"Gastaldi's work represents the most important map of Italy that appeared in the 16th century." - Bifolco-Ronca 911
An extremely important map of Italy, engraved by Fabius Licinius for Giacomo Gastaldi, representing the apex of the latter's view of Italy.
Gastaldi had been working in Venice since at least 1539, but this is his first large-scale map of Italy, issued in 1561.
The present map is the most important 16th-century map of Italy, representing the foundational cartography from which Ortelius and various other maps would follow.
Roberto Almagia referred to it as "truly one of the milestones in the evolution of the cartography of Italy" (see Karrow, p.236)
It immediately established itself as the source map of the region until the publication of Giovanni Antonio Magini's Nova descrittione d'Italia in 1620.
In their magnum opus on 16th-century Italian maps, Bifolco and Ronca have the following commentary on the map (translated from Italian):
Gastaldi's work represents the most important map of Italy that appeared in the 16th century. It will constitute the cartographic model of the peninsula in Italy and in the northern countries, starting from the replica inserted in Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570). Almagià defines it as "one of the milestones in the evolution of the cartography of Italy". The result of a work begun some time ago, and certainly completed in 1559, the paper was printed only two years later (1561) protected by the privilege that Gastaldi obtained from the Venetian Senate on 29 July 1559. The engraving is due to Fabio Licinio. The map is very rich in orography, hydrography and toponymy. Although Gastaldi is a desktop cartographer, the corrections made to the shape of Italy with the help of nautical charts, with the application of new astronomical elements, with the use of the works carried out for the previous regional maps and with slight modifications of latitudes and longitudes, allow the paper to impose itself on all previous types, replacing them. The sea is plowed by ships and sea monsters. Compared to the New Italy of Gastaldi himself, included in the Venetian edition of Geografia di Claudio Ptolomeo Alessandrino (1548), the major changes concern the entire Adriatic coast, Calabria, Puglia and above all the elimination of the anomalous thinning between Pisa and the mouth of the Po. This map, given its great importance, is present in almost all the composite sixteenth-century collections. Like many other works by Giacomo Gastaldi, the matrix is present in the catalog of Antonio Lafreri's printing house (no. 35), where it is described as "Italy". The plate was then inherited by Stefano Duchetti and then sold to Paolo Graziani (inv. August 1581, n. 63, "Italy in no 2 for real"). We therefore find it listed in the catalog of Pietro de Nobili (inv. 23 May 1586, n. 479, "Itaglia in doi Pezzi"). The print run of the paper of the Pietro de Nobili printing house (datable to the period 1585-89), which until now was only hypothesized, emerged during the study for this publication, preserved in the factitious collection of the Bibliothèque Municipale of Grenoble.
Bifolco & Ronca's 1st state (of 2).
Two examples have appeared at auction in the last 20+ years; 2006, at Christie's London, and 2020 at Reiss & Sohn.
Giacomo Gastaldi (1500-1566) is considered the foremost Italian cartographer of the sixteenth century, alongside Paolo Forlani. His skills of compilation are comparable to those of Mercator and Ortelius, yet much less is known of his life than of his two contemporaries. Gastaldi was born in Villafranca, Piedmont, but had established himself in Venice by 1539. He originally worked as an engineer, but turned to mapmaking from the 1540s onward.
It was in Venice where he made his reputation as an engraver, geographer, and cosmographer; for example, he was asked to fresco maps of Asia and Africa in the Palace of the Doge, or the Council of Ten, Venice’s governmental body. He also frequently consulted on projects for the Savi sopra la Laguna, drawing maps for this body which oversaw the regulation of fresh and salt water around Venice.
His contemporaries also recognized his skill, as he was named cosmographer to the Republic of Venice, was a member of the Accademia Veneziana, and was a major source for other geographers and mapmakers including Camocio, Bertelli, Cock, Luchini, and Ortelius. He even had his own distinct style of copper engraving that made him a pioneer in his day and makes his works iconic today.
Gastaldi enjoyed an especially productive relationship with Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Secretary of the Venetian Senate, who used Gastaldi's maps for his famous travel account collection, Navigationi et Viaggi. Gastaldi also tutored Ramusio's son in cosmography.