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Rare Two-Sheet Lafreri School World Map

Striking original-color example of the recently-discovered and only second known surviving example of the second state of Arnold di Arnoldi's two-sheet world map, first published in Siena in 1601.

Arnoldi's map is the earliest obtainable multi-sheet map based upon Petrus Plancius's highly influential 18 sheet wall map of 1592, which survives today in a single example in Spain.

Arnoldi's world map includes a stout South America and an extensive North America. Eurasia is well delineated, although Japan is peculiarly curled. Asia and the Americas are separated by a narrow Strait of Anian, an important feature in the history of cartography.

There are many notes augmenting the named mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, cities, and polities. In South America the reader is warned of Patagonian giants. Another note explains that the continent was named for Amerigo Vespucci and that it is filled with proud people who were converted to Christianity by the Spanish.

North America includes several geographic points of interest. One of these is Quiuera reg., or Quivira Regio. This toponym refers to the Seven Cities of Gold sought by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541. In 1539, Coronado wandered over what today is Arizona and New Mexico, eventually heading to what is now Kansas to find the supposedly rich city of Quivira. Although he never found the cities or the gold, the name stuck on maps of southwest North America, wandering from midwest to southwest to northwest.  Lake Conibas is shown, often considered a foreshadowing of the Great Lakes, above which is a remarkable depiction of the Northwest Passage.

The North Pole is split into four islands, per Mercator’s conception. An account of this configuration in Mercator's own hand still exists in a letter from the cartographer to John Dee. It is based in part on a report by the traveler Jocobus Cnoyen van Herzogenbusch describing a lost fourteenth-century work, Inventio Fortunata. The Fortuna tells the story of an English friar who traveled to the northern regions. Although many believed a rock placed at the North Pole to be magnetic, Mercator and Arnoldi preferred to place a magnetic rock near the Strait of Anian (Polo della Calamita), possibly in an attempt to explain magnetic variation.

The most arresting feature on the map is the massive southern continent that stretches across the bottom of the world. Terre Australe Incognita is connected to Tierra del Fuego. As with Plancius’ 1592 map, upon which this map is based, in the east New Guinea is seemingly attached to the continent. In the west, New Guinea is shown as an island.

Just east of the insular New Guinea are the Solomon Islands. Alvaro de Mendaña was sent to the western Pacific in search of the so-called “Isles of Fortune” rumored to have been visited by the Inca hero Tupac Yupanqui. Mendaña left Callao, Peru in 1567 and landed on the Solomons and islands farther east (Ysabella). However, the crew encountered cannibals and they returned to Peru. At the end of the seventeenth century, Mendaña returned to the Pacific to search for the Solomons but contacted the Marquesas instead. The Solomons, whose longitude was not correctly recorded, would wander the Pacific on maps until the late eighteenth century.

South of the East Indies is an extension of the landmass with three cities: Beach, Lucach reg., and Maletur. These names would be familiar to anyone who has read Marco Polo’s Travels, as the nearby note attests. These three places were regions in Java. As can be seen, a Giava minore, or Java Minor, is near to Maletur. This conflation of Java with the southern continent stemmed from an error. Initially, Polo used Arabic usage of Java Major for Java and Java Minor for Sumatra. After a printing mistake made Java Minor seem the largest island in the world in the 1532 edition of Polo’s Travels (Paris and Basel), mapmakers started to tailor a southern landmass to accommodate Java Minor, Beach, Lucach, and Maletur.

The Atlantic is dotted with islands. Some are real, like Bermuda, and others, like the famed Frisland (shown here as nearly the size of Iceland), are less fixed. In the middle of the Atlantic is Sept Cite, the Island of the Seven Cities. Sometimes known as Antillia, the island was supposedly the refuge of seven bishops who fled from the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century.

In the north Atlantic is S. Brandam. St. Brendan, hearing of a promised land from St. Barrind, decided to take a group of monks to find the paradise in the sixth century. After 43 days the monks landed on a deserted island. This is only the first of a series of islands which they encounter, before facing a frozen sea. They have more adventures and eventually return home. The island itself initially appeared near the Canary Islands, but by 1570 Abraham Ortelius placed it near Newfoundland, where it stayed until slowly disappearing from maps in the seventeenth century.

The stippled seas include many sea monsters, as well as intrepid sailing vessels. An ornate title cartouche in the lower left carries the dedication to the young Federico Borromeo. Filling the corners of the oval projection are delicate scrollwork designs. Running along the bottom of the map is a description of the world in Italian.  

Sources for and production of the map

Arnoldi's map is based on the extremely rare eighteen-sheet cylindrical map of the world (1592) by Petrus Plancius, which survives in a single example at the Colegio del Corpus Cristi in Valencia, Spain. Cartographically, the map combines the work of Gerard Mercator's 1569 wall map of the world with the Portuguese manuscript map of Pedro de Lemos. Plancius' map was the first large wall map of the world published in the Netherlands and it ushered in an era of dominance for the Dutch map trade. The map was regularly copied by other mapmakers, who periodically added additional expeditions to the map.

In 1600, Arnoldi made a 10-sheet world maps, which was then the second known large-scale map to copy the 1592 Plancius. He was preceded only by Hendrik van Langren's map of 1599, for which the only known surviving example was destroyed in 1945.

The present 2-sheet map is reduced from Arnoldi's ten-sheet map of the world which stretches to over six feet wide. Arnoldi was a Belgian artist who began engraving work with Giovanni Antonio Magini. In 1600, Matteo Florimi used a larger salary to lure Arnoldi away from the Magini workshop in Bologna to Siena. The dedication of the ten-sheet map describes how it was started in the former city and finished in the latter. Here, Arnoldi has also changed the projection, using an oval projection rather than a planisphere.

States of the map

The first state of this map was published in 1601, with a dedication to Christofero Chigi. 

The second state, shown here, is dated 1634 and was published by Giovanni Florimi in Siena. It includes a new dedication to the seventeen-year old Federico Borromeo the Younger (1617 - 1673), who was then studying in Siena and would go on to become a cardinal.  

Shirley reports that the map was reissued by Pietro Petrucci in 1640 and 1669.  We suspect that the Petrucci maps are in fact later states of the ten-sheet map and not the two-sheet map.

Shirley reports three known examples of state 1 (British Library, NMC Ottawa and Newberry Library). We are aware of one further example in a private collection.

Bifolco reports only one other known example of state 2.


RBH lists one example of state 1 at auction in the past forty years (Sothebys 1985).  

The Lafreri School

The Lafreri School is a commonly-used name for a group of mapmakers, engravers, and publishers who worked in Rome and Venice from ca. 1544 to 1585, with some later examples. The makers, who were loosely connected via business partnerships and collaborations, created maps that were then bound into composite atlases; the maps would be chosen based on the buyer or compiler’s interests. As the maps were initially published as separate-sheets, the style and size of maps included under the umbrella of the “School” differed widely. These differences can also be seen in the surviving Lafreri atlases, which have maps bound in with varying formats including as folded maps, maps with wide, trimmed, or added margins, smaller maps, etc.

The most famous mapmakers of the school included Giacomo Gastaldi and Paolo Forlani, among others. The School’s namesake, Antonio Lafreri, was a map and printseller. His 1572 catalog of his stock, entitled Indice Delle Tavole Moderne Di Geografia Della Maggior Parte Del Mondo, has a similar title to many of the composite atlases and thus his name became associated with the entire output of the larger group.

Strait of Anian

This strait, believed to separate northwestern America from northeastern Asia, was related to the centuries-long quest to find a Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Appearing on maps beginning in the mid- to late-fourteenth century, the rumor of this strait and a Northwest Passage in general inspired many voyages of discovery, including those of John Cabot, Sir Francis Drake, Gaspar Corte-Real, Jacques Cartier, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

The term Anian itself comes from Marco Polo’s thirteenth-century accounts of his travels. Polo used the term to refer to the Gulf of Tonkin, but cartographers thought it could refer to this supposed strait between Asia and North America. The Strait of Anian, so named, first appeared in a 1562 map by Giacomo Gastaldi, and was later adopted by Bolognini Zaltieri and Gerard Mercator.

The Zeno Map and the mythical island of Frisland

The Zeno family was part of the Venetian elite; indeed, their family had controlled the monopoly over transport between Venice and the Holy Land during the Crusades. Nicolo Zeno set off in 1380 to England and Flanders; other evidence seems to corroborate this part of the voyage. Then, his ship was caught in a huge storm, blowing him off course and depositing him in the far North Atlantic. He and his crew were wrecked on a foreign shore, the island of Frislanda (sometimes Friesland or Freeland).

Thankfully, the shipwrecked Venetians were found by King of Frisland, Zichmni, who also ruled Porlanda, an island just south of Frisland. Zichmni was on a crusade to conquer his neighbors and Nicolo was happy to help him strategize. Nicolo wrote to his brother, Antonio, encouraging him to join him and, good navigator that he was, Antonio sailed for Frisland and arrived to help his brothers. Together, they led military campaigns against Zichmni’s enemies for fourteen years.

Their fights led the brothers to the surrounding islands, presumably enabling them to make their famous map. Zichmni attempted to take Islanda but was rebuffed. Instead, he took the small islands to the east, which are labeled on this map. Zichmni built a fort on one of the islands, Bres, and he gave command of this stronghold to Nicolo. The latter did not stay long, instead sailing to Greenland, where he came upon St. Thomas, a monastery in Greenland with central heating. Nicolo then returned to Frisland, where he died four years later, never to return to Venice.

Antonio, however, was still alive. He ran into a group of fishermen while on Frisland. These fishermen had been on a 25-year sojourn to Estotiland. Supposedly, Estotiland was a great civilization and Latin-speaking, while nearby Drogeo, to the south, was full of cannibals and beasts. Antonio, on Zichmni’s orders, sought these new lands, only to discover Icaria instead. The Icarians were not amenable to invasion, however, and Antonio led his men north to Engroneland, to the north. Zichmni was enthralled with this new place and explored inland. Antonio, however, returned to Frisland, abandoning the King. From there, Antonio sailed for his native Venice, where he died around 1403.

News of the discoveries and the first version of the Zeno map was published in 1558 by another Nicolo Zeno, a descendent of the navigator brothers. Nicolo the Younger published letters he had found in his family holdings, one from Nicolo to Antonio and another from Antonio to their other brother, Carlo, who served with distinction in the Venetian Navy. They were published under the title Dello Scoprimento dell’isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda, & Icaria, fatto sotto il Polo Artico, da due Fratelli Zeni (On the Discovery of the Island of Frisland, Eslanda, Engroenland, Estotiland & Icaria, made by two Zen Brothers under the Arctic Pole) (Venice: Francesco Marcolini, 1558).

At the time of publication, the account attracted little to no suspicion; it was no more and no less fantastic than most other voyage and travel accounts of the time. Girolamo Ruscelli published a version of the Zeno map in 1561, only three years after it appeared in Zeno’s original work. Ruscelli was a Venetian publisher who also released an Italian translation of Ptolemy. Ruscelli had moved to Venice in 1549, where he became a prominent editor of travel writings and geography.

Ruscelli was not the only geographer to integrate the Zeno map into his work. Mercator used the map as a source for his 1569 world map and his later map of the North Pole. Ortelius used the Zeno islands in his map of the North Atlantic. Ramusio included them in his Delle Navigationo (1583), as did Hakluyt in his Divers Voyages (1582) and Principal Navigations (1600), and Purchas (with some reservation) in his Pilgrimes (1625). Frisland appeared on regional maps of the North Atlantic until the eighteenth century.

In the nineteenth century, when geography was popular as both a hobby and a scholarly discipline, the Zeno account and map came under scrutiny. Most famously, Frederick W. Lucas questioned the validity of the voyage in The Annals of the Voyages of the Brothers Nicolo and Antonio Zeno in the North Atlantic (1898). Lucas accused Nicolo the Younger of making the map up, using islands found on other maps and simply scattering them across the North Atlantic. He also accused Nicolo of trying to fabricate a Venetian claim to the New World that superseded the Genoan Columbus’ voyage. Other research has revealed that, when he was supposed to be fighting for Zichmni, Nicolo was in the service of Venice in Greece in the 1390s. He is known to have drafted a will in 1400 and died—in Venice, not Frisland—in 1402.

Scholars still enjoy trying to assign the Zeno islands to real geographic features. For example, Frisland is thought to be part of Iceland, while Esland is supposed to be the Shetlands. Some still believe the Zenos to have sailed to these lands. Most, however, view the voyage and the map as a reminder of the folly and fancy (and fun) of early travel literature and cartography. Whatever the truth, the Zeno map and its islands are one of the most enduring mysteries in the history of cartography. 

Condition Description
Original color. Several areas with restoration. Most notably, the letters ONDO in the title and corresponding decorative border have been added in facsimile. A small section of text below the dedication cartouche has been added in facsimile (Mondo, E) and a small triangular section above China, centered on Tanguth.
Shirley, 183, 218, 227. KAP