This 1574 map "Natolia Nuova Tavola," produced by Girolamo Ruscelli and published in Venice, provides a detailed representation of a part of Asia Minor and northern Cyprus, stretching from Constantinople to Armenia. This carefully rendered cartographic work is a testament to the evolving knowledge and representation of these regions in the late 16th century.
Ruscelli's map is noteworthy for its early origins, first appearing in the 1561 edition of Ruscelli's version of Ptolemy's Geographia, a foundational text in the history of cartography. As such, it is part of a lineage of maps tracing back to the work of Claudius Ptolemy, the 2nd-century Greek geographer whose methods and principles had a lasting influence on the field.
This map is part of Ruscelli's atlas, an expansion of Gastaldi's 1548 Geografia, which stands out as a significant achievement in the history of cartography. Gastaldi's work has been lauded as the most comprehensive atlas produced in the period between Martin Waldseemüller's Geographiae of 1513 and Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum of 1570, both landmark works in the field.
Ruscelli and Gastaldi's pioneering use of copper engraving was a turning point in cartographic production. The hardness of copper allowed the engraver to depict more detail, and from this period forward, copper became the preferred medium for most cartographic works. This map, with its intricate detail, embodies the advantages of this technique.
Importantly, both Ruscelli and Gastaldi were committed to using the most current geographic information available. As a result, the modern maps in Ruscelli's Geographia, including "Natolia Nuova Tavola," are among the most accurate and detailed of their period. The map thus provides a window into the late 16th-century understanding of these regions, reflecting the ongoing efforts to update and refine geographic knowledge.
Girolamo Ruscelli (1500-1566) was a cartographer, humanist, and scholar from Tuscany. Ruscelli was a prominent writer and editor in his time, writing about a wide variety of topics including the works of Giovanni Boccaccio and Francesco Petrarch, Italian language, Italian poetry, medicine, alchemy, and militia. One of his most notable works was a translation of Ptolemy’s Geographia which was published posthumously.
There is limited information available about Ruscelli’s life. He was born in the Tuscan city of Viterbo to a family of modest means. He was educated at the University of Padua and moved between Rome and Naples until 1548, when he moved to Naples to work in a publishing house as a writer and proofreader. He remained in the city until his death in 1566.