Epitome cosmographica, o Compendiosa introduttione all’astronomia, geografia, & idrografia, per l’uso, dilucidatione, e fabbrica delle sfere, globi, planisferi, astrolabi, et tavole geografiche, e particolarmente degli stampati, e spegiati nelle publiche lettioni.

Colonia [Venice]: Andrea Poletti, 1693.

First edition, rare when complete, of this sumptuously illustrated work, a uniquely valuable source for the documentation of several of the most elaborate large-scale globes and astronomical mechanisms, some now lost, constructed during the latter decades of the seventeenth century. Coronelli, a Franciscan monk, was the official cosmographer of the Venetian Republic, the greatest maker of terrestrial globes and maps during the last half of the seventeenth century, and the founder of the Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti, the first geographical society. The Epitome is particularly important for the information Coronelli includes on the highly decorative and massive globes he constructed for Louis XIV, one of which is illustrated in this work (they can be seen today in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris). The work contains four large foldout celestial maps in circular format engraved in a spectacular baroque style; they were based on the most recent astronomical observations and were copied into the eighteenth century. Also included are two large terrestrial maps – the western and eastern hemispheres. Of the 37 double-page plates, many illustrate globes, spheres, astronomical diagrams and instruments. As a leading cosmographer, Coronelli’s career bears on the history of astronomy at many points. “In the Epitome he listed everything that seemed to him important in astronomy and geography, describing, without making any value judgements, the systems of Ptolemy (18 lines), Tycho Brahe (17 lines), Copernicus (132 lines), and Descartes (40 lines). Not only does he give, for many constellations, an account of their history or the origins of their names, and for all the positions of the stars, … every star is accorded a number … The appearances of comets since ancient times are all listed. The chapter ‘Geography’ contains summary descriptions of the continents, but also of the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions recorded since ancient times. The explorers of the more important regions are listed, together with lists of writings on astronomy and geography by authors back to the ancient Greeks” (Schmidt & Bridge, p. 100). Riccioli was his main source of technical information, for the earth as well as the heavens; other celestial information, including the only telescopic stars he included, was taken from Bayer and Hevelius. Coronelli was a long-standing friend of Edmond Halley and Robert Hooke, observing a lunar eclipse with them in London in 1696. ABPC/RBH list only two complete copies in last 40 years: Christie’s, 21 March 2012, £6875; Sotheby’s, 7 December 1989, £2640. Although reasonably well represented in institutional collections, it is unclear how many of those copies are complete (the copy in Cambridge University Library, for example, lacks one plate; and of the two British Library copies, one lacks two of the volvelles at p. 361 and the other lacks the engraved title).

The Epitome is divided into three books. The first, comprising 35 chapters (pp. 1-208), begins with a discussion of spherical geometry, latitude and longitude, great circles, the tropics, winds, and climate. This is followed by a discussion of the stars and planets, their distances and number, the constellations, comets, and solar and lunar eclipses. The second book, comprising 17 chapters (pp. 209-324), is devoted to geography: the land and sea, the various regions of the earth (Europe, Asia, Africa, America, the poles), with tables of latitude and longitude of the major cities. There follow several chapters devoted to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The third book, divided into two parts, comprising 39 chapters, is devoted to the description of various globes, celestial and terrestrial, and how to use them, as well as information on the construction and use of popular instruments such as armillary spheres, planispheres, and astrolabes. Part one (pp. 325-342) describes and illustrates some of the most spectacular globes to be found across Europe (England, France, Germany). Chapter 1 describes the ‘English Globe’ produced in 1679 by the Earl of Castlemaine (1634-1705), in collaboration with Joseph Moxon (1627-91). It was an immobile globe whose sphere does not rotate but is fixed in place over a planisphere; this allowed complex calculations to be performed more easily than with a turning sphere. Chapter 2 is devoted to the great globe of Gottorp, Germany, constructed under the supervision of Adam Olearius (1599-1671), which had a map of the earth’s surface on the outside and a map of star constellations with astrological and mythological symbols on the inside. Turned by water-power, it demonstrated the ‘movement’ of the heavens to those seated inside in candlelight – it was a predecessor of the modern planetarium. In chapter 3, Coronelli describes the ‘Globus Pancosmus’ of Erhardt Weigel (1625-99), which had a circumference of 9.5 metres with interior effects such as a breeze which could be made to blow from any desired quarter, various elements such as rain, hail and thunder and images of people of different nationalities. Chapter 4 is devoted to Christopher Treffler’s ‘Sphaericum Automatum’, a self-moving celestial globe, now lost – it was for sale for the price of 8000 Talari in 1688 at the time Coronelli was passing through Augsburg, and his description of it appears to be the only surviving evidence that it existed. The fifth and final chapter in this part is devoted to the globes Coronelli constructed for Louis XIV, described below. In part two, in 34 chapters (pp. 343-406), Coronelli describes the construction of globes in general: how the globe gores are designed and printed to represent the earth on a flat plane, how the heavens can also be represented in the plane by means of planispheres, how the globes themselves are assembled by gluing the gores onto a large ball made of wood and papier-mâché and finished with plaster, and how the information on the globes is to be presented. Coronelli was celebrated for his skill in arranging large amounts of information on his globes in a comprehensible yet stylistically appealing manner.

Born in Venice, Coronelli (1650-1718) was apprenticed to a woodcut printer in Ravenna at ten years old. On his return to Venice in 1665, he entered as a student in the convent of the minors of S. Nicolò della Lattuga. He demonstrated his precocious ingenuity as early as 1666, when he published an almanac in Venice, the Calendario perpetuo sacro profane,the first of almost 140 works he was to produce throughout his life.He was sent by his superiors to study in Rome, in the college of S. Bonaventura; after just three years, in 1674, he earned his doctorate in theology, excelling also in the study of astronomy and Euclid. A little before 1678 he began working as a geographer and was commissioned to make a set of globes for the Duke of Parma, each of which was 1.8 metres in diameter. They so impressed Cardinal d’Estrées, ambassador to Rome and advisor to Louis XIV, that he invited Coronelli to Paris in 1681 to construct a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes for the King. They each had a diameter of fifteen feet, and were built with trapdoors so they could be worked on from the inside.

The present volume is particularly noteworthy for the information Coronelli includes on the king’s globes. Weighing two tons, these extremely ornate works remained until the 1920s the largest globes in the world. They stood on a marble base of five steps and were held by a system of four meridian-rings and a massive horizon-ring supported by eight pillars, all in bronze. Each had a wooden frame covered with glued layers of plaster and fabric and an outer surface of very fine linen on which the information on the globe was painted and lacquered. Coronelli had made a systematic study of the history of exploration and plotted on his globes the discoveries of named navigators from the ninth century onwards. He used Portuguese sources for recent mapping of Zambesia; German for the Blue Nile; Dutch charting of Australia; and Narbrough’s 1670 voyage for the Strait of Magellan. The king’s terrestrial globe shows the track of the French Jesuit voyage to Siam, undertaken to establish the longitude of the capital of Siam by observing the satellites of Jupiter, using Cassini’s tables. Coronelli plotted the outbound and return voyage track on his globe, annotated with measurements of magnetic declination. (This preceded by more than ten years Halley’s first Atlantic voyage to measure magnetic declination and calculate the longitude of Barbados using Cassini’s tables). The globe is packed with information not only about geography but also about natural history, anthropology and ethnography. The astronomer Philippe de La Hire wrote a manual that carefully avoided linking the celestial globe to any of the competing cosmologies of the day. These globes established Coronelli’s fame, and also his fortune as smaller versions of the globes became an essential feature of the great houses and libraries of Europe. Coronelli was made royal cartographer to Louis XIV in 1681 as a result of making these great globes, and worked in Paris for two years. He collaborated with Jean Baptiste Nolin (1657-1708), who went on to become the French publisher for all of Coronelli’s works. While in Paris, his contact with the Académie des Sciences gave him access to information about the latest French explorations, including those of La Salle in North America, and these contacts continued.

After his stay in Paris, Coronelli lived and worked in various European countries. He returned to Venice in 1683, and in the following year founded the Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti (named after Jason and the Argonauts, the adventurers who set out to find the golden fleece). Among the preliminary leaves of the Epitome is a list of members of this society, which reveals that it counted princes, ambassadors and cardinals amongst its members. They were to receive a minimum of six copper engravings a month, creating a guaranteed market for Coronelli’s productions. By 1693 the Accademia had 260 members spread throughout Europe.

Having returned home to Venice, Coronelli turned his rooms in the Gran Casa dei Frari into one of the world’s leading globe-making workshops, besides accommodating a substantial production of maps, prints, and books in what he called his ‘Laboratorio dei Frari.’ From 1687 until 1707, he directed a large workshop of mapmakers producing high-quality publications crucial to the evolution of cartography. Coronelli was named cosmographer of the Serene Republic of Venice, and was in charge of depicting the victorious battles fought by his compatriots during the Venetian-Turkish War of 1684-1687. Coronelli published an ambitious multi-volume atlas, theAtlante Veneto, in 1691, which was intended to be an extension of Blaeu’s atlas in three parts, covering hydrography and ancient and modern geography. Coronelli was known as a careful scholar, and his work across Europe gave him access to the latest information. For example, he produced the first widely published European map of settlements in New Mexico, ‘America Settentrionale’ (1688), after being given the information by a former governor of New Mexico, Diego de Peñalosa. By the time of his death, Coronelli had published hundreds of maps, as well as the first six volumes of the Biblioteca Universale Sacro-Profana, considered to be the first encyclopedia with entries in alphabetical order.

In 1696 Coronelli travelled with the Venetian ambassadors to Germany, the Netherlands and England. In London he was able to present on 11 May a pair of 1½-foot globes (celestial and terrestrial) to William III, for which he was rewarded with 200 gold guineas. On 16 May, Coronelli observed a total eclipse of the moon, as well as Jupiter and its satellites, with members of the Royal Society and especially his ‘long-standing friends’ Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley (Viaggi del P. Coronelli (1697), vol. 2, p. 154). In the same month he visited the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Coronelli brought with him to England a quantity of sheets of globe gores to sell. He was in the process of compiling a large volume, the Libro dei Globi (published in 1697), containing the gores of all five pairs (terrestrial and celestial) of his printed globes, ranging from 5 cm to 108 cm in diameter. He marketed this as an atlas, from which customers could have globes made if they wished.

In spite of the antagonism and opposition of most of the members of his own order, in 1701 Coronelli, a favourite of Pope Innocent XII (1691-1700), was elected Superior General of his order. In 1704, however, the new pope, Clement XI (1700-1721), removed him from office because of his unsatisfactory leadership qualities with his confrères, and following accusations of misuse of the order’s funds to finance his publications. After such a scandal, Coronelli was reduced to spending his twilight years rather disagreeably in his ‘Convento dei Frari’ in Venice, disliked by most of his brothers and shunned by many of his former patrons and protectors. There, he mainly sold guides to Venice and reprints of his maps and views. When he died, in 1718, all the copperplates of his works were sold to pay for roofing and drain pipes, and to cover the many debts of his publishing firm.

Coronelli’s was a career full of contradictions. His selling success was due to a steady advertising effort, by courting not only princes but also their librarians, and by promising to the public high-standard publications at low, convenient prices. An example of his commercial originality is his novel subscription scheme for financing his first pair of printed globes, coupled with the Atlante Veneto, in which subscribers to both became members of the Accademia Cosmographica degli Argonauti. But the ground on which his success was built was not solid. Coronelli never sold enough globes, maps, prints and books to cover his editing, engraving, printing and globe-mounting expenses. He therefore asked for money from the Republic of Venice and later from his Order, which he received for twenty years.

Coronelli had skilfully obtained the favour of the Venetian ruling class by adopting the right degree of obsequiousness. But his success was more than the good fortune of an able courtier and skilful craftsman. By returning from Paris to Venice with the astronomical and geographical materials used for the king’s globes and atlases, the friar had enriched the Republic with assets whose value in extolling the image of the city was evident. Thanks to his work, for a brief period, Venice once again became the capital of geographical information – something the Republic had ceased to be more than a century before, just as – at least in the eyes of the Venetians themselves – Venice was again one of the leading forces in European politics, fighting the Turks at the Pope’s request, at the Emperor’s side, in a war in which France had refused to take part.

When in 1705 the question was raised whether the Republic had really gained the expected advantages from the stipends bestowed on Coronelli, many people judged that the fruits produced by those payments – his maps and globes and his teaching – were rich and worthy of praise. During Coronelli’s lifetime, geography was highly fashionable even at the courts, where it was admired not only for its various traditional and practical uses, especially in warfare, but also as a science for men of quality. Without any knowledge of it they would be incapable of waging war or, even more importantly, talking about it in a salon. On the other hand, a Republic whose treasury was being drained by war was in the end forced to consider this matter purely in terms of costs and benefits. When he lost external funds Coronelli could not survive as a publisher.

Most copies of the Epitome lack several of the plates, and sometimes the engraved or printed titles.

Riccardi I: 374-5; Houzeau & Lancaster 8006; Macclesfield 563 (lacking first quire including title, two plates & final leaf); Nordenskiold Collection 57 (28 plates only); Wardington 117 (lacking printed title); Armao, Vincenzo Coronelli (1944), p. 189 (collation as this copy); Warner, The Sky Explored, pp. 56-7. Milanesi, Vincenzo Coronelli, Cosmographer (1650-1718), 2016 (the best account of Coronelli’s life and work, from which much of our description is taken). Schmidt & Bridge, ‘Vincenzo Coronelli’s methods of work. A supplement to the article in ‘Der Globusfreund’ 43/44,’ Globe Studies No. 59/60, Papers Read at the 12th International Symposium for the Study of Globes, Jena 2011 (2014), pp. 96-111.



8vo (192 x 140 mm), pp. [xxx] (including engraved and printed titles), 420, [16], with 37 double-page plates, one (p. 361) with 6 volvelles (two circular plates and four pointers). Contemporary paper-covered boards, manuscript title in brown ink to spine (boards slightly rubbed and dust-soiled).

Item #4861

Price: $22,500.00