Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
P.O. Box 863,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP6 9HD,
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The first printed large-scale map of South America and the only Lafreri school map of the region. We know little about the engraver Paolo Forlani. David Woodward expended considerable effort to catalogue his works. Forlani, or Furlani, came from Verona and died it is assumed in Venice in the mid-1570s, quite possible in one of the outbreaks of the plague which claimed thirty percent of the population. Caraci claimed his career began in 1558 without providing supporting evidence. The earliest dated map he signed is 1560, one of the world for Giovanni Camocio. Along with Giacomo Gastaldi he worked in Venice and produced some of the most attractive maps of the period.

This work is one of the most important in his opus. It extends from Tierra del Fuego in the south to Florida and the Caribbean in the north taking in the whole of South America. The Italian title translates as the ‘Description of all of Peru’. In 1542, the Vice-royalty of Peru was created, establishing control over much of Spanish-ruled South America – i.e. all but Portuguese-controlled Brazil. In 1531, after crossing into the Pacific Ocean, the Spanish reached Peru and the Inca Empire, which extended over a huge area. The following year, Francisco Pizarro arrived. The Empire had already been weakened by the arrival of smallpox, introduced in Panama. By 1534, the Incan city of Cuzco had been named as the new Spanish capital. In 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was created. Potosi was originally a small Incan outpost and in 1545 it was made a mining town to support the removal of vast amounts of silver from its mountain, becoming legendary. At an altitude of 4,000 metres, it would become the fourth largest city in the Christian world (pop. 200,000) within a short period of time. The economic effects of the silver supply were felt around the world.

Chile was first visited by Ferdinand Magellan when passing through the Straits bearing his name in 1520. However, it is usually Diego de Almagro who is credited with first visiting the region in 1537. He found nothing to compare to the riches of the north and returned. It was Pedro de Valdivia who, with Pizarro’s permission, invaded the country and recognised its agricultural potential. In 1541, he founded Santiago de Chile.

In outline the map bears similarities to Gastaldi magnificent nine-sheet woodcut world map c.1561, surviving in the one known example at the British Library (Maps C.18.n.1). It is, however, dissimilar to the Diego Gutierrez published in 1562. David Woodward who studied Forlani at length, suggested an estimated date of publication of 1562. This was based on his study of the watermarks of several examples. This example is a tree in a circle under a star. For comparison this watermark is only found in the first state of the companion map of North America. One of the more immediate features noted is the lack of any allegorical embellishments with no monsters or cannibals present. Considering the size of the continent and the extent to which it had not been explored at the time, great effort was made to accurately portray the interior.

Arguably the most dominant feature in South America is the exaggerated mouth of the Rio Plata. As might be expected the proportions internally are not so accurate. To its west is ‘Lago Titicacha’ with a nearby Potosi, the famous silver mine, depicted to the south east. Lake Titicaca discovered by Aleixo Garcia in 1525 and Potosi was mined from 1545. Potosi is in fact far to the north of the lake, as is Cusco which is placed too close to the northern shore. Although not depicted Tierra del Fuego is clearly indicated as being part of the southern continent. It was not until 1616 when a Willem Schouten rounded Cape Horn for the first time. The original name ‘Maragon’ for the Amazon is provided as is that we now know it by. It was given the name Amazon by Francesco de Orellana who in 1542 was the first European to descend the river from the west coast. Settlements on the coast of Brasil include Pernambuco, one of the more important Hereditary Captaincies created by King John III of Portugal and granted to Duarte Coelho in 1535. Notable also is a prominently named ‘Benezuela Reg:’ The equator is marked with a longitude scale drawn west from a Prime Meridian at the westernmost point of the Canary Islands. The so-called Ferro Meridian had been used since the time of Ptolemy. It was at the time the furthest point west in the known world.

At the tip of Florida are the ‘Martires’, or Florida Keys and ‘Taiga’ representing the Tortugas. Many of the names in the Bahamas are also familiar. Along the Atlantic coast of North America is ‘C. Cagnaveral’ which makes one of its first appearances. The earliest I could trace on a printed map is on the only known copy of Giacomo Gastaldi’s magnificent nine sheet woodcut world map surviving in the British Library and dated to c.1561 (Shirley 107). The following year it appears on both the Diego Gutierrez six sheet map of the American continent and on this Forlani map. Further north is ‘C. d’ S. Ellena’, the site of the circa 1520 attempted settlement of the Carolina coast by Lucas Vaìsquez Aylloìn on the island which still bears the same name. Off in the Atlantic is an early depiction of ‘La Bermuda’. The key town of ‘Nombre de Dios’ in central America, founded in 1510, became the port through which Peruvian silver flowed to Europe. Many recognisable places are found in the West Indies.

This is a landmark map of South America and the only ‘Lafreri’ school map or the region. It has been noted that there are two different states. A ‘state’ marks a definitive change to the plate, usually by hand. In this plate it is the wear to the upper left corner which alters its appearance. In early issues ‘R de Nieve’ is clearly legible as here. Later printed examples are worn to the extent that the placename has all but disappeared. The map bears a beautifully engraved ornate compass rose in the Pacific and is dedicated to ‘Gio. Pietro Contarini’, a member of the Council of Venice and one of the major Venetian families of the day.

Bifolco & Ronca (2018) vol. 1 p. 358; Buisseret (2007) ‘Spanish Colonial Cartography, 1450-1700’, in ‘The History of Cartography’, vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 1143-71; Burden (1996) no. 33 (North America); Meurer (2004) ‘Strabo ‘Illustratus Atlas” no. 190; Shirley (1993) World no. 107; Tooley (1939) no. 93; True (1967); Woodward (1990) ‘Maps and Prints of Paolo Forlani’ no. 11; Woodward (1992) ‘Paolo Forlani, Compiler, Engraver, Printer or Publisher’, in ‘Imago Mundi’ 44, pp. 45-64; Woodward (1994) ‘The Forlani Map of North America’, in ‘Imago Mundi’ 46, pp. 29-40.


La Descrittione Di Tutto Il Peru

Venice, c.1562
580 x 370 mm., in good condition.
Stock number: 8754
$ 89,500
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