Venice: Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1561. FIRST ITALIAN EDITION. Each part with separate title page with large woodcut printer’s device. Contemporary half calf with speckled boards; first title page with minor dampstains, but the interior overall excellent. Contemporary ownership inscription on title. Item #16116
First edition of Ruscelli’s translation into Italian from Greek of Ptolemy’s Geographia. The 64 double-plate copper-engraved maps are enlarged copies of those created by Giacomo Gastaldi for his 1548 edition of Ptolemy and executed by the engravers Giulio and Livio Sanuti.
Of special interest here is that Ruscelli’s translation is based on the original version in Greek as opposed to a further critical editing of later Latin translations. Ruscelli points out that Ptolemy was Egyptian, and writing in Greek led him to using long sentences and a punctuation that could lead to misinterpretation of his text. Ruscelli is also the first of Ptolemy’s translators that actually explains the mathematical projections and location coordinates. He analyzes the various units of measurement in geography and by the end of the first book he describes how to draw a geographic table in a bi-dimensional representation that remains proportional to the earth’s orbit, as well as explaining where to print the names of cities, landmarks, etc. on each map.
The second part is the Espositioni et introduttioni universali, a treatise on geography, in which Ruscelli confirms that terrestrial spheres on paper (globes) were produced in Italy in the first half of sixteenth century in a limited number and in small sizes, and that he was himself involved in crafting those. In the last part, Discorso universale di M. Giuseppe Moleto mathematico, Moletti addresses the issue of geographical coordinates and how to measure them. He also deals with the Ptolemaic cycles and the origin of the winds related to the use of a compass.
Ruscelli (c. 1504-1566) was a Venetian editor that worked for the famous Valgrisi publishing firm as curator of various Italian classics. He introduces several important innovations in this volume through his 37 “modern” maps, which cover Europe, Africa, Asia and the New World. He also includes a double hemisphere world map, very early for an atlas, as well as a rare world sea chart. Also included is Ruscelli’s revised and updated Zeno map of the Arctic. First published only three years earlier, the Zeno map describes a purported journey in the 1390’s to Greenland, Iceland, the mythical islands of Frisland and Icaria, and what is now thought to be Newfoundland and Labrador. Here, Ruscelli eliminates the land bridge between Greenland and Norway. This map became the standard chart of the Arctic and Greenland for many years. His maps will later serve as a model for the artists that have decorated the Vatican galleries.
Giuseppe Moleto or Moletti (1531–1588) was an Italian mathematician and a prominent professor of mathematics at the University of Padua best known for his Dialogo intorno alla meccanica (Dialogue on mechanics). He advised Pope Gregory XIII on establishing his new Gregorian calendar and was certainly acquainted with Galileo, sharing with him works dealing with gravity.