Striking Coronelli Map of the Eastern Hemisphere
Fine, content-rich map of the Eastern Hemisphere with early Dutch discoveries in Australia and fantastical Antarctic details.
Surrounding the hemisphere are bands explaining constellations, distances, and coordinates.
The map shows the Mondo Vecchio, or the “Old World.” Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia, including Maritime Southeast Asia, are split into political units by dotted lines. These include Persia, Tartary (and North Tartary), Barbary, and the Philippines, among others.
The eastern coast and interior of Africa, however, are left open, reflecting the relative lack of geographic knowledge of Europeans about the continent. There are notes about the course and source of the Nile, an enduring mystery of interest to geographers. One note explains, “Many of the geographers claimed that Niger drew its origin from the Nile, which hiding under the Earth then formed the Niger.” The other explains that the Ancients thought that the Nile rose from Lake Zaire.
In the east, Korea is shown as a peninsula. However, a nearby note says that some believe Korea to be an island. Coronelli is putting forth his own ideas about geography while also engaging other mapmakers with his notes.
While the outlines of the northern continents are familiar, a large coastline in the far south is less so. This is Coronelli’s best approximation at drawing the great southern continent, Terra Australis Incognita. For centuries, European geographers had hypothesized that there must be a large southern landmass to balance out the northern continents. As more and more vessels sailed toward the south—encountering the west coast of Australia, crossing the Pacific, etc.—the precise shape and size of Terra Australis continually morphed and fluctuated on maps.
Here, Coronelli does not offer a guess as to the shape of the coast near Australia. Farther west, however, the shoreline dips and rises. The lone toponym is Terra de Papagalli, which is of “fabulous,” or questionable, credibility. This “land of parrots” refers to Psitacorum regio. It appeared on Mercator’s 1541 globe and his 1569 world map. It was supposed to have been sighted by Portuguese sailors but was never verified in terms of size or location.
A decorative cloth cartouche hanging in the top corners includes a dedication to Pietro Marcello, a brother to Federico Marcello, a Procurator of San Marco. The title of Procurator of San Marco was the second-most prestigious lifetime appointment in the Republic of Venice. A great honor, the Procurators were supposed to look after the administration of Saint Mark’s Basilica, as well as to care for the city’s mentally challenged and orphans.
Surrounding the map itself are three rings and several tables. These reflect Coronelli’s expertise in geography, astronomy, and natural philosophy. The rings include latitudinal measurements in hours, minutes, and seconds, paired with a table of “straight shadows and sundials according to the curls being the gnomon of parts 10000000.” In the lower corners are a table of distances from the equator (right) and a compendium of the estimates of distances of past geographers.
This map featured in Coronelli’s Atlante Veneto, published in 1691. The atlas was supposed to carry on the work of Joan Blaeu’s prestigious Atlas Maior. By 1701, the atlas had grown to twelve volumes that covered geography, natural philosophy, and globemaking.
The geographic content of this map originates from Coronelli’s 1688 globe gores, which were renowned across Europe when they were published.
The Dutch Discoveries of Australia
Coronelli has gathered information about the early Dutch encounters with Australia. The Dutch East India Company began trading with Maritime Southeast Asia and the rich Spice Islands at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Some of these ships ventured south to find more trade opportunities and resources. They eventually hit the north shore of Australia.
The voyage around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean is a difficult one. Some ships were sent into the farther southern latitudes—the Roarin’ Forties—en route. This would put them on a collision course with western Australia.
Here, Coronelli has included Terre de Arnhem in reference to the Arnhem, a Dutch East India ship, which sighted the area in 1623. Farther west is Terra Concordia and the date 1618; this is most likely the elision of the 1616 voyage of Dirk Hartog in the Eendracht (which translates to concord) and the 1618 voyages of Willem Jansz (Duyfken) and Haevik Claeszoon van Hillegom (Zeewolf). All of these voyages sighted or landed on parts of western Australia.
Terre de Edels is next. Jacob d’Edel, in the Amsterdam, along with Frederik de Houtman in the Dordrecht came within sight of the western coast in 1619. Terre de Lewin is named for the Leeuwin, whose crew charted some of the southwest coastline in 1622. Also here is Terre de Pietro Nuye; Pieter Nuyts commanded the Gulden Zeepaert along the southern coast in 1627.
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.