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Details 1574 Ruscelli Double-Hemisphere Map of the World
1561 (undated) $2,250.00

1561 / 1598 Ruscelli / Rosaccio Double-Hemisphere Map of the World

Orbis Descriptio. - Main View

1561 / 1598 Ruscelli / Rosaccio Double-Hemisphere Map of the World


One of the Earliest Double-Hemisphere World Maps, Updated.



Orbis Descriptio.
  1598 (undated)     6.25 x 10 in (15.875 x 25.4 cm)     1 : 160000000


This is a 1598, second-state issue of Girolamo Ruscelli's 1561 map of the world. In its first, 1561 state it was the earliest acquirable double-hemisphere world map, but even this later issue remains one of the earliest acquirable maps to use this format. Like most maps in Ruscelli’s Ptolemy, the geographic details were based on Giacomo Gastaldi's (1500 - 1566) 1548 Ptolemy. Here, the double-hemispherical projection transforms this map into a fully new composition. Amongst printed maps, it is predated only by the unacquirable 1555 Georgio Sideri 'Calapoda' (fl. 1537–1565) map. The 1598 edition of Ruscelli's Ptolemy was edited by Giuseppe Rosaccio, who updated many of the maps in order to make them more competitive; most often, this involved the addition of purely decorative elements. In the case of the present map, significant geographical changes have taken place, most notably the addition of a massive southern continent not present on the 1561 issue.
The Map
The map is oriented to the north, with the three parts of the old world in the right hemisphere and the fourth part of the world - the Americas - dominating the left hemisphere. Some geographical elements appear to be derived from Gastaldi's 1546 and 1548 world maps, but unlike Ruscelli's Carta Marina Nuova Tavola (which was a faithful copy of Gastaldi's 1548 Carta Marina Nova Tabula), this map diverges from any prior source. As with Gastaldi's maps through 1561, Ruscelli's map shows a clear connection between the continents of Asia and North America. But Gastaldi's map lacks the distinctive river system extending from the Gulf of California into the middle of the continent, and includes none the pattern of imaginary mountain ranges in North America that appear on Ruscelli's map.
New Shores
Ruscelli's 1561 issue of the map implied strongly the connection of North America and Asia, using broken lines to indicate unexplored or speculative territory - this was also the case with the southwest coast of South America. These coasts still bear the notations 'Littus incognitum' and 'Littus ignotum', but the American Pacific Northwest not only no longer is marked in dotted line; there is a definite upturn in the coastline to suggest that it did not continue around to connect with Asia. The southern coasts of Tierra del Fuego and Java are no longer left incomplete: Java is shown as a definite island, whilst Tierra del Fuego is shown to be part of a massive southern continent, after the fashion of Mercator and Ortelius. The northern promontory of this Magellanica in the vicinity of Java - roughly in the location of Northern Australia - bears the place name 'Lucach,' also influenced by the same mapmakers.
An Island Northeast
Ruscelli may have derived his remarkable insular Northeast from the conflation of the Hudson River with the Saint Lawrence appearing on the Gastaldi-Ramusio map, but these features do not appear on any of Gastaldi's printed world maps. The bay separating the American Northeast from 'Terra Florida' may have been influenced by idea of the Sea of Verrazano, which appears prominently on Gastaldi's Carta Marina but not his other 1548 world map. This feature remains unchanged on this 1598 edition.
South America
The overall shape of South America, including the shape of the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, is similar to the c. 1561 Gastaldi but is very different from his earlier works, and very distinctive in its broad and angular shape.
The North Part of the World
Ruscelli's depiction of the Arctic is very distinctive: North America extends over the pole, and bears the place name 'Hyperborei' - a classical geographical term originally applied to northern Eurasia, and later to northern Asia. Its presence here emphasizes Ruscelli's connection of the continents of Asia and North America. A 'Mare Glaciale' covers the rest of the north. This feature appears unique to the Ruscelli; none of Gastaldi's maps nor any other contemporary works show the north in this way.
The delineation of Africa, including the scattering of islands north of Madagascar, appears to be roughly consistent with Gastaldi's geography, preserving the Ptolemaic sourcing of the Nile, and showing a large Senegal River with many tributaries. Madagascar itself is accurately shaped, though without interior detail. It is named only with initials - S.L., indicating 'San Lorenzo,' an early term for the island.
Southeast Asia
South Asia is mostly recognizable. The Indian peninsula, though narrow, resembles modern (as opposed to Ptolemaic) geography. Sri Lanka is marked with a Z, indicating that it is being identified as Zeylon (Ceylon), as opposed to Taprobana, which we see contracted into 'Tapr.' and applied to Sumatra. Borneo also appears and is initialed 'Bor.' The island of Java is shown with an indeterminate coast, and the island north of Borneo (roughly corresponding to the Philippines) shows a similarly tentative northern shore. Interestingly, the map lacks Japan - unless the archipelago with the initials 'IA' is intended to represent it. This would conform with Gastaldi's earlier small maps of the world, which also lack Japan. New Guinea, which names an archipelago on the 1561, is here shown as an island after the fashion of Ortelius.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved for the 1561 first Ruscelli edition of Claudius Ptolemy's La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo. In 1598, this work was edited and republished by Giuseppe Rosaccio. A further edition with minor typographical differences appeared in the 1599 edition. While only one separate example is listed in OCLC (in the National Library of Australia) the map does appear on the market from time to time and the volume is reasonably well represented in institutional collections.


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