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America Settentrionale: Coronelli 1688

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  • Title: America Settentrionale
  • Author: Vincenzo Coronelli
  • Date: 1688
  • Medium: Copperplate engraving
  • Condition: Very Good Plus - on two sheets as issued, well-inked example with ample margins (truncated in image), clean and bright, very fine example
  • Inches: Each sheet 23.8 x 17.7 [Image]
  • Centimeters: Each sheet 60.45 x 44.96 [Image]
  • Product ID: 315096

One of the most beautiful maps of North America ever published. Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, a Franciscan theologian who lived most of his life in Venice, made many memorable contributions to the cartographic sciences, primarily through the production of what were at the time the largest globes ever created. Through his many high-ranking political and religious connections, Coronelli possessed access to geographical information recorded by the European explorers then moving throughout the southwest regions of North America.

Though he helped perpetuate major errors such as the Island of California, Coronelli‘s body of work marked a major step in the field of cartography. In 1688, Coronelli issued this map, America Settentrionale, at the time the most up-to-date chart of North America ever produced. As official geographer of the Republic of Venice, Coronelli had state-of-the-art printing technology at his disposal, allowing him to create beautiful and technically-accurate charts. Due to his professional status, Coronelli's maps made their way across Europe into the hands of the day's prominent scientific and theological minds.

Coronelli's America Settentrionale shows three key cartographic advances, two of which proved groundbreaking. First, he improved on Sanson's 1650 Amerique Septentrionale to depict the Great Lakes in their most accurate form yet, implementing minor changes to Lakes Michigan and Huron. Coronelli clearly had friends in high places, evidenced by his ability to draw upon closely-guarded source material from the voyages of Hennepin, Jolliet, and Marquette.

The second improvement almost certainly derives from Coronelli and Sanson’s Le Nouveau Mexico (pub. c. 1687), a piece described by historian Philip Burden as "the most momentous map of the American south-west published to date." The primary importance of Le Nouveau Mexico comes from its depiction of the Rio Grande, accurately describing the river as flowing south-east and discharging into the Gulf of Mexico (rather than the Gulf of California). Coronelli's America Settentrionale reflects these adjustments, and his international stature helped to cement them within the field of cartography. However, Coronelli mislabeled the location of the Mississippi river, locating it in the middle of present-day Texas (600 miles too far west). This proved an enduring error, causing the Spanish great concern while LaSalle‘s ill-fated mission to colonize at the mouth of the Mississippi was still understood to be in progress.

Other potential inaccuracies or confusions: Coronelli shows an apocryphal peninsula to the south of Cape Cod, and depicts California as an island with a coastal mountain range (as shown in the 1635 Luke Foxe configuration). Coronelli indicates he is not entirely convinced of California's insularity, a question which he notes on an ornately decorated legend nearby.

Reference:  Burden 643

Condition:  On two sheets as issued, well inked example with ample margins (truncated in scan), clean and bright.  Excellent.