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Girolamo Ruscelli: Septentrionalivm Partivm Nova Tabvla

Map: AMER2106
Cartographer: Girolamo Ruscelli
Title: Septentrionalivm Partivm Nova Tabvla
Date: 1574
Published: Venice
Width: 10 inches / 26 cm
Height: 8 inches / 21 cm
Map ref: AMER2106
Early woodcut map of the North Atlantic Ocean showing the purported discoveries of Venetian noblemen and navigators, Nicolò Zeno (c. 1326–c. 1402) and his brother Antonio (d. circa 1403).

The Zeno Brothers were said to have voyaged across the Atlantic in the late 14th Century, around 1380, supposedly reaching as far as North America according to some interpretations. Their ancester, another Nicolo Zeno (1515-65), claimed to have discovered an account of their voyages, including original letters and a map dated circa 1400. In 1558 he published account to great acclaim. Ruscelli based this map on the "original" Zeno map published in that account.

As well as the wild claims of discovery, appearing on the map are the mythical islands of Frisland, Icaria and Estotiland. Surrounding Iceland are seven further fictitious islands: Bres, Talas, Broas, Iscant, Trans, Mimant, and Damberc. Frisland, potentially born of miscalculation and confusion, continued to be copied by other cartographers well into the late 17th century!

This Zeno map has been called into question by historians for centuries, and is likely one of the greatest, and longest-running, cartographic hoaxes ever committed. It is now believed that Nicolo Zeno (the younger) fabricated the myth so that a Venetian would have been the first to discover the Americas instead of the Genovese Christopher Columbus.

[AMER2106] [Burden (P.): 'The Mapping of North America' 29]