Portolan atlas

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Accession number: 
MS M.507
Portolan atlas
Venice, Italy, 1542.
Venetian, 16th-century maroon morocco gilt over boards with border ornament of running animals.
Purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1912.
16 leaves, bound : vellum, ill. ; 220 x 160 mm
An early owner wrote the monogram of Christ (IHS) in rubrics on the upper center of fol. 1; an early inscription in brown ink scribbled on the upper inside front cover; purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) from Leo S. Olschki in 1912; J.P. Morgan (1867-1943).

Ms. atlas; written and illuminated in Venice, Italy, in 1542.
Scribe and artist: Battista Agnese; signed and dated on fol. 13v: baptista agnese fecit venetijs 1542 die 15 mai; the windrose is not believed to be by Agnese.
Decoration: 1 illuminated windrose, 1 illuminated zodiacal circle; 1 full-colored world map with 12 blowing wind heads; 9 other maps with details in colors and wash gold.

Roman letters and a cursive script
Italian (Venetian dialect) and Dutch

Between 1536 and 1564, the heyday of Italian mapmaking, the cartographer Battista Agnese produced in Venice a number of remarkably accurate and beautifully decorated nautical or "portolan" atlases. About seventy copies are known to exist today. A luxury item, the atlas was unlikely to have been used in practical navigation and was reserved for rich merchants and high-ranking officials.

The map with twelve wind cherubs traces Ferdinand Magellan's sea route for his near circumnavigation of the world (he died before completing it) in 1519–22 along with a route from Spain to Peru. The oval depiction of the world represented a new type of map introduced by Benedetto Bordone's Isolario (Book of Islands).