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Bertelli's Edition of the First Truly Modern Map of the British Isles

A rare and important example of a 'Lafreri' map of the British Isles copied from George Lily's influential and significant map of 1546.

Lily, an English exile resident in Rome, produced the first non-book-published map and the largest of the islands to date. His geography was based on a number of sources including Munster for the outline of England and Wales, and Shirley suggests John Elden and Hector Boece for the Scottish detail. However, Lily has added many more place names than any map before. Ireland, by contrast appears in quite primitive form.

Title is engraved in plain text at upper left. Two bordered text panels give descriptive information about Great Britain and about Ireland.

The original Lily, and a number of other derivatives, show the islands with north to the right of the sheet. This version takes a normal north/south presentation. Bertelli's imprint, with the date 1561, is seen in one panel of text, the date 'MDLXII' in another, and Paolo Forlani has been attributed as engraver of the map itself. Each is regarded as a significant member of the so-called 'Lafreri' school of mapmakers.

George Lily

George Lily (died 1559) was an English Roman Catholic priest, humanist scholar, biographer, topographer and cartographer.  Lily was born in London, where he entered the service of Reginald Pole, and in the years that followed shared some of Pole's self-imposed exile in France and Italy. Pole awarded him, by 1535, a prebend in Wimborne Minster. Also, by this date, however, he was studying at the University of Padua, under such scholars as Giovanni Battista Egnazio, Lazarus Buonamici, and Fausto da Longiano. In 1538–9 he was living in Rome; and he afterwards travelled with Pole to Viterbo. At some point before 1543 he was outlawed in England for treason, presumably on account of his connections with Pole, who was by now a Cardinal and unofficial leader of the English Catholic church in exile.

Between 1549 and 1554 Lily served three terms as Pole's deputy as warden of the English Hospice in Rome. In 1554 he followed Pole to Brussels; and in November 1555 the two returned to England, now again a Catholic realm under Queen Mary I. Pole was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in March 1556; while Lily became his domestic chaplain, and was also collated to the prebend of Kentish Town or Cantlers, in St. Paul's Cathedral, in November 1556, and to the first prebend of Canterbury Cathedral probably in March 1558.

Lily was a major contributor to the Descriptio Britanniae, Scotiae, Hyberniae et Orchadum, a chorography of the British Isles conceived by Paolo Giovio, Bishop of Nocera, which was published in Venice in 1548. Lily was the author of several self-contained historical appendices: Virorum aliquot in Britannia qui nostro seculo eruditione & doctrina clari, memorabilesque fuerunt elogia, a collection of short biographies of English humanist scholars (including his own father, William),  Nova et Antiqua Locorum Nomina in Anglia et in Scotia, a table of ancient and modern place and tribal names; A Bruto ... omnium in quos variante fortuna Britanniae imperium translatum brevis enumeratio, a discussion of the early history of Britain, in which Lily expressed skepticism about the legendary foundation of the realm by Brutus; Lancastrii et Eboracensis de regno contentiones, an account of the Wars of the Roses; and Regum Angliae genealogia, a genealogy of the Kings of England. 

In cartographic circles, Lily is known for having drawn the first map of the British Isles (at a reasonably detailed scale) to be printed, likely intended as a companion for his Descriptio Britanniae.   Lily's map was engraved on two plates and published in Rome in 1546. The map is drawn from the same work as the14th-century Gough Map, although the orientation has been reversed (West is at the top of the sheet), and many minor improvements have been made. The Scottish coastline, in particular, is considerably more accurate than that on the Gough Map, but Lily's sources for this are not known.

The map was copied by a number of Italy publishers, and Lily and Pole may have carried the plates back to England with them, as they were reworked by the engraver Thomas Geminus for a London edition published in 1555. 

Lafreri School of Mapmakers

Antoine Lafréry, better known as Antonio Lafreri (1512-77) was born in Besançon. His earliest work in Rome dates to about 1544. From his workshop on the Via del Parione, he produced many important publications. In 1553, he founded a company with his mentor, Antonio Salamanca, which would operate until 1562. Thereafter, from 1562 to Lafreri's death in 1577, he conducted business under his own name.

While Lafreri did create maps, he was primarily a dealer and publisher, rather than an artisan in his own right. He carried a vast stock of maps and prints made by other printers from both Rome and Venice. He became known for producing IATO (Italian-Assembled-To-Order) atlases, each unique composite atlases featuring a selection of fine Italian maps, made to the tastes of individual clients. Pre-dating Abraham Ortelius, these 'Lafreri Atlases' and their contents represent the birth of the modern atlas. Owing to the popular acclaim of these atlases, while the term was never used during this period, the Italian maps from this era are today often said to be of the 'Lafreri School'.

As noted by Ashley Baynton Williams:

The reason that Lafreri's name is now used as an umbrella term for the school is because he issued a catalogue of his stock in 1572, entitled 'Indice Delle Tavole Moderne Di Geografia Della Maggior Parte Del Mondo ...'. This catalogue is very similar, both in title and contents, to bound collections of maps with an engraved title Tavole Moderne Di Geografia De La Maggior Parte Del Mondo Di Diversi Autori. Accordingly bound collections with the engraved title were attributed to Lafreri, and thence his name became associated with the group as a whole. Some writers have attributed the title to Duchetti, but there seems no good reason to challenge Lafreri's role.


The map is rare on the market.  

Condition Description
Several expertly repaired tears.
Shirley, R.W. (BI to 1650) #70.