La Nuova Francia (New France)

Description

The first printing of this black and white woodcut map of early New France (now part of Canada) appeared in Ramusio’s 'Delle navigationi et viaggi' (Some Voyages and Travels) in 1556, but the woodblock was destroyed by fire the following year.

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The first printing of this black and white woodcut map of early New France (now part of Canada) appeared in Ramusio’s 'Delle navigationi et viaggi' (Some Voyages and Travels) in 1556, but the woodblock was destroyed by fire the following year. An identical block was cut and maps printed from it in 1565, although the eminent arctic explorer and map historian A.E. Nordenskiöld (1832–1901) haughtily remarked that these maps seem to be ‘ornamented in [Sebastian] Münster’s style by some ignorant woodcutter, from originals of Gastaldi’.

Whatever the standard of the engraving, map collectors and historians have endless entertainment identifying the locations on an area extending from what is now New York to as far as Labrador. Ramusio’s volume includes a precise account of Cartier’s second voyage to the Gulf of St Lawrence in 1535, but the map seems to be largely based on Giovanni da Verrazzano’s voyage of 1524 (also under the patronage of François I) in whose honour the region is named.

From Columbus onwards, European explorations had been primarily concerned with seeking a westward passage to the Orient, constantly probing any likely looking inlet, bay or river that might lead the way. The strange river system presented on the map, whereby the Hudson and St Lawrence rivers are connected, may be the result of their frustration at finding so many ‘dead ends’. An exception to the search for a Northwest Passage was the lure of the codfish, which had enticed mariners to that area even, possibly, before Columbus; so the label 'isola delle rena' attached to the long, snaking structure in the south-west most likely means ‘island of sand’ and corresponds with the Grand Banks, where codfish were found in great plenty. The area named 'Terra de Norumbega' is New England; according to Verrazzano, its Abenaki Indian name translated as ‘quiet waters between two rapids’. Other locations have been provisionally identified: the western promontory, named ‘Angoulême’ after the king’s birthplace, is the Upper Bay of New York; the coast of Flora is the south of Long Island; 'Port de Refuge' is Narragansett Bay; and the island named ‘Brisa’ (possibly a corruption of ‘Louisa’, the king’s mother) is the roughly triangular island of Martha’s Vineyard.

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Dated

From 1560 (circa) to 1570 (circa)

Further details »

Materials

» paper (fibre product)

Technique

» woodcut (process)

Production place

» Venice, Italy

Collection

» Dallas Pratt Collection of Historical Maps

Dimensions

313x409mm

Object number

1988.20

See more on the web:

» Europeana
» Google images

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