One of the most significant 16th-century maps of the world

This map, published in 1555 by Gerard de Jode from Antwerp, is a faithful copy of Universale, the influential world map published by Giacomo Gastaldi in 1546. The map is produced on two mounted pages and, excluding the title piece, measures 47.5 x 81cm. Gastaldi’s map, the first of his cartographic oeuvre, is considered one of the most significant maps of the 16th century and it has many known copies.

Essential for all studies

The text at the top of this map of the world reads:

'Universalis Exactissima atquenon recens modo, verum et recentioribus nominibus totius Orbis insignita descriptio: quo nomine studiosis omnibus non tam utilis quàm maximè necessaria per Iacobum Castaldum Pedemont. Cosmogr. apud Venetos. Venuent Antuerpiae Gerard Iudaeo. 1555.'

Loosely translated: 'The accurate description of the world, not only new but also with the most recent names of the whole world included on it. Names that are not only useful but essential for all studies. By Giacomo Gastaldi from Piemont, cosmographer of Venice. For sale in Antwerp from Gerard de Jode, 1555.'

Misconception

The area of the Pacific Ocean depicted on the map stands out immediately, because America and Asia are joined by a vast land mass. The peninsula California is plotted on the west coast of North America. Later this – correct – representation would be replaced by that of an island, a misconception based on unclear information.

Apology

The – probably – Italian copyist of Gastaldi’s map followed his world view accurately, albeit in less detail. However, the southern continent is much larger and has a completely different shape. In addition, six Latin legends have been added, including an apology that not all names are in Latin, as they had to be included in their original form (‘Cand. lectori, Ne offendant te haec barbara nomina [...]’).

Unknown southern continent

The following explanation was given regarding the southern continent: 'According to many, reliable sources, this southern land, which has not yet been explored, is 350 miles away from the Cape of Good Hope' ('Terra hec Australis […]'). The representation of America is explained as follows: 'Where our depiction of America differs from that of other cosmographers and insofar as we separate this continent from Asia, this is not without reason an indisputable fact for us' ('Quod in describendo America [...]').

Rare map

The Utrecht University Library holds the only copy of this map known worldwide. The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris does also hold an identical impression, but it has an amended and undated title leaf at the bottom of the map.

Further reading

1555
Map
MvE (ed.), 2011
Map of the world, Gerard de Jode, 1555
Map of the world, Gerard de Jode, 1555 (detail)
Map of the world, Gerard de Jode, 1555 (detail)
Map of the world, Gerard de Jode, 1555 (detail)

Universalis Exactissima atquenon recens modo [...] (Kaart: VIII.A.a.5); Antwerpen : Gerard de Jode, 1555