A fascinating set of two images of the infamous Lofoten Maelstrom in Norway, engraved by one of the great Italian cartographers of the 17th century, Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, this work first appeared in his Atlante Veneto.
The upper of the two images shows a map of the location of the maelstrom between the island of Moskenesoya and Sorland. Named the Moskstraumen, it is an unusual example of an open ocean whirlpool, driven by tidal forces. The maelstrom has captured the public imagination, with references common in Old Norse literature, Edgar Allen Poe writing a poem about it, and it being discussed in Robert Mcfarlane's Underland.
Interestingly, we can tell something about how the present image was printed by closely examining the edges of the ship's images, and how they interact with the intricate decorative borders that surround them. The boats and border were printed from separate copper plates but on the same sheet. This practice was not unheard of but is rather unusual.
Coronelli's Atlante Veneto was intended to accompany Blaeu's Atlas Maior and contained abundant maps. However, due to the idiosyncratic nature of the publication of the book, the double-printed maritime images are rarer today than his maps are.
Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650-1718) was one of the most influential Italian mapmakers and was known especially for his globes and atlases. The son of a tailor, Vincenzo was apprenticed to a xylographer (a wood block engraver) at a young age. At fifteen he became a novice in a Franciscan monastery. At sixteen he published his first book, the first of 140 publications he would write in his lifetime. The order recognized his intellectual ability and saw him educated in Venice and Rome. He earned a doctorate in theology, but also studied astronomy. By the late 1670s, he was working on geography and was commissioned to create a set of globes for the Duke of Parma. These globes were five feet in diameter. The Parma globes led to Coronelli being named theologian to the Duke and receiving a bigger commission, this one from Louis XIV of France. Coronelli moved to Paris for two years to construct the King’s huge globes, which are 12.5 feet in diameter and weigh 2 tons.
The globes for the French King led to a craze for Coronelli’s work and he traveled Europe making globes for the ultra-elite. By 1705, he had returned to Venice. There, he founded the first geographical society, the Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti and was named Cosmographer of the Republic of Venice. He died in 1718.