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Number: 2563
Continent: Africa
Region: West
Place Names:
Year of Origin: 1468
Title: [untitled portolan atlas]
Language: Italian
Publish Origin: Venice
Size Class.:
Color Type: Full Color
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Cartographer: Grazioso Benincasa
Other Contributors:
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Notes: [NOT IN AFRITERRA COLLECTION]; BENINCASA, Grazioso (c.1400-1482); This vellum portolan atlas contains the oldest extant map of the West Africa coast; sold at Christies November 19, 2014] PORTOLAN ATLAS, signed and dated by Benincasa. ILLUSTRATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, Venice, 1468. 390 x 250mm (binding). 7 double-page charts each approx. 385 x 495 overall, coastlines in brown, red or green, islands mostly in red, green, blue or gold leaf, rhumb lines in brown, red or green, all charts framed with a quadruple ruled fllet at top and bottom and a single fllet at sides, diagonal scale cornerpieces, placenames written in brown or red ink, the charts joined by each bifolium being folded in two and the blank sides pasted to intervening pasteboard supports, the outer sides of first and last leaves pasted to the wooden covers (small losses or tears at edges, some worming, darkening in gutters, faking to gold leaf). CONTEMPORARY VENETIAN BACKLESS binding of panelled brown goatskin over inner bevelled wooden boards, elaborately tooled in blind with knot, ropework and tiny star stamps and punches, some punches with remains of yellow pigment, one metal boss survives on each cover, two trefoil catches on lower cover and star-shaped studs from clasps on upper cover (corners defective, small splits at edges, some surface losses and worming, lacking six bosses, two straps and clasps); green morocco-backed solander box. PROVENANCE: (1) Signed on Chart 5: Gratiosus Benincasa Anchonitani & composuit Venecijs anno domi MccccLxviii: this is the renowned navigator and cartographer GRAZIOSO BENINCASA, one of the most outstanding cartographers of the 15th century and an older contemporary of Christopher Columbus. There is no indication of its original or early ownership, but the elaborate binding suggests that it was a prestigious commission intended for a wealthy owner to consult in the comfort of his home rather than for a working sea captain to use on the high seas. (2) By the 19th century the portolan was in the library of the Princes of Trabia, of Palermo, Sicily, and it is recorded there from 1832. The Lanza di Trabia family, originally from northern Italy, was established in Sicily from the 13th century. Theirs, presumably, is the shelfmark label on the upper cover. The portolan was exhibited in Genoa, III Congresso geografco internazionale, 1898, no. 368. (3) OTTO SCH?ER, of Schweinfurt, Germany [date of acquisition unknown]; sold to (4) H.P. Kraus, New York bookseller, sold in 1978 to (5) The British Rail Pension Fund; sold in May 1989 to the current owner. And sold by Christies Nov. 19, 2014 to an unidentified owner; *******This vellum portolan atlas of 7 maps including Ireland and contains the oldest extant map of the West Africa coast; The charts form a continuous series running from south to north: Chart 1: GUINEA-BISSEAU, GUINEA and SIERRA LEONE, the map includes the Bissagos Islands and the River Jeba, the farthest point reached by Cadamosto, and depicts the discoveries of De Sintra from the Isole de Idoli (De Los) off the Guinea coast to Capo de Sancta Anna and Isola de Bancho, one of the Turtle Islands off the coast of Sierra Leone.Chart 2: WEST AFRICAN COAST, from Cabo Branco to Cape Roxo; the oldest existing chart to depict the Cape Verde Islands, the four easternmost islands of which are depicted with remarkable accuracy in their size, shape and relative position, and are highly coloured in blue, red, green and gold. Chart 3: From the CANARY ISLANDS TO MAURITANIA. The Canaries are highly coloured with Lanzarote depicted heraldically as a red cross on a silver ground, Furteventura in green, Gran Canaria in brown and Tenerife in red; the southernmost point is Cabo Branco. Chart 4: PORTUGAL and NORTH-WESTERN AFRICA, from just north of Lisbon, past the Straits of Gibraltar and down the west African coast to Agadir in Morocco. With the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 cutting off the lucrative overland trade route to the Indies, the Spice Road, the race was on to fnd a sea route, frst around the Horn of Africa and ultimately westwards towards the Americas. The Portuguese, the superior maritime power, led the race and conducted and recorded their navigations in utmost secrecy to protect their trade monopoly in Africa and beyond. This Benicasa portolan atlas is a rare record of current and accurate cartographic knowledge; much of the Portuguese documentation was destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It survives in its original and unrestored backless binding (listed in T. de Marinis, La Legatura Artisitica III (1960), no.3067). Very few portolan atlases have survived in their original bindings - even fewer, if any, are as intact and remain unrestored as the present volume. Furthermore it contains the oldest extant chart to depict the west coast of africa with the cape verde islands and the islands off the guinea coast and the coast of sierra leone. The atlas is also highly important and intriguing for having an entire chart devoted to Ireland, the earliest known individual depiction of the island. The Africa charts are taken from the earliest observations of the Portugese expeditions of Alvise da Cadomosto and Pero da Sintra. [ REF: Christies catalog for November 10, 2014; Included in: T. Campbell, Census of Pre-Sixteenth Portolan Charts?, Imago Mundi, 38, 1986, pp.67-91; R. Pfederer, Census of portolan charts & atlases: as reported and listed by the noted scholars of the genre in their works ranging from 1897 to 2008, Williamsburg 2009, p.192.; zoom image
Last updated: Nov 16, 2014