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The First Printed Map/View Engraved by Hieronymus Cock -- The Capture of Mahdia in 1550

The second known example this broadside of the Capture of Mahdia, the first map or view engraved by master engraver Hieronymus Cock and the only example to include a printed title.

Cock’s view shows a circular building representing the city’s main mosque. Invading troops at right have begun to damage the defensive walls, but Ottoman crescent flags still fly from the towers. The European forces are identified by flags with Habsburg double-headed eagles, as shown on two ships in the left foreground and an a standard carried by ground troops at the right.

At the right margin, cavalry bearing a crescent flag charge an infantry group that carries flags emblazoned with Christian crosses. This vignette may refer to a sortie that Ottoman forces made in the vicinity of the olive groves during the siege of Mahdia. Cock clearly distinguishes Habsburgs from Ottomans whereas Forlani’s later 1562 view shows unidentified cavalry arrayed in the foreground who approach Mahdia from all sides, whether friend or foe. 

Between 1550 and 1570, Cock engraved 27 maps and topographic views.  This view is the earliest surviving example of a map or topographical view engraved by Cock in the style of a map or view, depcting a current event and one of two published by Cock in 1550, the other being a large 2-sheet view of Lyon engraved for Cock by Balthasar Bos.

In describing this image, Serebrennikov notes:

No privilege, nor even identification, accompanies an etching which is signed 'Hieronymus Koek Ffecit] et Excudebat 1550' . . .  From land and sea, imperial troops and their allies besiege a fortified town flying the Turkish crescent. The inscription sechagne at the entrance to the interior port indicates the presence of shoals and not, as has been suggested, the name of the settlement.  Rather, this is the Siege of Mahdia, or Afrika as it was known to Europeans. . . . 

By mid-December of 1550 the French ambassador to the court at Constantinople had written back that imperial accounts of the fall of Mahdia had been available in print there for two months. Indeed, the earliest published account that has survived is an eye-witness report of the situation as of the  thirteenth of September, which appeared that same month in Nuremberg.  A similar account was probably was intended to accompany Cock's etching,  given the blank area reserved at the upper margin and the numeral '17' just  above the interior port.  Certainly it was an eyewitness who provided the model that Cock used for his view of the besieged town. . . . 

Capture of Mahdia

The Capture of Mahdia was an amphibious military operation that took place from June to September, 1550, during the struggle between the Ottoman Empire and the Spanish Habsburgs for the control of the Mediterranean.

A Spanish naval expedition under the command of the Genoese condottiero and admiral Andrea Doria and the Spaniard Bernardino de Mendoza, supported by the Knights of Malta under their Grand Master Claude de la Sengle, besieged and captured the Ottoman stronghold of Mahdia or Mahdiye.  Mahdia was defended by the Ottoman Admiral Turgut Reis, known as Dragut, who was using the place as a base for his piratical activities throughout the Spanish and Italian coasts.

Sancho de Leyva remained in Mahdia in command of a Spanish garrison until 1553.  Charles V offered the charge of the town to the Knights of Malta but they refused it, so he ordered it to be dismantled despite it being a strategically important stronghold.  Shortly after Mahdia was reoccupied by the Ottomans.  The town remained under Turkish rule until the 19th century. Sultan Suleiman, meanwhile, considered that Charles had broken the Truce of Adrianople and ordered Turgut Reis to resume the war against the Christians. After summoning up Turkish reinforcements he returned to the Barbary coast in August 1551, and succeeded in capturing Tripoli from the Knights of Malta. In 1560, he helped to defeat a Christian fleet at the battle of Djerba, but failed in an effort to take Malta, a failure that, together with that of the Ottoman governor of Algiers before Oran ans Mers El Kébir, allowed the capture in 1564 by Spain of Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, a Christian success which was followed in 1565 by the decisive defense of Malta against the fleet of Turgut Reis.


The present example includes a title at the top in Latin, which is printed on a separate piece of paper. 

We locate only a single surviving example (no title) at the Rijksmuseum.

Condition Description
Paste down title. Minor soiling.
Nina E. Serebrennikov: Plotting Imperial Campaigns: Hieronymous Cock’s Abortive Foray into Chorography, "Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek",52, pp. 186-215 (2001); Alexandra Kirkman Onuf, Local Terrains: The Small Landscape Prints and the Depiction of the Countryside in Early Modem Antwerp, p.37-38 and figure 1.93 (2006).
Hieronymus Cock Biography

Hieronymus Cock, or Hieronymus Wellens de Cock (1518 -1570) was a Southern Netherlandish painter and etcher as well as a publisher and distributor of prints.  Cock became known as the most important print publisher of his time in northern Europe and his widow Volcxken Diericx played a key role in the transformation of printmaking from an activity of individual artists and craftsmen into an industry based on division of labor.

Cock's publishing house published more than 1,100 prints between 1548 and his death in 1570, a vast number by earlier standards.

Although far more important as a publisher, Cock was an artist of talent, best seen in his last series of 12 landscape etchings of 1558, which are somewhat in the fantastic style of the paintings of his brother Matthys Cock. Altogether he etched 62 plates.

Cock  was born into an artistic family. His father Jan Wellens de Cock and his brother Matthys Cock were both painters and draftsmen. He was admitted to the painters' guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp in 1545. He resided in Rome from 1546 to 1547. When he returned to Antwerp in 1547, he married and together with his wife founded their own publishing house in 1548, Aux quatre vents or In de Vier Winden (the "House of the Four Winds"). They issued their first prints there in 1548. The majority of Cock's prints were made after paintings by artists from the Low Countries such as Frans Floris, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Lambert Lombard, Maarten van Heemskerck and Hieronymus Bosch as well as architectural and ornament designs by Cornelis Floris and Hans Vredeman de Vries.

In 1559 and 1561 he published two series of landscape prints by an anonymous Flemish draughtsman now referred to as the Master of the Small Landscapes. The series of landscapes were drawn from nature in the vicinity of Antwerp and had an important influence on the development of Flemish and Dutch realist landscape art.

The Cocks' enterprise Les Quatre Vents played an important role in the spread of the Italian High Renaissance throughout northern Europe as Cock published prints made by prominent engravers such as Giorgio Ghisi, Dirck Volckertsz Coornhert and Cornelis Cort after the work of leading Italian painters like Raphael, Primaticcio, Bronzino, Giulio Romano and Andrea del Sarto. The Italian historian of architecture Vincenzo Scamozzi copied many of the engravings published by Cock in 1551 for his volume on Rome entitled 'Discorsi sopra L'antichita di Roma' (Venice: Ziletti, 1583).

Cock collaborated with the Spanish cartographer Diego Gutiérrez on a 1562 Map of America.

Hieronymus Cock collaborated with Antwerp architect and designer Cornelis Floris de Vriendt in the publishing of Cornelis Floris' designs for monuments and ornaments: the ‘’Veelderley niewe inuentien van antycksche sepultueren’’ (‘The many new designs of antique sculptures') was published in 1557 and the ‘’Veelderley veranderinghe van grotissen’’ (‘Many varieties of grotesques’) in 1556. The publication of these books contributed to the spread of the so-called Floris style throughout the Netherlands.

After Cock's death in 1570, the firm was continued by his widow (Volcxken Diercx) until her death in 1600.  The inventory of her estate survives with a list of her plates still owned by the firm. Many of the plates were later taken over by Philips Galle, a family friend and her executor.  Other plates were sold to other printers, including Paul van der Houve (Paul de la Houve) in about 1600, and by 1601, Houve was known to have published copies of Cock's maps of Span and Sicily, as well as a portion of the map of America.