By: Girolamo Ruscelli
Date: 1574 (published) Venice
Dimensions: 7.25 x 10.25 inches (18.42 x 26.04 cm) plate size
This truly fascinating Ruscelli map in trapezoidal form is from his work La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo Alessandrino. Ruscelli based much of his work on that of Claudius Ptolemy, and on the atlas maps of Giacomo Gastaldi. This Ptolemaic map focuses on a historical region steeped in legend, one of great importance in the early development of trade between Asia and Europe, the Silk Road region, between the Hyperborei and Caucus Mountains. It includes a portion of the Caspian Sea.
Those regions of eastern Europe which border the Black Sea are depicted, and named according to ancient kingdoms and peoples. The Black Sea has an interesting shape. Constantinople is not named, but the Bosphorus is. A number of references to the Scythians are noted, including the term ‘Hippophagi’, meaning eaters of horseflesh. While the Scythians were nomadic and depended entirely on the horse for transportation, they also used them as a source of food.
A number of other ancient civilizations are also referred to including the Sarmatians, the kingdom of Mithridatis, and the Amazons are named, but in the wrong region or Anatolia. Colchis is shown to the south of a very misshapen Anatolia. Numerous mountain ranges and river systems are shown in detail. Ruscelli was obviously familiar with reports of early explorers in the region, for he depicts and names many intriguing ancient monuments, including the famed ‘Columns of Alexander’. Most of these monuments are no longer extant, but their existence was vouchsafed by ancient historians. Descriptive Italian text on the verso describes the territory and provides some historical information.
Girolamo Ruscelli (1500-1566) was an Italian cartographer, polymath, humanist and editor, active in Venice during the early 16th century. Ruscelli is best known for his important revision of Ptolemy's Geographia, published posthumously in 1574.
Claudius Ptolemy (85-165 CE), a Roman citizen of Greek descent from Alexandria, was the most influential of Greek astronomers and geographers of his time. He propounded the geocentric theory of the solar system which was to prevail for the next 1400 years.
Giacomo Gastaldi (c.1500-1566) was an Italian astronomer, cartographer and engineer from Villafranca in Piedmont. Many of Ruscelli’s maps are essentially enlarged versions of some of Gastaldi’s maps.
Condition: Slight loss of text outside the image of the map in the labeling of the parallels, otherwise a fine, dark impression in A- condition. Seas are stippled.
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