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The First Printed Map of Lake Geneva -- Dedicated to Catherina, Daughter of Philip II of Spain 

Important early of Lake Geneva,  published by Giacomo Fornasieri and engraved by Domenico Alfani.

Fornasieri's map is the earliest printed map of Lake Geneva, coming only a few years after the completion of the oldest known manuscript map of the lake buy Jean du Villard.  The first detailed description of Lake Geneva is credited to the Genevan Villard, who in 1588 made an important handwritten map of the region, accompanied by a detailed list of the fish species of the lake, which is preserved at the Archives Departementales de la Savoie in Chambery.

The first appearance of a printed version of Villard's map was done by Giacomo Fornasieri and is engraved by Domenico Alfani.  The place of publication is unknown, but is most likely Turin.  Levy dates the watermark in the paper to 1589, while Aliprandi suggests a date around 1585 that seems unlikely in relation to the date of the manuscript. The dating proposed by Aliprandi could be deduced from the dedication to Caterina Michela d’Ausburgo, infanta of Spain and duchess of Savoy from March 18, 1585, her wedding day with Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy.

The map is oriented with the south at the top, although the author mistakenly places it on the right side of the map . Other towns shown on the map include Thonon, Geneva, Nion, Morges, Lausanne, and the surrounding mountains. Title in lower left corner with dedication to the Infanta Catherina of Austria, Grand Duchess of Savoy.

The map predates the first map to mention Mont Blanc (J. Le Clerc and H. Picart, Lacus Lemani vicinorumq. locorum nova et accuratissima descriptio, n.p.: 1619) although it does show Mont St. Bernard.


The map is very rare.  Tooley (238) located only the Beans copy (CSU Fullerton).  The British Library map room also has an impression of this map in which the publisher's name is not entirely legible, and which they have tentatively dated to Perugia, 1590.   Bifolco locate X examples:  The Stevens-Beans-Nebenzahl; Basilea Universitatbibliothek; Bibliotheque Nationale de France;  Stanford, University Library.

The last example to appear at auction was at Sothebys, May 20, 1998 (Lot 993, sold for 3,220 GBP (approximately $6,400 USD).  We offered an example for sale in June 2019.

Bifolco / Ronca (2018) pl. 358; Collijn, de la Gardie's Samling 77; Tooley, Italian Atlases 238; T., Mapmakers I, 19.