A handsome set in a contemporary Italian binding. ‘One of the earliest and most important collections of Voyages and Travels of the sixteenth century…’ (Church). Undoubtedly a foundation work for any collection of Voyages and Travels.
The ‘most perfect work of that nature in any language whatsoever’ (John Locke). Ramusio (1485-1557) served as Secretary to the Venetian Senate, and on retiring to Padua compiled this collection of narratives, including some manuscripts which had never been seen before, towards the end of his life. A planned fourth volume was never published as the manuscript was sadly destroyed shortly after his death by a fire at his publishers. As Harisse points out Ramusio was the first author to edit his work with care, avoiding errors and anachronisms perpetuated in previous copies of the travel narratives he included in his work.
Each volume was reprinted several times, with later issues, as here, having new material missing from the first editions. The narratives include those of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Cortez, Coronado, Cartier, Cadamosto, and many others. In the first volume, Ramusio aimed to correct the errors in Ptolemy’s maps, and devoted his attention to Africa and the East, especially the annals of early Portuguese exploration, including Da Gama, Alvarez, and Barros, as well as an account of Pigafetta. In addition, this edition of vol. I includes the five letters on Japan, written in 1549 and 1550 that represent ‘the first time that Japan makes a significant appearance in travel literature’ (Lach). The first volume also includes a new Italian version of Varthema’s Itinerario which, when it was first published in 1510, contained the first printed material on Southeast Asia.
The second volume concentrates on voyages to the North and West, including to Russia, only recently released from Mongol domination. The contributors include Paulus Jovius (1483-1552), a correspondent of Barros and a former ambassador to Russia, regarded as an authority on Muscovite matters in general. The second volume also contains Ramusio’s version of Marco Polo, which, whilst probably translated from the Portuguese edition of Valentin Fernandes (Lisbon, 1502), remains one of the basic extant versions of Marco Polo’s book.
The third volume is entirely devoted to America, including the accounts of Peter Martyr, Oviedo, Cortes, Cabeça de Vaca, Guzman, Ulloa, Coronado, Fray Marcos di Niza, Xerez, Verrazano, and Cartier, whose account of New France (the Gulf of Saint Lawrence) is published here for the first time. Alongside some important maps the text includes illustrations of botanical subjects, including maize and cacti, as well as woodcuts of native Americans and their abodes. The maps in the third volume are particularly fine, including one of the Western Hemisphere by Ramusio and Oviedo. It depicts the known world from Japan in the West to the West coast of Africa in the East, and includes the coast of California roughly as far North as San Francisco.
In addition, there are fine maps of Mexico City and Brazil, as well as Gastaldi’s map of New France which is the earliest printed map of the region. Based on the reports of Verrazzano and Cartier, this map shows the coast of modern-day New England and Canada from New York Bay (marked as Angoulesme) up to the coast of Labrador.
Despite the fact that the fourth volume was unable to be published, Ramusio’s work opened up a new era in the literary history of voyages and navigation (Harrisse) and is widely acknowledged as the definitive geography of the sixteenth century.
Sixth edition of vol. I, fourth edition of vol. II, third edition of vol. III. 3 vols, small folio (312 by 218mm approx.) Woodcut devices to title-pages, 10 double-page maps and plans, 8 full-page woodcut plates, with further illustrations in the text. Contemporary Italian (Venetian?) morocco, boards & spines ruled & stamped in gilt; paper repairs to title-page of vol. I, and outer margin of following two leaves, occasional dampstaining to vol. I, minor worming to first and last leaves and pastedowns of vols. II and III.
Church I, 99; European Americana II, 613/108 & 606/87-88; Sabin, 67735, 67739 & 67742; cf. Borba II, 698-699.
Stock ID: 97383