Very rare first edition of Ramusio's map of Africa. Ramusio was Secretary to the Council of Ten in Venice for 43 years and his collection of reports on voyages is among the most important works of the period. Ramusio's map of Africa is the first major published map of the African continent after the far more rudimentary map of Munster (1540). This map appeared in the second edition of I of Ramusio's Della Navigationi et Viaggi in 1554. It was planned as the first of a three sheet map extending to SE Asia and China, compiled for Ramusio by the famous cartographer, Giacomo Gastaldi. The information to produce this map was based on knowledge obtained from Arab geographers and Portuguese discoveries. A fire in the Ramusio print shop in November 1557 destroyed the woodblock that produced this map, shortly after Ramusio's death. As a result, few examples were printed before the destruction of the woodblock. In 1565, a copperplate edition of the map replaced the original woodblock. The sea contains numerous ships and sea monsters. Includes text on the verso. In the later copperplate editions, there is no text on verso and several additional sea monsters are added in the upper right. Norwich 6, state 1. The usual thinning at the centerfold. Minor restoration below Alexandria and at centerfold, both virtually invisible, and a bit of spotting. In all, a nice example of this rare first state of the map. Only one recorded appearance in a dealer catalog in the past 25 years (Betz 2000).
Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was an Italian geographer who worked within the Venetian Empire. His father had been a magistrate and he himself served as a civil servant to Venice. He served throughout Europe, allowing him to build up a network of informants and a collection of travel materials. He compiled this information into his enduring masterpiece, Navigationi et Viaggi, in 1555 (first volume) and 1556 (third volume). The second volume appeared after his death in 1559, as the original manuscript had been destroyed by a fire.