Rare and important early plan of Mexico City from Ramusio's Navigatione et viaggi .
With the exception of the image of Santo Domingo which accompanied Columbus' first letter, the earliest plan of any city in America is the Cortes map of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), which first appeared in 1524. Variant editions of the plan appeared in Bordone's Isolario, Munster's Cosmographia, Ramusio's Navigatione et viaggi, and Antoine du Pinet's Plantz, pourtraitz et descriptions de plusiueres villes et fortresses.
Mexico City was founded by the Mexica (Aztecs) in 1325. The city was the called Tenochtitlan. The Mexica were one of the last indigenous people to migrate to this part of the Valley of Mexico after the fall of the Toltec Empire. While there arrival was not intially welcomed, the Mexica were able to establish a city on a small island on the western side of Lake Texcoco. Mexica legend tells a story of how Huitzilopochtli, their principal god, identified the location of the city through an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak. By the time the Spanish arrived in Mexico, Tenochtitlan had come to dominate the other city-states around Lake Texcoco, and in the Valley of Mexico.
The view depicted by Ramusio is the oldest European image of the City, which is still very much dominated by the Lake which gave it its intitial geographial advantages.
Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was an Italian geographer who worked within the Venetian Empire. His father had been a magistrate and he himself served as a civil servant to Venice. He served throughout Europe, allowing him to build up a network of informants and a collection of travel materials. He compiled this information into his enduring masterpiece, Navigationi et Viaggi, in 1550 (first volume) and 1556 (third volume). The second volume appeared after his death in 1559, as the original manuscript had been destroyed by a fire.