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The First Printed Map to Name Canada. (Burden)

A Tour de Force of Renaissance Mapmaking: Paolo Forlani's First World Map.

Rare second state of Forlani's magnificent map of the world, one of only two states to be published by him.

Forlani's map possesses two major cartographic firsts for North America: it has both the first printed appearances of "Canada" and "Saguenai." Elsewhere in the Americas, detail is current and impressive. South America is rich with toponyms, suggesting a cartographic lineage that can be traced back to Spanish manuscript maps. The land bridge between North America and Asia follows one of the prevailing contemporary cartographic theories in Italy. The Arctic follows Fine in part, while East Asia is beginning to take a correct shape.

The decorative elements are some of the earliest to appear in Lafreri cartography. Twelve sailing ships navigate the seas, chased by monsters of all sorts. While these sorts of decorations were common in northern European mapmaking from the earliest days of printing, they were far from the norm in Italian cartography at the time. In particular, Forlani appears to have been the first Lafreri mapmaker to include compass roses on a world map.

Forlani's map greatly relies on and compiles from Gastaldi's two rare world maps of 1546 and c. 1550 (the latter is known in only a single example at the British Library) for the world outline and most of the geographical detail. However, there are significant differences throughout. The aforementioned addition of toponyms in North America, not present in either Gastaldi map, not only include "Canada" and "Saguenai," but also "Topira" in the southwest and two cities: "Chans" and "Tototenach." No source has been identified for these additions, but they may reflect a compilation of multiple sources, either by Forlani or a previous author. The focus on the seven cities of gold region possibly indicates a Spanish or Italian source. However, the progress in Canada suggests a tie to the important but rare maps produced by the Dieppe School in northern France. The few earlier manuscript maps to name Canada tend to be part of this tradition. Dieppe School maps tend to show this name in two ways: either labeling Canada as a large region north of the St. Lawrence (in the style of the Harleian Map of 1536, the first map to name Canada) or as a city in the vicinity of Quebec (as with the Vallard Atlas of 1547). However, those maps show a clear St. Lawrence (which this map doesn't), and usually neglect detail in the American Southwest, suggesting that this information may have come to Forlani through an intermediary source.

While the rest of the North American geography is more closely tied to Gastaldi's c. 1550 map, most of the rest of the map is based on the 1546 Gastaldi map. This is particularly clear with the Arctic islands appearing only on the first of the two. While the rounded islands share a perspective akin to the Arctic portrayed by Ruysch, the appearance of Greenland (albeit far to the East) and the inclusion of a large island at the pole seems to draw more from Oronce Fine's tradition. Bifolco and Ronca call Forlani's map the first (unauthorized) derivative from Gastaldi's seminal work, but the addition of novel toponyms and compilation shows that it is much more than a simple derivative.

Canada & Saguenay

The term "Canada" is derived from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word "kanata", meaning 'village' or 'settlement'. This origin has gained acceptance after various theories were proposed over time.

In 1535, during Jacques Cartier's exploration, the indigenous people of the region near present-day Quebec City used "kanata" to guide him to the village of Stadacona. Rather than limiting the term to this village, Cartier expanded its use to denote the whole area under the leadership of Donnacona, the chief of Stadacona.

The Kingdom of Saguenay was a mythical realm that Jacques Cartier believed existed based upon his encounters with Chief Donnacona. Located inland of what is now Quebec, Canada, indigenous tales spoke of this land as a rich kingdom. On his final expedition, in 1542, believing he was closer to discovering the fabled riches, Cartier established the Charlesbourg-Royal settlement. There, his crew believed they had stumbled upon significant deposits of diamonds and gold. These "treasures" were promptly shipped back to France, where they were revealed to be mere quartz crystals and iron pyrites.

States of the Map

This is the second state of the map, with the date updated to MDLXII. The states of the map can be identified as follows:

  1. With the imprint VENETIIS. Ioan. Francisci Camotii aereis formis Ad signum Piramidis Anno MDLX.
  2. Date updated to MDLXII.
  3. Camocio's imprint added, and the southern continent vastly expanded.
  4. Imprint changed to Apud Donatum Bertellum but without date (this state was described by Shirley but could not be verified by Bifolco and Ronca).
  5. Date re-added, and it now reads MDLXXXXIIII.
  6. Date changed to MDCLI.
  7. Date changed to MDCCLI.


We trace no examples of this map appearing at auction since 2006, when an example of the second state was offered for a low estimate of €100,000 (approximately $126,000 at the time). Since then, this firm has offered an example of the 1661 sixth state. We are also aware of another example of the second state having been offered for £100,000 on the private market in the interim.

Condition Description
Copperplate engraving on 16th-century laid paper. Trimmed to neatline with original Lafreri-style margins. Compass roses removed and reinstated in printed facsimile. Small stain in southern Pacific. Expertly repaired tear to upper margin.
Shirley: World, 106; IM III, [8]; Woodward: Paulo Forlani 1.02: refers to a possible state dated 1570; Wagner (45 & 57) refers to a state dated 1561, which is apparently a 'ghost.' Burden 36 (references this map). Bifolco and Ronca 18.
Paolo Forlani Biography

Paolo Forlani (fl. ca. 1560-1571) was a prolific map engraver based in Venice. All that is known of his life are his surviving maps and prints, of which there are almost 100 (185 with later states included in the total). He also produced a globe and two town books.  It is likely he came from Verona and that he died in Venice in the mid-1570s, possibly of the plague.