of the 1560s and 70s, and would continue to provide an outsize influence on the early maps of Ortelius, De Jode, and Mercator. Learn More...

Giulio Sanuto (fl. 1540 – 1580) was a Venetian engraver. He was born the illegitimate son of Cavaliere Francesco di Angelo Sanuto; With his brother, the cartographer and scientific instrument maker Livio Sanuto (1520 – 1576) he produced an array of some of the most important geographical works produced in Venice during the second half of the sixteenth century. These included a 27-inch globe and the 1588 12-sheet atlas, Geografia della Africa. Giulio's career is singluar among Venice's engraves in that it appears to have been equally based on artistic, figurative work as well as his cartographic works. Giulio is more broadly known for a small but sought-after selection of decorative engravings; no more than twelve of these can be attributed confidently to him, including the monumental Apollo and Marsyas, measuring over 1.30 meters wide. Whilst Sanuto's engravings were generally based upon the designs of other artists, his work was both ambitious and grand, and he often signed these works. Learn More...


Ruscelli, G., La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo, (Venice) 1574.    


Excellent. Some marginal soiling, else a fine example with a bold impression.


OCLC 500422366.