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Giovanni Mazza:  Americae et Proximar Regionum Orae Descriptio

Maps of the Pacific Ocean

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Title: Americae et Proximar Regionum Orae Descriptio

Map Maker: Giovanni Mazza

Place / Date: Venice / 1589 ca

Coloring: Uncolored

Size: 18 x 13 inches

Condition: VG

Price: $48,000.00

Inventory ID: 50175


First State of One of the Most Important Sixteenth Century Maps of the Americas and the Pacific

One of only a few surviving examples of the Ventian mapmaker Giovanni Battista Mazza's separately issued Lafreri School map of the Americas and the Pacific.  

Mazza's map is particularly noteworth for 3 reasons:

  • First map to show the Outer Banks of the Carolinas
  • First map to name Roanoake, Virginia (founded in 1587)
  • First map first to show Virginia as part of the mainland of North America

Mazza's map has also been for many years part of a fascinating debate as to its source and its relationship to two of the most iconic American maps, Abraham Ortelius's map of America and his Maris Pacifici, the first printed map of the Pacific.

Little is known about Mazza beyond his Venetian roots. The publisher, Donato Rascicotti, was an active part of the Lafreri school of map publishers, orginally from Brescia, working from a shop on the Ponte dei Baretteri in Venice. They worked together on other maps; this map was part of a set of four of the continents. All are extremely rare. 

The Hogenberg, Mazza, Ortelius Sequence

The present map belongs to a group of four highly infuential maps of the Americas and the Pacific, published between 1587 and 1590, a time of  significant advances in mapping of the Americas, the others being Abraham Ortelius's Americae Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio, Ortelius's Maris Pacifici and Frans Hogenberg's Americae Proximarum Regionum Orae Descriptio.

For many years, the relationship between these 4 maps was the subject of study by a number of commentators.  Most commentators believe that the highly influential second state the Ortelius map of America, published in 1587, preceded the other 3 and served in part as the pro-type map for the later maps by Mazza and Hogenberg.   Each of these two maps, however, incorporated important new information not present in the Ortelius map of America and also expanded the coverage of the Pacific further westerward, in order to incorporate Japan and eastern China, thereby showing most of the Pacific.  Shortly thereafter, almost certainly inspired by one or both of the Mazza and Hogenberg maps, Ortelius created his own new map, Maris Pacifici, which would push a bit further east and become what is now regarded as the first printed map of the Pacific Ocean.

For many years, it was unknown whether the Maris Pacifici preceded the Hogenberg and Mazza maps.  The most recent study of the map appeared in the Map Collector in the Spring of 1995, where Richard Casten and Tom Suarez reached the conclusion that the Hogenberg was the first of the three maps, followed by the Mazza and finally the Maris Pacifici.  

The evolution of the three maps is truly facsinating.  The Hogenberg map, which Casten & Suarez identified as the earliest of three, takes the Ortelius Americae prototype and pushes is further east, to approximately 170 degrees at its northern most point, showing a portion of the coastline of China.  Mazza's map extends even further east, with additional details in China, most notably, the great wall of China.  Finally, the Ortelius Maris Pacifici pushes another 10 degrees to the west.

One feature which has largely been overlooked, and which we attempt to address below, is that the Mazza map is by far the most geographically advanced of the maps noted above, including extensive annotations not present on the Ortelius and Hogenberg maps, more advanced topographical details, and additional place names.  

Examples of the more advanced cartographic detail in the Mazza includes the naming of Bergi R. and Agama in the extreme northwest of America, both of which would seem to be drawn from Guillaume Postel's world map of 1582.  Similarly, the annotations in the Mazza map are drawn from a number of important sources

Noteworthy Cartography:  Virginia and the East Coast of North America

Mazza's map is also of great note for its cartographic content in Virginia.  It is the first map to name and locate Roanoake (Roanoe) and the first map to show Virginia as part of the mainland of North America.  By contrast, the Hogenberg map had named Virginia, but placed it well east of the mainland. 

Mazza's map also gives a remarkable early accounting of the Outer Banks, suggesting that Mazza had access to the manuscript maps brought back to England circa 1585 from the Roanoke expeditions.  While Casten & Suarez have suggested that the map was constructed by Mazza from written accounts, the quality of the depiction of the Outer Banks suggests that a manuscript map may have been available to Mazza.

A second state of the Hogenberg, revised and updated to include Roanoake would appear some years later, with the second state also moving Virginia into the mainland and also incorporating the chain of islands shown by Mazza along the east coast of North America, likely reflective of a primitive knowledge of the outer banks and perhaps the Chesapeake.

Noteworthy Cartography:  South America

On Mazza's map, the large bump in the west side of South America has been removed, following Hogenberg's map and the revised edition of Ortelius's America Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio. Brandmair asserted that the bump was first removed by Ortelius because of Mazza's map, which Brandmair incorrectly dated to 1583. Casten and Suarez reversed that chronology.

Mazza's map is also far more detailed in the interior parts of South America, with significantly more place names and topographical features than Ortelius or Hogenberg.  There is also an extensive note below the Rio de la Plata crediting its discovery to Amerigo Vespucci in 1501 (third voyage).  

Smaller vignettes and annotations on the map note Columbus's Guanima and the the discovery of the West Coast of North America by the Spanish in 1542, annotations which are not incorporated on the maps of Hogenberg and Ortelius.

The Pacific 

Mazza's treatment of the Pacific is remarkable for its time, yet appears fantastic to the modern reader as well.  A close study of the Ortelius, Hogenberg and Mazza maps shows that the Mazza is the more advanced, including better cartographic details and more extensive annotations.

The resemblance to Ortelius Maris Pacifici is clear. New Guinea is large, but not nearly as large as the huge southern continent that lines the bottom of the map. Magellan’s ship Victoria is prominent in the sea off South America, although not nearly as prominent as in Ortelius’ work. Also divergent from the maps of Ortelius and Hogenberg is the inclusion of the ‘Streto de Anian’ marked here as running toward the North Pole along what is now known as the Alaska shoreline. Anian derives from Ania, a Chinese province mentioned in Marco Polo’s travels. The Strait bearing that name was shorthand for a passage to China, i.e. a Northwest Passage.


Burden's two states of the map:

State 1: Lower left: "Venetiis Donati Rascicotti formis." / "Gio. Bat. Mazza fece."

State 2: The Rascicotti and Mazza imprints are erased but barely visible.

The present map is an example of the first state.


According to Burden, only four examples of the first state were previously recorded and only one in an American Institution.  (University of Texas, Austin; Royal Library (Den Haag); University of Leiden; Private Collection).

H. P. Kraus included an example of the first state of the Mazza in his stunning 1969 catalog, Monumenta Cartographica, asking $1250. That map was purchased by the University of Texas, along with almost all of the rest of the catalog.

This is the first time we have handled either state of the map.

Condition Description: Good margins, well outside platemark. Light, somewhat uneven dirtying of the image. Very few neat pinhole repairs.

References: Almagia, p. 118; Burden 73, state 1; Caraci, no. 368; Casten & Suarez, ...Hogenberg, Mazza, Ortelius (1995); Wagner, no. 159; Laying, Sixteenth century maps relating to Canada, no. 665.http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=110397

Related Categories:
Maps of America
Maps of America
Maps of North America
Maps of South America
Maps of Oceana
Maps of the Pacific Ocean