The name Pietro Coppo May be unfamiliar to some, but he occupies an important place in the history of cartography. Bagrow pairs him with the great Giacomo Gastaldi as among the first professional cartographers, i.e., designers of maps. Coppo was born in late 1469 or early 1470, and died around the end of 1555. It has always been difficult to'get an overview of Coppo's work, since references to his maps are dispersed among a great many books. Even standard references sometimes fail. Shirley’s Mapping of the World does not reproduce Coppo's larger woodcut world map. The first of these two volumes discusses in detail the only known set of impressions from a set of wood blocks Coppo had prepared for a never-published geography and bound with a manuscript text. Each chapter is devoted to one of the 15 maps. For each, the sources for the map are analyzed in detail. The most interesting to Americans will be the discussion of the world map, with its unusual depiction of America. South America is shown as an island. Cuba, Jamaica, the Cannibal Islands and Hispaniola are named, as are some locations on the mainland. Greenland is shown as an island, and North America is totally absent. The map of the British Isles appears to rely on both Ptolemaic sources and mariner's maps. The Holy Land map is based on that of Vesconte. Each map is discussed with impressive scholarship. Extensive references are provided. At the end of the first volume is a complete index of placenames appearing on the maps with a comparison to names on other Coppo ma.ps. The second volume reproduces the woodcut maps. The reproductions are of the highest quality, on thick paper, and individually stitched into the binding. The legends are quite legible, unlike some reproductions of Coppo’s maps in reference books. The 15 maps are the Solar System, the World, British Isles, Iberia, Trieste, France, fragment of Northern Italy, eastern Mediterranean, southern Italy, Turkey, Persia, the Venice area, Crete, the Holy Land, and the Adriatic. It is often said that Ortelius published the first modern atlas in 1570. A good case can be made that this would have been the first modern atlas had it been published. Undoubtedly, further editions would have been published, and Coppo might today be better known than Ortelius.
David C. Jolly, 1988
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