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Vincenzo Coronelli: Terre Artiche

Map: POLAR96
Cartographer: Vincenzo Coronelli
Title: Terre Artiche
Date: c. 1695
Published: Venice
Width: 24 inches / 61 cm
Height: 18 inches / 46 cm
Map ref: POLAR96
Vincenzo Maria Coronelli first found fame as a globe maker. Born in 1650, he entered the Franciscan Order at age 13. He reputedly drew his first map at age fifteen and in 1678 he was commissioned to make a pair of globes for the Duke of Parma. This in turn brought him to the attention of the French clergy and he was invited to Paris to make a pair of globes for Louis XIV. This resulted in the famous “Marly Globes.

In 1691, having returned to Venice, Coronelli began publishing his “Atlante Veneto”, a projected three volume work initially conceived as a continuation of Joan Blaeu’s “Atlas Major”.

This map of the North Pole was part of that work and is a marvellous compendium of both known and speculative geography about the early and new discoveries in the northern lands. The map treads a fine line between what was known and recorded and what was perceived; the differentiation is subtle but can clearly be seen by the difference in engraving. Known discoveries are clearly and crisply engraved while coastlines that are subject to speculation are less defined and not clearly incised into the metal. The image is aided by a series of text panels adding information about the history of the region, together with lines of text which date and name the discoverers of various parts of the coast.

The map speculates upon the existence of both the Northeast and Northwest Passages. Between the purported entrances to these passages lie the coastlines of Greenland, Spitzbergen or modern Svalbard and Nova Zembla. Their exact nature and relationship to the mainland of Russia or the mythical Arctic landmass are left undefined although all of them bear panels of text detailing their discovery. Further East another speculative coastline is featured, stating that according to Pliny, this was the Tabin Peninsula, which is possibly a reference to the modern Taymyr Peninsula which is roughly in the same area. Coronelli also took many of the names left by English explorers and attempted to Italianise them, mostly to good but sometimes lesser success such as the “terra di Wiches” next to Spitzbergen. Greenland bears a fascinating text panel detailing its discovery by Herico Russo (Eric the Red) in 982AD followed by Danish voyages in 1379.

To the west lie the exciting discoveries made initially by John Davis, William Baffin and Henry Hudson in the late 16th and early 17th century. To these are added new discoveries by Sir Thomas Button, after whom Button’s Bay is named and whose records legitimised many English claims to the western coastline of Hudson’s Bay. However, for Coronelli’s purposes, the most important discoveries are mentioned further South in the Terra Labrador which, he states unequivocally, was discovered by Antonio Zeno. This stems from a controversial claim that the Venetian Zeno brothers, Nicolo and Antonio, undertook a voyage to the North Atlantic which sighted and recorded north eastern America. This voyage purportedly took place in the last decade of the fourteenth century so approximately a hundred years before Columbus. This claim was controversial even in the mid 16th century when it was first made but it allowed Venice to join Portugal, England and France in laying claim to the newly discovered lands of North America. As official geographer to the Venetian Republic, Coronelli was both obliged to record this discovery on his map and possibly supported this claim.

Finally, a large cartouche on the centre hides the exact the nature of the North Pole but is artistically adorned with ice sheets. The text panel summerises the current state of claims to the northern regions as well as describing the extraordinarily length of nights and days in the North Pole during the summer and winter.

[Burden 678 State 2] [POLAR96]