MONTE, URBANO. 1544-1613.
[Manuscript Wall Map of the World.] Milan: 1587 (with additions to 1589).
Manuscript wall map in atlas form, folio (160 x 105 mm), sepia ink and wash on paper, heightened in gold and silver, 148ff comprising 74 bifoliate leaves in total, numbered on verso in a 17th century hand 1-74, and lettered in an earlier hand at upper right corners variously 31 -326, all on 17th century guard papers. The atlas comprising a double-page general world map on North Polar projection, on thicker paper [a key map] together with a wall map of the world, on a North Polar projection, on 60 double-page leaves, forming radiating sheets from the north pole, each map carefully drawn with numerous place names, mountains, rivers and forests, and decorated with animals, mythological creatures, historical texts and portraits, armorial devices and ships, some sheets heightened in gold and silver, notably the star point around the North Pole and the various portrait figures of historical rulers, all the map sheets with a banner title at head titled "tavola primo" to "tavola LX" and headed "Libro Terzo," and a graduated scale drawn on the lower margin and on the side of the map. With a second section of the volume labeled "Libro Quatro" comprising 13 double-page tables, forming the outer corner border decoration of the wall map, each corner with an earth form surrounded by various scientific and mathematical texts set in decorative scrolled devices. 17th century Italian sheep with calf-backed board spine supports stitched in around the spine. Maps all with discoloration along the center folds from earlier guards, some minor unobtrusive wormholes, 4 cartouches for maps 5, 13, 17, 22 with the textual content neatly cut out and in the case of the last with a blank piece of paper pasted over, short clean repaired tear to tavola V, binding slightly stained and shaken, small section at foot of spine neatly excised, some old staining, 19th century shelf mark labels to spine and front free endpaper.
Provenance: Sotheby's, May 12th, 1981, lot 53, sold pounds 58,000 ($120,640) to N. Israel; H.P. Kraus catalog 165 Cimelia: A Catalogue of Important Illuminated and Textual Manuscripts Published in Commemoration of the Sale of the Ludwig Collection [to the Getty Museum] January, 1983; sold to present owner.
AN IMPORTANT AND EXTRAORDINARY MANUSCRIPT WORLD MAP DRAWN UP ON A NORTH POLAR PROJECTION TO FORM THE LARGEST MANUSCRIPT MAP OF THE WORLD AT 8 BY 8 FEET. This is the H. P. Kraus copy, formerly owned by and sold through the legendary New York dealer.
This map is one of 3 manuscript examples extant that form the continuum of Urbano Monte's work on his ultimate world map. The other two examples were studied at length by Almagia: copy S is at the Bibliotheca Seminario Arcivisovale at Venegano near Milan, and is similar to this example with the map in 60 sheets. A second example, copy A, is at the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana in Milan, with the frontispiece dated 1590 and the map divided in 64 sheets making the division lines of the sheets easier to arrange. A special engraved version of the latter was published in 1604 on 64 plates, itself known by a single copy in the Ambrosiana. Two other single sheet engraved world maps by Monte in North Polar projection are also known, published in Milan in 1603 and 1604, copies of both to be found in the Ambrosiana; an example of the 1603 is also in the Doria atlas, last sold from the Wardington Collection, Sotheby's London, October 2005. These maps are discussed in Shirley 239 and 247; the 1603 printed single sheet map is very similar to the general key map in this manuscript atlas.
Whilst unusual, the idea of a North Polar projection does have precedents in cartography, notably the beautiful world map of Postel first published in Paris in 1581, and one to be found engraved in ivory on a table top by Gennaro Picicaro, thought to be Naples, 1597 and probably borrowing from the ideas of Monte. The ideas for the projection can also be seen in the Contarini/Roselli map (Venice: 1506), the Ruysch map (Rome: 1507), and the Fine in Paris in 1531. All were attempts to capture the full extent of the world, in which much was still unknown.
Of Monte little is known, except for the examples of his maps that have survived. He contributed to a 4 volume historical diary titled Delle cose piu notabili successe nella citta di Milano, the 4th volume of which describes the visit of the Japanese Embassy to Europe 1582-1590, in particular their stay in Italy. Monte would certainly have met the party when they visited Milan in 1582, and its presumed that the form of Japan depicted in this map stems from information provided by the Embassy. Monte's principal fame rests with his geographical treatise Trattato Universale descrittione et sito de tutta la terra sin qui consociuta descritto da Urbano Monte, which accomapanies the 64 sheet manuscript map in the Ambrosiano and would have been Libri primo and secondo to this volume; probably a separate folio volume of text to describe and relate the history and geography of the world.
Unlike the master cartographers (the Carta Mayor) of the Spanish Kings who produced the accurate "sea chart form" world maps, the Italian scholars (from their more limited position locked in the Mediterranean) used their imaginations to greater advantage. Whilst we are used to seeing the monsters and curious animals on sheet maps from atlases, here Monte gives full vent to his imagination of animal-fish-monster forms which populate the unknown areas of the earth, particularly sheets 43-60 (covering the unknown southern continent at the borders of his map).
A particular point of interest is the small roundel portrait drawn under the dedication. Having drawn a nice small roundel portrait of himself in 1587, aged 43, he went back 2 years later to add a pasted-over portrait of himself, aged 45, suggesting that he came back to his work after signing off in 1587 (see sheet 42). The atlas has the feel of a work in progress, particularly because of the marginal annotations by Monte and the variety of papers used in its composition. Also, the make up of the atlasparticularly the non-sequential numbering of the earlier sheets, the wear to sheet 7 before binding, and the 17th century binding and guardssuggests that although in some form of binding from the late 16th century, it was reassembled in the present binding and form in mid or early 17th century.
The geography of this map is essentially Mercatorial, using Mercator's world map of 1569 as the style guide. On tavola XXV, Monte claims his sources for the map, citing geographers Piccolomini, Pliny, Ptolemy, Cortes, Fernando Columbus, Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza, Giovanni d'Anania, various Jesuit letters, including Marco Polo, and cartographers Mercator, Gastaldi, Olaus Magnus, Giovio, Lopes and the brothers Zeno. John Goss's article (in the Map Collector, 1981, cited below) goes to some lengths to compare the geography with contemporary sources. Of greater interest is the attempt Monte makes to make his map not just a geographical tool but to show climate, customs, length of day, distances within regions in other words, to create a universal scientific planisphere. In his dedication on tavola XL he specifies how to arrange the sheets of the mappamondo and makes it explicit that the whole map was to be stuck on a wooden panel 5 and a half brachia square (3.25m) so that it could be revolved around a central pivot or pin through the north pole. The idea of a revolving map was essentially novel although it had been used by Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubbico in Siena c.1345 (since destroyed). Monte's wall map comes at a time when the map mural had been gaining popularity in Italian decoration. Indeed a treatise in 1510 by Paolo Cortese describes the appropriate decoration for a Cardinal's room as "a learned enjoyment of a picture representing the world." Between 1560 and 1580 four of the greatest map murals had been executed: frescoe maps in Palazzo Vechia, Florence, two in the Vatican and another in Palazzo Farrnese in Caprarola. Almost certainly Monte had envisioned his opus as gracing the walls of a Ducal Palace in Milan, and the engraving of the 1590 sheets to make a printed wall map indicates that he had planned to distribute his geography to a wider audience.
A MONUMENTAL MAP, THIS LITTLE KNOWN WORK BY MONTE CAN TAKE ITS PLACE ALONGSIDE MERCATOR, WALDSEEMUELLER, GASTALDI AND OTHER GREATS OF 16th CENTURY WORLD MAPPING.
Almagia, R. "Un prezioso cimelio della cartografica Itatiana: il planisfero di Urbano Monti." La bibliofilia XLIII, 1943, pp 156-193. [The present map unknown to Almagia.]
Goss, J. (map specialist, Sothebys, cataloguer of this map 1981). "An Unusual Wall Map by Urbano Monti 1954-1613." Map Collector, June 1981, pp 18-22.
Walter, L., ed. Japan: A Cartographic Vision, 1994, Nos 16a, 16b, and 17.
Shirley, Mapping of the World, 1983. 239, 246, 247.