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Sea chart of Portugal by Sir Robert Dudley. 1646-47

The Arcano del mare ("Mystery of the Sea"), is "ONE OF THE GREATEST ATLASES OF THE WORLD and one of the most complex ever produced: it is the first sea-atlas of the whole world; the first with all the charts constructed using Mercator's new projection, as corrected by Edward Wright; the first to give magnetic declination; the first to give prevailing winds and currents; later to be further expanded by Maury and J.T. Towson in the nineteenth century; the first to expound the advantages of 'Great Circle Sailing'; and the first sea-atlas to be compiled by an Englishman, albeit abroad in Italy: that is if one excludes the Marinors Mirrour of 1588, wholly English in execution but a slavish copy of the Dutch Spieghel der Zeevaerdt by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer 1584-85, the first ever sea atlas" (Lord Wardington, "Sir Robert Dudley", The Book Collector, 52 (2003)).

Dudley broke completely with the contemporary style of charts. He showed lines of latitude and longitude and omitted all compass lines. In doing so, his purpose was more intellectual than practical: techniques for determining longitude at sea were not refined until more than two centuries later.
The maps are by English and other pilots and it is generally accepted that the work was both scientific and accurate for the time. Dudley used the original charts of Henry Hudson, and for the Pacific Coast of America used Cavendish's observations. "Abraham Kendall, the master of Dudley's flagship in the expedition of 1594-95 to explore the 'Eldorador', left notes and plans embodied by Dudley [and] the work of another of this group of famous navigators is represented in a portolano covering the voyage of John Davis to India in 1601" (Phillips, Atlases)

When the first edition appeared, Dudley was seventy-three years old. The work consisted of three volumes in different formats; some of the charts had to be folded down several times to make them fit the size of the volumes. This "shortcoming" (as it is called in the Avvertimento to the second edition) was repaired by enlarging the work to two volumes of uniform atlas size.

The Arcano de Mare was a monumental and totally original task, the charts, representations of instruments and diagrams all engraved on huge quantities of copper over many years with an exactitude incorporating the minutest detail and printed on the best possible paper. The whole surpassed anything published before and was not equalled in quantity until fifty years later in France under Louis XIV.

Antonio Francesco Lucini, the engraver, was born in Florence c. 1610. He was a pupil of Callot and a friend of Stefano della Bella. Before being employed by Sir Robert Dudley, he had already published engraved views of Florence and scenes of the Turkish Wars. Lucini put the stamp of his personality on the finished work as well as did the author; the delicacy and strength of the engraving, the embellishments of the lettering "alla cancellaresca", make it a true example of Italian Baroque art. In a printed introductory leaf found in one copy in the British Library, Lucini states that he worked on the plates in seclusion for twelve years in an obscure Tuscan village, using up to no less than 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg) of copper. According to the engraver, the Arcano del Mare took forty years to prepare and twelve to execute. (Sotheby's Catalogue, Wardington Sale, 2005)

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Carta particolare del Oceano che comincia con la costa dio Roxo è Finisce con il capo di Mogera ni Portogallo . . . di Europa Carta XVIIII.

€700  ($819 / £595)
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Item Number:  19840
Category:  Antique maps > Europe > Spain and Portugal

Old sea chart of Portugal by Sir Robert Dudley.

Date of the first edition: 1646-47
Date of this map: 1646-47

This sea chart covers the northern part of the coast of Portugal.

Copper engraving, beautifully engraved by Antonio Lucini.
Size: 48 x 37cm (18.7 x 14.4 inches)
Verso: Blank
Condition: Excellent.
References: Shirley (Brit.Lib.), M.Dud-1a, 37.

From: Dell' Arcano Del Mare, di D. Ruberto Dudleo Duca di Nortumbria e Conte di Warwich . . . libri sei . . . In Firenze, Nella Stamperia di Francesco Onofri. 1646. (Shirley (Brit.Lib.), M.Dud-1a)

The Arcano del mare ("Mystery of the Sea"), is "ONE OF THE GREATEST ATLASES OF THE WORLD and one of the most complex ever produced: it is the first sea-atlas of the whole world; the first with all the charts constructed using Mercator's new projection, as corrected by Edward Wright; the first to give magnetic declination; the first to give prevailing winds and currents; later to be further expanded by Maury and J.T. Towson in the nineteenth century; the first to expound the advantages of 'Great Circle Sailing'; and the first sea-atlas to be compiled by an Englishman, albeit abroad in Italy: that is if one excludes the Marinors Mirrour of 1588, wholly English in execution but a slavish copy of the Dutch Spieghel der Zeevaerdt by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer 1584-85, the first ever sea atlas" (Lord Wardington, "Sir Robert Dudley", The Book Collector, 52 (2003)).

Dudley broke completely with the contemporary style of charts. He showed lines of latitude and longitude and omitted all compass lines. In doing so, his purpose was more intellectual than practical: techniques for determining longitude at sea were not refined until more than two centuries later.
The maps are by English and other pilots and it is generally accepted that the work was both scientific and accurate for the time. Dudley used the original charts of Henry Hudson, and for the Pacific Coast of America used Cavendish's observations. "Abraham Kendall, the master of Dudley's flagship in the expedition of 1594-95 to explore the 'Eldorador', left notes and plans embodied by Dudley [and] the work of another of this group of famous navigators is represented in a portolano covering the voyage of John Davis to India in 1601" (Phillips, Atlases)

When the first edition appeared, Dudley was seventy-three years old. The work consisted of three volumes in different formats; some of the charts had to be folded down several times to make them fit the size of the volumes. This "shortcoming" (as it is called in the Avvertimento to the second edition) was repaired by enlarging the work to two volumes of uniform atlas size.

The Arcano de Mare was a monumental and totally original task, the charts, representations of instruments and diagrams all engraved on huge quantities of copper over many years with an exactitude incorporating the minutest detail and printed on the best possible paper. The whole surpassed anything published before and was not equalled in quantity until fifty years later in France under Louis XIV.

Antonio Francesco Lucini, the engraver, was born in Florence c. 1610. He was a pupil of Callot and a friend of Stefano della Bella. Before being employed by Sir Robert Dudley, he had already published engraved views of Florence and scenes of the Turkish Wars. Lucini put the stamp of his personality on the finished work as well as did the author; the delicacy and strength of the engraving, the embellishments of the lettering "alla cancellaresca", make it a true example of Italian Baroque art. In a printed introductory leaf found in one copy in the British Library, Lucini states that he worked on the plates in seclusion for twelve years in an obscure Tuscan village, using up to no less than 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg) of copper. According to the engraver, the Arcano del Mare took forty years to prepare and twelve to execute. (Sotheby's Catalogue, Wardington Sale, 2005)

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