This early woodcut map of Europe, by Benedetto Bordone, holds a unique position in the history of cartography as one of the earliest printed maps of the continent. The map provides a fascinating snapshot of Europe as it was understood in the early 16th century, including regions from North Africa in the south to Norway in the north, as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
This map was featured in Bordone's work, the Libro di Benedetto Bordone... de tutte l'isole del mondo..., more widely known as the Isolario of Bordone. This influential work, first published in Venice in 1528, was among the first island books (isolario) that emerged in the 16th century as Europeans began to explore and map the world's oceans and islands more extensively.
The Isolario of Bordone went through at least three more editions in 1534, 1547, and 1565. Interestingly, all four editions used the same woodblocks for printing the maps, demonstrating Bordone's meticulous attention to detail and the durability of his original work. This map thus not only represents an early view of Europe but also exemplifies the artistry and technique of early woodblock map printing.
Planispherical diagrams on the verso of the map add a further layer of intrigue and complexity, underscoring the multi-faceted nature of Bordone's work and the early modern understanding of the world's geography. As such, this map stands as a testament to Bordone's influence in cartography and the broader process of geographic discovery during the Renaissance.
Benedetto Bordone (1460-1531) was a polymath who was born in Padua and worked in Venice. He was an illuminator, engraver, miniaturist, editor, and geographer. It is possible he made the first globe in Italy. His most famous work is the Isolario, or Book of Islands, which included many of the earliest printed maps of islands in the New World.