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An Early Atlas of Islands Engraved with Delicate Beauty

Atlas/ Islands/ Caribbean. PORCACCHI, Thomaso [Venice, 1590]
L'isole piu famose del Mondo. Small folio [20.25 x 29.5]
(6) (of 12) ff., including engraved title, 201, (1) pp., including 47 copper plate engraved maps in text. Note: bound contemporaneously without 2nd half of index (b signature). Complete with all maps. Bound in contemporary flexible vellum, borders of covers gilt-ruled with arabesque in center, spine gilt with double bands. Head of spine chipped, and some soling to covers. Engraved ex libris of Thomas Heath, Merchant of Exeter and another of the Western Reserve Historical Society, stamped withdrawn. Some soiling in outer margin of title and scattered leaves, faint waterstain in margin of others; notwithstanding a fresh example with the maps with excellent impressions.


Enlarged edition of one of the most beautiful Italian island books of the sixteenth century, in a fine period binding. Porcacchi’s was the first isolario (atlas of islands) with maps engraved on copper. This edition is much expanded from the first of 1572, containing 17 more maps, including two relating to America—of Jamaica and of Puerto Rico, here called “Isola di S. Giovanni,” referring to the latter island’s original name, San Juan. Also included are maps of Hispaniola and Cuba.
The atlas contains the second earliest printed map of North America (‘Mondo Nuovo’). It is in fact a reduction of the 1565 Forlani map, which was the first; Porcacchi’s edition retains nearly all of the nomenclature of the original. Altogether, pages 154 to 184 relate to America. The volume closes with ‘Descrizione del Mappamondo’ and ‘Discorso intorno alla carta da navigare,’ pages 193 to 201, illustrated with two splendid Lafrerian-style maps of the world engraved by the Paduan Girolamo Porro. Porro, well known as a book illustrator, later engraved maps for the first small-format Mercator atlas and for an edition of Ptolemy (both appearing in 1596). According to Shirley, the oval-shaped world map “is a finely-executed reduction of Camocio’s large world map of 1567, one of the last in the long line of derivatives from Gastaldi's prototype of 1546.” There are also finely engraved maps of Cyprus, Malta, and numerous Mediterranean and Aegean islands.

Phillips 3327; Adams P-1906; Sabin 64105; world maps: Shirley 127 & 128; see The World Encompassed 86; North America map: Burden 42.

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