1561 Ruscelli Map of Cuba, Jamaica, the Caymans and Haiti

Isola Cuba Nova - Main View

1561 Ruscelli Map of Cuba, Jamaica, the Caymans and Haiti


One of the First Acquirable Maps Specifically of Cuba.


Isola Cuba Nova
  1561 (undated)     7.5 x 9.75 in (19.05 x 24.765 cm)     1 : 6000000


This is the first state of Girolamo Ruscelli's 1561 map of Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and the western part of Hispaniola. It is among the earliest detailed maps of these islands, and is the fourth printed map specifically of Cuba.
A Closer Look
Although it is preceded by and based upon the very rare 1548 Gastaldi map of the same title, it is a superior engraving: larger, with sharper engraving and lettering. Also, Ruscelli's decision to use stippling in the ocean rather than the waves characterizing the Gastaldi resulted in a vastly more legible map.
The Content
Ruscelli's map, in terms of the islands shown and place names used, is faithful to its 1548 source - although the spelling is improved upon the original (Gastaldi’s Iamayea is corrected to Iamayca, for example.) Cuba is shown with an array of named capes and points, including the southern archipelagos of the Jardines de la Reyna and the Jardines of St. Christopher (spelled using the fascinating contraction 'Xpoval' for 'Christobal'). Havana is not named: it would not appear on a map until 1579. Settlements are shown instead at San Cristobal, Trinidad, Salinas, and an unnamed site in the vicinity of Angostura. The absence of settlements on the north coast may reflect the early Spanish efforts to settle the island, which were largely launched from Hispaniola, rather than from the north.

The Cayman Islands appear - not named 'Las Tortugas' as Columbus dubbed them, but Ys(las) de Lagartos (Lizard Islands).
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved for the 1561 first Ruscelli edition of Claudius Ptolemy'sLa Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo. The maps of this work were engraved two-to-a-plate, and consequently the platemark runs off the edge of the sheet at top, and this characterizes the maps of the Latin-text editions of 1562 and 1564 as well. For the 1574 edition the plates were cut, and maps of this edition and later exhibit a platemark all the way around. The present example corresponds to the Latin 1562 edition, both in terms of the first state of the map and the typography of the verso. In various editions there are six separate examples of this map listed in OCLC. Ruscelli's Ptolemy is well represented in institutional collections.


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