Landmark Map of the Southwest -- The First Map To Show The Rio Grande Flowing Into the Gulf of Mexico
Nice example of the southwestern sheet of Giovanni Battista Nicolosi's important four sheet map of North America, the first printed map to accurately depict the course of the Rio Grande River flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
The present example is the second state of the map, which is the first edition to include place names.
Nicolosi bases his map on Sanson's map of 1650, with several notable changes. In the West, there are several very important differences. The Rio Grande (named Rio Escondido) is shown flowing Southeast into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time ever on a printed map, with an elaborate set of tributaries. The lake which historically fed this river when it was flowing into the Gulf of California has disappeared.
Nuo (Nuevo) Mexico is named, as are Taos, S(anta) Fe and several other early New Mexican Villages. The villages of the Apaches and Apaches Vaqueros, noting a group of Apaches who had domesticated horses for riding.
In 1652, motivated by Sanson's new work, the Propoganda Fide of Rome hired G.B. Nicolosi, who in turn published his Dell' Hercole e Studio Geografico, published in 1660 and 1671. The 4 sheet maps of the continents have become celebrated rarities, which incorporate Nicolosi's meticulous work with a quite unusual presentation style.
Giovanni Battista Nicolosi (1610-1670), also known as Giovan Battista, was a Sicilian priest, geographer and cartographer, who worked for the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (or Propaganda Fide) under Pope Gregory XV. Officially, the Fide office was established to promote missionary work across the globe, but the reality was that it constituted an important office for the maintenance and dilation of the Church’s power in an ever-expanding world.
Arriving in the papal capital around 1640, Nicolosi devoted himself to the study of letters, sciences, geography and languages. In 1642, he published his Theory of the Terrestrial Globe, a small treatise on mathematical geography, and, a few years later, his guide to geographic study, which was a short treatise on cosmography and cartography. Both works reflected a Ptolemaic world view, but his guide to geographic study would soon serve as an introduction to Nicolosi’s real magnum opus, Dell' Ercole e Studio Geografico, which was first published in 1660. His Theory of the Terrestrial Globe, on the other hand, brought Nicolosi to the attention of broader scientific circles and earned him the Chair in Geography at the University of Rome.
In late 1645, Nicolosi travelled to Germany at the invitation of Ferdinand Maximilian of Baden-Baden, where he remained for several years until returning to Rome. Here, Nicolosi was appointed chaplain of the Borghesiana in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. This honor was conferred on him by Prince Giovanni Battista Borghese, who Nicolosi himself had tutored and in whose palace he had lived since 1651. Years later, Nicolosi would thank the prince for his generosity by dedicating his most seminal work to him.
One of Nicolosi's most significant contributions to the history of science and geography is the so-called map of the world on a globular projection. First published in 1660, Nicolosi's map of the world, produced ny the Vatican, constituted a pioneering innovation in the way in which the physical world was portrayed. This entirely new perspective on geography was groundbreaking and quickly adapted across the cartographic plane. It has consequently come to be known as the ‘Nicolosi projection’. In truth, Nicolosi's globular projection is a polyconic map projection invented by Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī, the foremost Muslim scholar of the Islamic Golden Age, who invented the first recorded globular projection for use in celestial maps about the year 1000 CE. Nicolosi was almost certainly not awared of the work of Al-Bīrūnī, and Nicolosi's name it typically attributed to the projection.
There exists in the Vatican and other National archives a considerable collection of Nicolosi’s unpublished work. This includes a large chorographic (i.e. descriptive) map of all of Christendom, commissioned by Pope Alexander VII, as well as a full geographic description and map of the Kingdom of Naples, which was sent to Habsburg Emperor Leopold I in 1654.