Franciscan friar Vincenzo Coronelli - cartographer, geographer, printer, inventor, author of books and treatises, was one of western Europe's foremost globe makers in the 17th century.
Born the fifth child in the family of a Venetian tailor, Vincenzo was sent at the early age of ten to Ravenna, the former capital of the Western Roman and Ostrogoth Empires, and an important city in the Byzantine era, to learn a trade. Despite having been born surrounded by the beauty of Venice and no doubt influenced by it, the gifted, brilliant young Vincenzo would also have been strongly influenced by Ravenna’s unique art and architecture, by the remnants and vestiges of the cosmopolitan milieu of the ancient, uniquely beautiful port city.
In Ravenna he was apprenticed to a xylographer to learn the art of woodcut engraving, training which would enhance his natural talent and which undoubtedly impacted the quality of his maps and globes throughout his life. While in Ravenna he became actively involved with a local Franciscan order and by the age of thirteen had been accepted as a novice by the order. In about 1665 he returned to Venice where he quickly became a student at a well-regarded Franciscan convent, and by the age of 16 he had authored his first book, one of more than one hundred forty publications he would write in his lifetime, one hundred or more of which were dedicated to celestial and terrestrial cosmography in Italian, Latin and French.
The Franciscans quickly recognized his talents and his intellectual prowess. On finishing studies in Venice, they facilitated the furthering of his education in Rome at the college of Saint Bonaventura, where he earned his doctorate in theology at the age of 24. In addition to the curriculum for theology, while there he also devoted much time to the study of astronomy and the treatises of Euclid.
In 1678 Coronelli received an important commission to make a major pair of globes. His successful production of these globes, commissioned by the Duke of Parma, brought him to the attention of renowned French diplomat and cardinal, César d'Estrées, who almost immediately invited him to Paris to make globes for Louis XIV – huge globes. Each was to have a diameter of fifteen feet, and they were to be constructed with trapdoors at the bottom so as to allow them to be worked on from the inside. These globes are on display at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
His work was so successful that he was made royal cartographer to Louis XIV in 1681, leading to his staying in Paris for an additional two years. During this time he began to work with publisher Jean Baptiste Nolin, who became publisher for all Coronelli’s work done in French.
On his return to Venice, Coronelli was named cosmographer to the Republic of Venice, and founded Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti, western Europe’s first known geographical society, now one of the oldest in the world. In his life time the Accademia had more than 200 active members. Organized under the protection of the Doge, the Accademia was located in the monastery in Venice in which Coronelli lived for most of his adult life. He also organized a workshop in Venice for the production of his maps, globes and various publications, in which he is thought to have employed at least ten engravers and craftsmen. His maps are known for their beauty and high quality and their attention to detail. The accuracy of many of his maps was unsurpassed for as long as a century following his first publication of them.
Coronelli Celestial Globe