Benedetto Bordone

Benedetto Bordone
(1460–1531)

Isolario (Book of Islands)

Printed by Nicolò Zappino in Venice, 1528
Opening: Map of Vinegia (Venice)

Gift of Lydia L. Redmond, in memory of her mother and stepfather, Mr. and Mrs. William M. Clearwater, 1996

PML 125859
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Originally intended as a guide for sailors, Bordone's Isolario describes the important islands and ports throughout the Mediterranean and in other parts of the world, also touching on their culture and history. Some of the illustrations are among the earliest printed maps of the regions depicted. The book also includes new discoveries, such as the connection between North and South America. The polymath Bordone—a miniaturist, astrologer, engraver, and cartographer—helped to establish island books as a popular new genre in Italy, and many were produced in Venice.

This marvelously detailed map of Venice (Vinegia) provides an excellent perspective of the lagoon and surrounding islands, detailing the major canals and landmarks in and around the city.

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Travel and the Venetian Empire

By 1500 Venice was the foremost maritime power in Europe as well as an international cultural destination. The city's empire included a dense web of fortified harbors in the eastern Mediterranean stretching along the Dalmatian coast to Crete and Cyprus, which protected its trading interests. In order to cater to the needs of its merchants and naval commanders, Venice became an important center of cartography.

The city's wealth and stability fostered artistic creativity and attracted a host of influential foreign artists, such as Albrecht Dürer, Andrea Schiavone, and El Greco. Not only did these visiting artists invigorate the city's artistic life, they also spread Venetian innovations far beyond the territorial confines of the empire.