The Most Important Isolario of the First Half of the 16th Century.
6 double-page woodcut maps and 108 smaller woodcut maps in the text.
Small Folio. Nineteenth-century "forged" binding, by the famed Louis Hague of Belgium. The whole binding with elaborate gilt and hand-painted devices. The central panel framed in white and surrounded by black- green- and red-painted botanical and strapwork designs. Front and back covers with "DHD" monogram surmounted by a gilt crown and necklace device. The spine in eight compartments separated by raised bands.
Collation: [AA]-[AAiv], BB-[BBii], [CC]-[CCii], DD-[DDii], A-[Avi], B-[Bvi], C-[Cvi], D-[Dvi], E-[Eiv], F-[Fii], G-[Gvi], H-[Hvi], I-[Ivi], K-[Kvi], L-[Lvi], M-[Mvi], N-[Nviii].
Books of islands or Isolario were very popular in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. Several very early manuscript volumes are known, while the earliest printed Isolario was published c.1485 by Sonetti and consisted of 49 maps of islands in the Greek Archipelago. Bordone’s island book, which first appeared in 1528 and was the second printed Isolario, greatly expanded the subject matter as it attempted to chart the islands of the entire world. His work is of particular significance for its fine oval world map and for “the first printed map specifically of North America” -- Suarez.
For many years, Bordone’s world map was thought to be the first map drawn on an oval projection, but it was actually based on the extremely rare map by Francesco Rosselli compiled c.1508. Unlike the Rosselli, Bordone’s map omits all Antarctic lands and separates the continents of Asia and America. The lines crossing the map represent six wind directions, which are named in scripted text outside the map’s edge. Because the Rosselli map is so rare, this map by Bordone is the earliest obtainable map to use an oval projection. “In his world map Bordone has essentially provided an outline, with graceful italic script and numerals on each of the islands, providing a reference for the more detailed maps to follow” -- Shirley.
Of great interest is the small, unassuming woodblock map on the verso of page VI [pictured above], which has the distinction of being the first printed map of the North American continent. The map bears the words Terra de Lavoratore, which come from el lavrador, a nickname for a Portuguese-Azorean adventurer named Joao Fernandes. According to Suarez, “Fernandes may have tried his luck at western voyages under the Portuguese flag as early as Columbus had under the Spanish flag.” While the woodblock lacks detail, Stretto pte del modo novo depicts the area corresponding to the latitude of the Caribbean, and the land mass shown below it represents South America. The fictitious Atlantic islands of Brasil and Asmaide appear here alongside the Azores, as they did on other maps of the period.
The late edition contains Copia della lettre del profetto della India la Nova Spagna, which gives the earliest printed account of the conquest of Peru by Pizarro in 1533. Bordone’s volume also contains a plan of Temistitan or Mexico City before its destruction by Cortez.
Louis Hague Bindings
Louis Hague made retrospective bindings that are sometimes classified as forgeries. Examples of his bindings can be found at the British Library and Folger Shakespeare Library. This hand-painted leather binding was made in the style of a deluxe 16th-century Italian binding.
Benedetto Bordone (1460-1531) was a polymath who was born in Padua and worked in Venice. He was an illuminator, engraver, miniaturist, editor, and geographer. It is possible he made the first globe in Italy. His most famous work is the Isolario, or Book of Islands, which included many of the earliest printed maps of islands in the New World.