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Collections | Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Battista Agnese (ca. 1500–1564)
Portolan Atlas, on vellum, 1536–64
Opening: Map of the World with Magellan's Route
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1912; MS M.507
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Between 1536 and 1564, the heyday of Italian mapmaking, the cartographer Battista Agnese produced in Venice a number of remarkably accurate and beautifully decorated nautical or "portolan" atlases. About seventy copies are known to exist today. A luxury item, the atlas was unlikely to have been used in practical navigation and was reserved for rich merchants and high-ranking officials.

The map with twelve wind cherubs traces Ferdinand Magellan's sea route for his near circumnavigation of the world (he died before completing it) in 1519–22 along with a route from Spain to Peru. The oval depiction of the world represented a new type of map introduced by Benedetto Bordone's Isolario (Book of Islands).

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.