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Rare Lafreri School Map of Spain

Striking map of Spain based on the most acclaimed map of Iberia of the sixteenth century.

The map is based on the modern (non-Ptolemaic) map of Spain of 155 1made by Vincentius Corsulensis, also known as Fra Vincenzo Paletino of Curzola. The Corsulensis model proved important for the rest of the century; mapmakers preferred to follow his map rather than the contemporary (1544) map by Gastaldi.

The Iberian Peninsula is shown in considerable detail, with cities marked in a rolling script. Former kingdoms and regions are demarcated, as are rivers, mountains, and many stands of trees. Both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar are included, as are the Balearic Islands.

The seas are gently stippled and quilted with rhumb lines, giving the map a nautical flair.

A pair of dividers sits atop the scale bar in the lower left, while a scrollwork cartouche is in the lower right corner.

The cartouche identifies the mapmaker, Pirro Ligorio, as well as the publisher, Michael Tramezzino. Tramezzino worked in publishing with his brother, Francesco. They hailed from Venice and worked in Rome until 1526, when they returned to Venice, where Michael stayed. His brother moved back to Rome, where he continued to publish.  

The engraver is Sebastiano di Re, who uses his full latinized name, Sebastianus de Regibus Clodiensis. Di Re lived and worked in Rome, where he flourished between 1557 and 1563.

The map last appeared at auction in 2006 (this example), described as follows:

A very important map of Spain and Portugal devised by Pirro Ligorio, the highly talented polymath, widely known for his great work on Roman antiquities, Dell' Antichita, and for his altercation with the intemperate Michelangelo. This masterful engraving, by di Re, elegantly frames the land in a maritime space traversed by rhumb lines. Highly influential and more accurate than Gastaldi's 1544 map of Spain, Ligorio's work became the map of record, copied numerous times by other eminent Italian cartographers. . .  .


The map is rarely seen on the market and is held in only a few institutional collections. We note the examples in the British Library, the Studienbibliothek Dillingen, and the Biblioteca Nacional de España.

This is the only example offered at auction in the past 20 years (Christie’s 2006).

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. 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.

History of the Modern Mapping of Spain & Portugal

There are several extant manuscript maps of Spain that date to the mid-fifteenth century and adopt non-Ptolemaic style and content. Although scattered across Europe today, they all seem to have originated in Florence. The earliest printed non-Ptolemaic map of Iberia is Berlingheri's Hispania Novella, first published in the 1482 Berlingheri edition of Ptolemy's Geography (Florence). Maps similar to Berlingheri's, and related to the content of the Florence manuscript maps, were also inlcuded in the Ulm-edition of Ptolemy, (1482),  as well as in other editions: Rome (1507), Waldseemuller (1513), Fries (1522) and Münster (1540). 

There were attempts within Spain itself to create a modern depiction of their geography. A systematic survey was attempted as early as 1517 by the King of Spain, who commissioned Christopher Columbus' son Fernan Colon to undertake this work as part of a description and cosmography of Spain. However, no separate map was published as part of this work.

By the 1530s, Berlingheri's map was no longer the standard reference for the peninsula. Instead, G. A. Vavassore published a new map in Venice in 1532. There is only one known example of the map, at Harvard, with a photostatic copy at the British Museum. A woodcut map, the source of Vavassore's map is not known with certainty. However, it is generally attributed to the work of Vincentius Corsulensis. Corsulensis, in turn, has been identified as Fra Vincenzo Paletino of Curzola.

The first large-format, widely-disbursed map of Spain was the four-sheet map created by Giacomo Gastaldi in 1544. This was Gastaldi's earliest known map. Gastaldi, who was unquestionably the most important map publisher of his time, credited source material received from Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, who was then serving as Carlos V's ambassador to Venice.

Interestingly, not many mapmakers adapted the Gastaldi map in their own work. Instead, they preferred another map by Corsulensis, a six-sheet map published in 1551. Only one example of this map survives, in the Doria Atlas. Matheo Pagano created an early copy of the map, in 1558, although no example of Pagano's map is known to survive. The map was again copied by Hieronymous Cock in 1553. 

Flemish mapmaker Thomas Geminus (then resident in London) published a four-sheet map of Spain in 1555, the earliest map of Spain published in England. Geminus' map, which was a Corsulensis derivative, in turn inspired a 1559 map by the Pirro Ligorio (published by Michael Tramezzino and engraved by Sebastiano del Re), and a two-sheet map of the same year by Vincenzo Luchini. Other Corsulensis-derived maps inlcude those of Paolo Forlani (1560), Zenoni (ca. 1560), and Henricus Van Schoel (Camocio) (1602).

Another map that included the whole of the Iberian Peninsula was Enea Vico's map of 1542 illustrating the theater of the Franco-Hapsburg War. That map was copied by a number of other publishers from 1544.

The last of the major sixteenth-century maps of the peninsula was compiled by the French botanist Charles de l'Escluse (Carolus Clusius), whose map was compiled and printed on six sheets by Abraham Ortelius in 1570. It was later re-issued in Paris in 1606 and again in 1696. Hessel Gerritsz also created a monumental wall map of Iberia in 1612; this was engraved and printed in 1615.

Condition Description
Margins added in the style of the Lafreri School. Minor foxing and soiling.
Bifolco 461. KAP
Pirro Ligorio Biography

Pirro Ligorio (ca 1510-1583) was an Italian mapmaker, artist, and administrator. In 1534, he was appointed superintendent of ancient monuments for Popes Pius IV and Paul IV. Ligorio was a skilled painter and architect; his best known building work was as head of the team that finished the cupola of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. He fell out with Pius V and left Rome for Ferrara, where he died in 1583.