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Stock# 83534

A Beautiful Set in Matching Early Vellum Bindings : With Important Maps

Ramusio's essential collection of voyages and travels, here in a mixed set, as usual, and including important voyage material not found in the original editions of the three volumes. Called by Church, "one of the earliest and most important collections of voyages and travels of the sixteenth century," Ramusio's collection is a landmark publication for the history of exploration and travel. The work includes a total of 12 historically interesting maps, described in detail below.

Ramusio, a Venetian civil servant, spent decades gathering images, accounts, and sources for his massive collection of travels and voyages. He wanted to update the geographic knowledge of antiquity, which was being challenged by European interactions with the Americas, Africa, and Asia. He especially wanted his work to be useful to mapmakers in updating their representations of the known world.

One of the larger printing projects of the sixteenth century, the collection eventually comprised three volumes. They were published by Tommaso Giunti in Venice and only in a later edition, in 1563, was the author revealed to be Ramusio.

The set we offer here is bound in very attractive matching 18th century vellum. Each volume of Ramusio was reprinted several times, and later issues often incorporated new material which likely influenced how individual sets were made up by the original owners. Opinions differ over what constitutes the "best" editions of the respective volumes, but a clean nice set in uniform early bindings will always be desirable.

The present set comprises the following editions: Vol. 1: 1613. Vol. 2: 1583. Vol. 3. 1606.

The first volume was originally published in 1550 and contains information about Africa, India, southern Asia and the East Indies. There is an attempt to correct some of Ptolemy's cartography, and accounts of Da Gama, Alvarez, and Pigafetta are included. The second volume, first published in 1559, discusses Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

The second volume, which deals with Central Asia, Russia and the Northern Sea, first appeared in 1559. It was delayed because of a large fire in Ramusio’s workshop in 1557; the flames ruined the volume’s woodblocks, forcing the second edition to be published two years later and with no maps. The maps that were included in the other volumes were most likely the work of Giacomo Gastaldi, who tutored Ramusio’s son. While the first volume has three maps and plans, and the second none due to the fire, the third volume has nine maps of the Americas, Africa, and the East Indies.

The third volume, first published in 1556 (thus before vol. II), is entirely devoted to America, and includes accounts of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Peter Martyr, Oviedo, Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca, Guzman, Ulloa, Coronado, Fray Marcos di Niza, Fernando Alarcón, Xerez, Verrazano and Cartier. W. Michael Mathes, in his chronologically arranged California Colonial Bibliography, accords Ramusio entry no. 2 (López de Gómara is entry no. 1 and Richard Hakluyt is no. 3) for the inclusion of the first printed relations of the expeditions of Francisco de Ulloa (1539) and Hernando de Alarcón (1540) through the Gulf of California to the mouth of the Colorado River.

The work was an important milestone in publishing and each volume was printed several times: Volume I in 1550, 1554 (with additions), 1563 (with an additional leaf mentioning Ramusio as author), 1588, 1606, and 1613; Volume II in 1559, 1574 (with additions), 1583 (further additions), and 1606; and Volume III in 1556, 1565 and 1606 (with additions). Only once, in 1606, were all three volumes reprinted in the same year. Consequently, it is common to find so-called mixed or composite sets, which may actually contain more information than a strict set of first editions of all three volumes.

The present set's volume 1 (1613 ed.) includes five letters on Japan, written in 1549 and 1550. The volume 2 (1583 ed.) contains (on leaves 211-219) an account of Sebastian Cabot's explorations (Navigatione di Sebastiano Cabota), which is not found in earlier 1558 and 1573 Venice editions. And the present volume 3 (1606 ed.) contains Gerrit de Veer's Tre navigationi fatte da gli Olandese, not found in the original 1556 Venice edition of this volume.

In his Spanish Southwest, 1542-1794 bibliography, Henry Wagner includes individual entries for several of the accounts in Ramusio's vol. 3 (referencing the 1556 first edition of that volume): Marcos de Niza, Francisco de Ulloa, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and Fernando Alarcón. Wagner also mentions under his entry 1a. for the 1555 edition of Cabeza de Vaca's Relación that Ramusio includes a translation of the Relación. In the case of Alarcón's important account of ascending the Colorado River, Wagner declares, "no other report of this expedition beyond an occasional reference has yet been found."

The maps:

The very fine maps include numerous cartographical firsts. The map of the Western Hemisphere in vol. III (Universale Della Nuovamente Parte Del Mondo Ritrovata) reflects geographical knowledge of the time, including the California coast as far north as present-day San Francisco. It is one of the first maps to depict the names derived from the travels of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in southwestern North America, including Quivira, Cicuic, Axa, Cucho, Cibola and Tiguas. Coronado was the governor of Nueva Galicia when he led an expedition in 1540 to follow rumors of the Seven Golden Cities to the north. The conquistadores found no gold, but they did become the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon and much of California. The reference to Sierra Nevadas, snowy mountains, derives from Cabrillo's explorations of the California coastline in 1542. Due in part to these expeditions, Wheat noted that the Ramusio map represented a significant development in the mapping of the American west, calling it "an advance of the first importance." The map also includes an early reference to Florida and suggests its peninsular shape.

Also in the third volume is the first printed map to focus solely on New England and southeastern Canada (La Nuova Francia), including a fascinating interpretation of some of the earliest voyages to the New World, at a time when this region was still quite unknown to Europeans. The map is the first to use the name New France and one of the earliest to delineate New York Harbor and Manhattan with any accuracy. Cohen and Augustyn call this the best surviving early map to illustrate Verrazano's discovery of New York Harbor, visible in the lower left of the map. Manhattan is pictured as a peninsula named Angoulesme. This name, which Verrazano bestowed on his discovery, refers to Francis I of France, before he became king, who was descended from the Counts of Angoulême. This name never was picked up for general usage and soon disappeared from maps. From New York, Verrazano continued further north, visiting Newport Bay, here called Port Real, and Narragansett Bay, named as Port du Refuge. Verrazano skirted the New England coast further north, which is why the map is missing the familiar shape of Cape Cod and also the reason that the distance between the bays of southern New England and the islands around the Gulf of St. Lawrence are so foreshortened.

Volume III also contains a double-page view that is often described as the first plan of an American town, an extremely early depiction of Montreal (La Terra Hochelaga nella Nova Francia). Jacques Cartier, the great French explorer, visited the village of Hochelaga on the island of Montreal in 1535. The village was near a mountain the explorer named Mount Royal or Monte Real. This quite detailed view includes many of the things described by Cartier. The mythical large welcome is depicted in the clasping of hands by a Frenchman (presumably Cartier) and a native chief, and the advantage of two-story fortifications is demonstrated. The lodges within the fort are exceedingly symmetrical, but with each family unit indicated by a separate fire, they were probably intended to indicate that they were both single family and multiple family or extended family dwellings. It is not clear who the Hochelagans were, although most likely either Huron or Iroquois. The village was gone by the time Champlain arrived. There are also double-page maps of Cuzco in Peru, Brazil, Sumatra (first map of any island in Southeast Asia), Parte de Lafrica, and full-page maps of Hispaniola (Isola Spagnuola) and Mexico City (Temistitan).

Woodcuts illustrations throughout:

In addition to a few woodcuts of indigenous Americans there is a significant group of natural history illustrations, including one of maize or corn, and several handsome illustrations of cacti. Also depicted are numerous animals, especially fishes, sea lions, and other seemingly exotic creatures. There is a charming woodcut of a comfortable looking hammock between a pair of palm trees.


James Douglas copy, with his armorial bookplate in each volume. Additional early engraved armorial bookplate on verso of each title page: three fishes on escutcheon and initials "L.D.  D.F."

Condition Description
Folio. 18th century vellum, with burgundy leather spine labels, a uniformly bound set. Leather spine labels with some edge chipping. Volume two with minimal light old damp staining to upper gutter corner of first fifteen leaves. Vol 1. with 3 double-page engraved maps, vol. 3 with 7 folding and 2 full-page woodcut maps. Vol. 1: [4], 394 numbered leaves; Vol. 2: 256, 90 numbered leaves; Vol. 3: 430 numbered leaves. Collation: Vol. 1: a (4), b-d (8),e (10), 3 double-page maps, a-v (8),x (10), y-z, aa-zz, aaa-bbb (8), ccc (9); Vol. 2: 1-2 (6), 3 (4), 4 (6), 5 (4), A-II (8), A-X (4), Y (6); Vol. 3: * (6), B-D (8), E (6), F (6), A-Uu (8), Xx (4), Yy (8)-Eee (8),Fff (10). Titles with woodcut printer's device (which also appears on final leaf of volumes 2 & 3). Woodcut initials and in text illustrations of indigenous people, fauna, flora, architectural plans, and the like. Volume one lacks final blank, otherwise COMPLETE.
Complete work: European Americana 613/108, 583/59 & 606/88. Church 99. Sabin 67735, 67738 & 67742. Mathes, W. Michael. California Colonial Bibliography: 2 (in: "Historiography of the Californias: Imprints of the Colonial Period, 1552-1821," California State Library Foundation Bulletin No. 72 (winter & spring 2002). Western Hemisphere map: Burden 24, 34. Wheat 9; Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America 35. New France map: Cohen and Augustyn, Manhattan in Maps, p. 18. Burden 25. Augustyn & Cohen p.18. McCorckle 556.1. Kershaw 15b. Verner & Stuart-Stubbs 2. Goss 8. Suarez 26. Potter, p. 241. La Terra Hochelaga nella Nova Francia: Ganong, Crucial Maps, p. 303-314. Goss, The Mapping of North America #7. For extensive discussions of individual accounts in vol. 3 of Ramusio relating to exploration in the Southwest cf.: Wagner, Spanish Southwest: 3 (Marcos de Niza), 4 (Ulloa), 5 (Vázquez de Coronado), 6 (Alarcón).

Giovanni Battista Ramusio Biography

Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was an Italian geographer who worked within the Venetian Empire. His father had been a magistrate and he himself served as a civil servant to Venice. He served throughout Europe, allowing him to build up a network of informants and a collection of travel materials. He compiled this information into his enduring masterpiece, Navigationi et Viaggi, in 1550 (first volume) and 1556 (third volume). The second volume appeared after his death in 1559, as the original manuscript had been destroyed by a fire.