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This important travel engraving is from Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s Delle navigationi et viaggi. The work was published in Venice by Giunta in 1556, 1606, and 1613. The American engravings available are from the first and rarest edition published in 1556 before the original blocks were destroyed in a fire in 1557. The Portuguese voyages featuring Africa and Asia were published in 1613. The European, Russian, and more central and East Asian engravings were pubsliehd in 1606.
It was one of the earliest and most important travel works published in the 16th century. It included numerous newly printed reports and maps and preceded De Bry’s Grands Voyages. The work featured some of the most important and earliest American maps and treatises. It is a precious collection worth being very sought-after by travel collectors. (Leclerc)
“This is one of the earliest and most important collections of voyages and travels and may be said to have opened a new era in the literary history of voyages and navigation. This work… was the first great systematic collection that had so far appeared.” (Hill 1418) Harisse writes, “The publication of Ramusio Raccolta may be said to open an era in the literary history of Voyage and Navigation. Instead of accounts carelessly copied and translated from previous collections, perpetuating errors and anachronisms, we find in this valuable work, original narratives which betray the hand of a scholar of great critical acumen. Not should we forget that we are indebted to Ramusio for the preservation of accounts of voyages of the utmost importance to the student of American history; and did his work contain only the ‘Relatione d’un gentilhuomo del Sig. Fernando Cortese,’ and the first voyage of Jacques Cartier to Canada, the two capital relations would entitle the Raccolta to a prominant place in any American library.”
Ramusio’s travelogue included several significant maps. It included the “first map devoted to New England and New France, the latter name being used here for the first time.” (Burden 35) The map of the Western Hemisphere was the most complete in its time icluding Japan as a group of islands, resulting from his work with Oviedo. It has some of the best early Canadian maps resulting from Cartier’s explorations. It included the “first American map to include any of the names from the travels of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, the first European to travel extensively the south-western part of North America.” (Burden 35, Universale della parte del mondo nuovamente ritrovata) Also, the “first printed map of Africa in a book to show a southbound river, the Zembere … it also shows for the first time on a printed map of the entire continent, the island of Madagascar.” (Betz 4)
Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was Venetian scholar and servant of the republic. He was the first true scholar to produce a travel collection, most of which he translated from original sources. His goal was the dissemination of knowledge rather than commercial success. “Ramusio, who truly earned the sobriquet of the Italian Hakluyt, was preëminent as an editor; he handled his material with great skill and produced acollection of unique value.” (Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance, 1420-1620, p. 306)