First Published Sea Chart of the Gulf of Mexico

First Sea Atlas of the Entire World Based on Mercator’s Projection

“One of the most significant landmarks in the history of cartography”
(Martin & Martin)

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284. [MAP]. DUDLEY, Robert, Sir (self-styled Duke of Northumberland). Carta particolare della Baia di Messico con la costa. La Longitudine comincia da L’Isole di Picho d’Azores D’America Carta VII; [lower right within map] AF Lucini, fece. [Florence: F. Onofri, 1646-1647]. Copper-engraved map on two sheets of laid paper (joined), showing in detail the coast of the Gulf of Mexico (extending from Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic coast of Florida round the Gulf to Yucatán peninsula), coastal towns, harbours, and islands, title cartouche with droll faces, large decorative compass rose, ships at sea, soundings, exceptionally graceful calligraphy. Plate mark: 47.5 x 75 cm; overall sheet size: 57 x 83.3 cm. A few small chips to blank margins (no losses), very light browning at centerfold where the two sheets were joined, else very fine, with generous margins. Excellent dark impression and a beautiful example of seventeenth-century copper engraving and printing. Very rare.

     First state, without Lo.6o added to the title. The map appeared in Vol. III, Book 6 of Dudley’s Dell’ arcano del mare (1646-47). One fascinating feature of this superb map is the inclusion of coastal cities and towns and other navigational landmarks, such as an erupting volcano, a pyramid (Tulum), and mountains in Mexico. Legends on the map describe the currents of the Gulf and rivers running into the Gulf.

     Antochiw, Historia Cartográfica de la Península de Yucatán, Figure 9 & pp. 156-158 (conjecturing that Dudley travelled in the Caribbean and had access to Spanish maps): “Las proporciones del golfo de México, así como de la península de Yucatán son muy exactas.” Bornholdt, Cuatro Siglos de Expresiones Geográfocas de Istomo Centroamericano, p. 84 (illustrating the map of Central America, but commenting in general on Dudley’s maps): “Los mapas de Robert Dudley son extraordinariamente bellos y agradables a la vista, por sus detalles finamente ejecutados y por su hermosa caligrafía.” Bryan & Hanak, plate 5. Burden 282: “The true location of the bay into which the R: di Sato. Spirito flows is strongly debated. Generally it is believed to represent the mouth of the Mississippi River; however, some authorities argue that it represents Galveston Bay”; see also Burden’s 266 for excellent background on Dudley. Jackson, Flags along the Coast, p. 136 (illustrated on following page): “This chart influenced the way the English mapmakers drew the coast until the century’s end.” Lowery 108. Martin & Martin, Plate 9 & p. 81:

One of the most significant landmarks in the history of cartography, the first in which all of the maps are drawn in the Mercator projection.... [Dudley’s] depiction of the Gulf of Mexico was the first published sea chart of that area and, therefore, had significant influence on later attempts. The map itself is a beautiful example of the fine copper engraving characteristic of seventeenth century Italy.... Although produced when Spain showed little interest in the area we now know as Texas, Dudley’s chart of the Gulf of Mexico remained for many years and quite likely heightened interest for more accurate information in the years that followed.

National Maritime Museum Catalogue III:324. Nordenskiöld 70. Phillips, Atlases 457:III:105. The World Encompassed 190. Printing and the Mind of Man 134:

[Dudley’s] magnificent book is the most famous of all early sea atlases. [It] disseminated the new knowledge of seamanship as developed by Mercator, Edward Wright, and others. In its six parts it deals with longitude and the means of determining it, naval architecture and warfare, the principles of navigation, and nautical instruments; and it includes charts of ports and harbours, portolani and general maps rectified as to longitude and latitude. Its principal importance lies in the fact that all the maps and charts are drawn, for the first time in such a large sea atlas, on Mercator’s projection and that it gives the prevailing winds and currents at all important harbours and anchorages and the magnetic declination of a large number of places. The principle of “great circle sailing” is greatly improved and made practical. It was this principle which enabled modern navigators to find out that the quickest route to fly from Copenhagen to Tokyo is over the North Pole.

Dudley (ca. 1573-1649) was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, brother-in-law of Thomas Cavendish, and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth. He showed an interest in marine warfare and navigation at an early age and led an English expedition to Guiana and Trinidad in 1594 in search of El Dorado. When the Queen became displeased with Dudley (supposedly over his amorous affairs) at the turn of the century, he fled to Florence where he entered the service of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, who needed his experience with shipbuilding and naval warfare to rid the Mediterranean of pirates. Dudley consulted the latest information available from explorers and pilots to create maps that were both scientifically accurate for their time and elegant works of art. Twelve years and 5,000 pounds of copper were expended in the preparation of Dudley’s extraordinary atlas, of which only a small number of copies were printed and sold. The copperplates were engraved by the outstanding Italian engraver Antonio Francesco Lucini, born in 1605 (pupil of Callot and friend of Stefano della Bella). The engravings exhibit Lucini’s consummate craftsmanship, with a delicacy and strength, making them true examples of Italian Baroque art.


Sold. Hammer: $24,000.00; Price Realized: $29,400.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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