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A rare Italian atlas at Hatfield House
Two vivid contemporary siege maps. One, dated 1565, (above) is of the Turks attacking the town of Tocquay (or Tokay) in Hungary. The other shows the Turks' great assault on the island of Malta in the same year. On the left hand part of the map of Malta the invading Turkish fleet can be seen. Various battles between conflicting forces are depicted inland. (By courtesy of the Marquess of Salisbury)
A long tradition of colouring and illuminating manuscripts can be traced back for centuries in most civilised European and Near East countries. North of the Alps, early printed material - often comprising biblical woodcuts or broadsheets - was often coloured by hand, typically in strong dark tones. The deep blue sea colouring of the maps from Ptolemaic atlases printed at Ulm in Germain (1482 and 1486) is a well known characteristic. But in spite of the co-existence of many illuminated manuscripts, Italian atlases and maps of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are rarely found with applied colour. The occasional sheet is found with pale wash colouring and even this may represent later treatment. The Hatfield atlas is therefore exceptional in being painted in traditional mid-sixteenth century style, as if it were a manuscript compilation.
So-called "Lafreri" atlases consist of differently-sized Italian maps from the sixteenth century, contemporarily mounted on uniform sheets of paper and bound together to form an atlas. They pre-date the standard atlases of Abraham Ortelius (1570) and Gerard Mercator (1595) and were typically assembled by publishers in Rome or Venice. Because their contents vary they are also known as "assembled-to-order" atlases. Most pre-1570 copies seem to have emanated from Venetian publishers (Bertelli, Forlani and Camocio), although the Hatfield atlas seems to have originated in Rome. In about 1570 the Roman publisher Antonio Lafreri prefaced his collection by a title page (reproduced by A.E. Nordenskiöld) and the name "Lafreri" atlas is often used to describe such atlases even if they were assembled by another publisher. A later state of the title page is known with the imprint of Pietro dei Nobili, probably dating from around 1590. Relatively little is known about maps from earlier plates which were on sale after 1600. The imprint of the Roman publisher Giovanni Orlando with the date 1602 is found on a number of individual maps (not known to Tooley). but it is uncertain whether any complete atlas was ever put together by him. Orlando's plates are believed to have then passed to Hendrik van Schoel, and some of the maps were printed in the 1640s.
Lafreri atlases are characterised by a variable content of finely engraved Italian maps dating from the 1530s to the 1570s. Often the maps are based on work by earlier mapmakers which is now scarce and in some cases lost completely. For instance, unique maps by the Dutch mapmaker, Jacob van Deventer, by Wolfgang Lazius of Hungary, Oronce Fine of France, and by the Swiss Aegidius Tschudi, reappear in Italian derivatives. In the mid-1550s the Roman publisher Michele Tramezzino published sheet-size copies of the now-lost wall maps of Brabant, Holland, Friesland, Gelderland, and Zeeland which had been issued by Van Deventer in the 1540s. Examples of the cartographic interchange from north to south of the Alps and vice-versa have been chronicled by Dr Günter Schilder.
One of the earliest studies was by Nordenskiöld in 1889 describing two Italian atlases; one in his possession now in the Nordenskiold Library in Helsinki, and one from the Collegio Romano in Rome, now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale. Both atlases date from the early 1570s. In 1915 F.C. Wieder uncovered several Italian atlases in Madrid and between 1904 and 1916 W. Ruge described the contents of five atlases in German collections.[8.9]. In 1939 R.V. Tooley listed some 600 maps found in thirty eight Italian atlases, with mention of a further fourteen locations.
Since then more derivatives have come to light so Tooley's list is incomplete and in some instances misleading. For instance, under maps of Great Britain, he lists eight such maps and two "reissues", whereas the current known total is at least fourteen maps and derivative states. The same is probably true in other cases; nevertheless, as a first point of reference, Tooley's article is still worthwhile.
In an article published in 1980 David Woodward wrote that Tooley had by then discovered approximately 300 more titles, mostly variants, and hoped to publish a revised carto-bibliography. However, this project never came to fruition apart from a short note in TMC., and in spite of enquiries I can find no trace of any notes he might have left.
Before researching the Hatfield atlas (not listed or known to Tooley) I had thought it would be fairly easy to update the list of locations cited by Tooley in 1939. I circulated a written enquiry to a short list of scholars throughout the world but (with one notable exception) drew virtually no response. In spite of some individual studies there seems to have been little attempt to review Italian atlases as a whole. Moreover, the questions raised by David Woodward in his 1980 article, calling for a more detailed study of the sixteenth century Italian map trade, in particular for an interdisciplinary perception combining historical, geographical and graphic viewpoints, have not yet been fully answered.
Three post-war sale collations were those of H.P. Kraus in 1969 and 1972 describing the Lloyd Triestino atlas (now dispersed), Parke-Bernet Galleries' sale of a Bertelli atlas (1969), and that of Sotheby's in 1980 describing the Doria atlas (1980). This was again sold at Sotheby's in 1989 after it had moved in and out of the British Rail Pension Fund. More recently there was a full description of a Venetian atlas in the Casanatense Library in Rome. However, surprisingly, in none of these cases was there any reference to the corpus of other known atlases.
The list attached to this article (Annex A) is based partly on Tooley but also on known changes since 1939. Some atlases have been destroyed; others broken up and dispersed. Among the ones that have come to light are the Doria and Hatfield examples, both of which are in private hands in the UK. In some cases (Paris, Grenoble, Leiden) original collections have been disbound and reassembled, with the inclusion of additional contemporary material. The total number of atlases (approximately fifty) is divided by country as follows: Italy 36%, UK 18%, Germany 16%, USA 10%, France 8%, other 12%. Other copies probably lie unrecorded elsewhere; in particular there is an absence of locations in eastern Europe - within the fiefs of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Moreover, the listing is primarily of institutional holdings, and atlases in private hands are almost certainly under-represented. The second section of Annex A lists some atlases whose location is unconfirmed. The information presented in all three sections of Annex A is bound to be incomplete, and fresh contributions from readers will be welcome.
The Hatfield atlas has been in the same family since its purchase in the sixteenth century by Lord Burghley, or William Cecil as he was known before his peerage in 1571. As the Chief Minister to Elizabeth I he was the central figure in a highly centralised government. Little of political or diplomatic significance did not pass through his hands, and he advised the formidable monarch on all matters of policy - especially security - throughout her reign until his death in 1598. His essential national political activities were not limited to England and across the Channel in Europe. He encouraged proponents of the wider world; Richard Eden, geographical publicist; John Dee, sage and mystic; Anthony Jenkinson, the Muscovy traveller; and Humphrey Gilbert and Martin Frobisher in their search for the North-West Passage. Laurence Nowell was the tutor to the Burghley household and it was he who compiled the coloured manuscript map of England and Ireland (c.1564) which was bought by the British Library for £52,000 in 1982.
The Hatfield atlas was almost certainly purchased from Italy on the direct orders of Cecil. On his own admission. Burghley was a great armchair traveller and he is recorded as wistfully musing. "I fantasie of cosmographie..…" He did not travel abroad (except to Scotland) apart from two of diplomatic missions to France and the Low Countries during Mary's reign, but archival evidence exists of some of his purchases; for instance, fifty different types of seeds from Florence for his gardens and twelve busts of Roman emperors from Venice.
A trawl of the Burghley calendered archives for the years 1565-1570, particularly 1566-1568. has unearthed no documentary evidence relating to a possible atlas acquisition from Italy. Nearly all the documentary material is political in nature, with the excursions of Mary Queen of Scots, her prospective marriage(s) at the time and her later flight to England being the matters of state of outstanding concern. Burghley or his agents would undoubtedly have been familiar with Italian map publishers and their offerings. It is a reasonable speculation that he was presented with a list of maps available and selected (or his agents advised selection) of the actual maps we find in the atlas today.
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