Nautical Atlas of Battista Agnese

Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Banco Rari 32


+39 333 9860 410

Illuminated Facsimiles

Nautical Atlas of Battista Agnese

Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Banco Rari 32

Alternative titles
Battista Agnese Portolan Atlas – Mapamundi de Bautista Agnese – Weltkarte des Battista Agnese – Der Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese.
Physical features
Codex on parchment, dimensions 254 x 178 mm, 15 folios (30 pages) numbered in pencil, 2 flyleaves at the beginning and end of the codex.
Leather cover. A small compass is inserted in the thickness between the rear pastedown and the cover.
Italy (Venice), 16th century (1542-1564).
Patronage and owners
The manuscript was intended for the Da Sommaia (or Da Sommaja) family, who may have been its direct patrons. Their coat of arms appears within a gilded frame on ff. 2r and 15r. In the 18th century the codex was part of the collection of Antonio Magliabechi (b. 1633, d. 1714).
Present repository
The atlas is currently kept at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, as part of the Fondo Magliabechiano section, i.e. the original nucleus of the BNCF corresponding to what was the Biblioteca Magliabechiana (the Antonio Magliabechi’s private library).
Treatises / Secular booksGeography / Maps.
The nautical atlases by Battista Agnese (b. 1500, d. 1564) are divided into three main groups. The first group consists of the atlases produced between 1535 and 1541, belonging to the so-called pre-California phase, due to the fact that there is no representation of the Californian peninsula in the oval planisphere (generally the last map). Furthermore, in the atlases produced in this phase, the territories corresponding to today’s Yucatán are depicted as an island. The atlases of the second group – produced between 1542 and 1551 – belong to the so-called post-California phase: in the oval planisphere and the map of the Pacific Ocean, they show the territories corresponding to present-day California as a peninsula. In the third group of atlases – produced between 1552 and 1568 – Agnese added numerous regional maps, including a new map of Scotland, together with those of Scandinavia, Northern Italy, Muscovy and Greece. The BNCF codex belongs to the second, post-California production. It consists of an initial part devoted to cosmography, followed by the depiction of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the British Isles, the three oceans, the New World, and finally an oval Ptolemaic planisphere.
The atlas has a total of 10 maps. Like all of the works by Battista Agnese, it is characterised by the clarity and essentiality of the drawing, and the attention to detail and decoration. The palette is unmistakable: indigo, bright red, aqua green, light brown and emerald green.
The manuscript is not signed, but can certainly be attributed to Battista Agnese. See in this respect c. 1r, where a later hand has added the title «Portulano disegnato da Giambatista Agnesi Genovese nel sec. XVI» (Portolan chart made by the Genoese cartographer Battista Agnese in the 16th century). Battista Agnese was an Italian cartographer who was very active in Venice, although he was born in Genoa. Throughout his career, he produced about 50 works on parchment. Between 1535 and 1564, he ran a workshop in Venice specialising in the preparation of luxurious and aesthetically pleasing nautical atlases and charts, working on behalf of princes, merchants and high officials. His works were successful because of their artistic and commercial value, which made them correspond to the taste of the wealthier classes in 16th century Venice.
Around the middle of the 16th century, while in Rome, Venice, Basel, Leuven and Antwerp, printers were churning out hundreds of printed maps (Ptolemy’s Cosmographia alone was now in its 25th edition), Battista Agnese was continuing his work on manuscript atlases, emphasising the stylistic features and uniqueness of the most refined techniques of Renaissance illumination.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles®



L’Atlante Nautico di Battista Agnese

Publisher – Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana – Treccani (Rome, 2008), by concession of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali – Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.
Series – Tesori Svelati.
Limited edition – Limited edition of 750 hand-marked copies. Twenty numbered non-selling copies are reserved for the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.
Type of reproduction – Full-size colour reproduction of the entire original document. The facsimile reproduces the physical characteristics of the original manuscript as closely as possible, with the aim of substituting it in scientific research and in the libraries of bibliophile collectors.
Binding – Leather cover with gilded impressions. Four ties with clasps on the edges of the front board are attached to four catchplates on the back board. As in the original codex a small compass with magnetic needle, inscribed in a rose of thirty-two winds, has been inserted into the thickness of the cover at the back board. The binding might not correspond to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
Commentary – Commentary volume in Italian, size 19 x 27 cm, 161 pages, colour plates. Contents: La rappresentazione della Terra dalla Grecia al Rinascimento (Gil, Juan); Venezia, l’occhio del mondo (Benzoni, Gino); L’Atlante Nautico di Battista Agnese (Cattaneo, Angelo).
Slipcase – The facsimile and the commentary volume are housed in an elegant leather case with two compartments.
Certificate of authenticity – The certificate is printed on the colophon of the facsimile. It bears the double signature of Francesco Paolo Casavola (President of the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana from 1998 to 2009) and Antonia Ida Fontana (Director of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze from 1996 to 2010).

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