Detailed plan of Messina and vicinity, from Merian's Neuwe Archontologica Cosmica . . ., first published in 1638 and later reissued in 1688. The map presents fine detail regarding the city, port, and countryside of Messina, located in northeastern-most Sicily.
The map shows the town plan, harbor, buildings, churches, bridges, fortified walls of the city, and other features. Decorative elements shown include numerous ships at port and at sea and a stippled ocean.
Messina is situated on its eponymous straits that connect Sicily to mainland Italy. As such, it derives most of its importance from this extremely strategic location, allowing it to control goods shipped by land from Calabria to Sicily and the other way around.
This map was issued ten years after the city was conquered by the Spaniards, in which it was sacked and a major fortress built. These changes are not evident on the presented map, which preserves a pre-conquest view of the city.
Mathaus Merian (1593-1650) was the father of engraver Matthäus the Younger, and of the painter, engraver, and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. He was born in Basel, Switzerland and trained in engraving in Zurich. After a time in Nancy, Paris and Strasbourg, he settled in Frankfurt. While there, he worked for Johann Theodor de Bry, the publisher and son of the travel writer. In 1617, he married Maria Magdalena de Bry, Johann Theodor’s daughter. In 1623, Merian took over the de Bry publishing house upon the death of his father-in-law. Merian’s best known works are detailed town views which, due to their accuracy and artistry, form a valuable record of European urban life in the first half of the sixteenth century