Riding the wave

Aegean Sea

Atlases of Greek origin

(Venice, Museo Correr).

In 1520 John Xenodocos produced an atlas, dated and signed by Ego Ioanis Xenodocos composuit Corfu. Ano domino MCCCCCXX. Former setebrio XXIII dies.

It consists of three charts representing the Atlantic coasts of Europe and Africa and the western Mediterranean (I), the Eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and Black Sea (II) and the Central Mediterranean (III). Each sheet, within a decorative frame contaning the graphic scale, has an elaborate rose of 32 winds, the usual grid of rhumbs, prospects of cities and various decorative elements highlighted by bright color.

The third chart, devoted to the central Mediterranean, has dense place-names, internal and perpendicular to the coastline, islands in red, green, blue and gold, green mountains, as usual shaped as a "heap of mole", and red flags, except those of Genoa and Venice, larger than the others. The use of Venetian words and the accurate representation of the city suggest that the atlas was produced in Venice, a well-known charting center.

In Venice was also produced a chart representing the Mediterranean Basin, Africa and the Atlantic coasts of the Americas, signed - at the margin in the lower right - Georgio Callapodha cretensis meffecit nell'anno domini 1550 die 14 luius

The author, whose real name is Giorgio Sideri, a native of Creta, worked in Venice between 1537 and 1565, and left us a dozen atlases and loose charts.

Giorgio Sideri [Callapoda from Heraklion], 1550. Parchment, 1060x720 mm
(Venice, Museo Correr)

The Anonymous of Lucca (Lucca, Public Library, MS 1898) - undated but attributed to the first half of the sixteenth century - consists of six watercolored handwritten charts, ranging from the coasts of the British Isles to the Black Sea. It is written in greek and is therefore of particular significance as evidence of place-names of the time.

It includes a map of Sicily and the Ionian Sea with its islands, which is an element of considerable interest, given the traditionally little attention paid by cartographers to southern Italy: it could be inferred that the region was the area of origin of the customer.

Antonio Millo - about whose nationality there are differences between those who consider him the sole Venetian author of the time, and those who consider him a a native of Milos in the service of the Republic of Venice - produced nine manuscript Books of islands (Isolario) between 1582 and 1591.

These works were clearly intended for use at sea, since they do not contain literary comments like other similar works, and are accompanied by descriptions of the islands and by nautical manuals.

The Museo Correr, Venice has recently published a fascinating catalog of its rich collection ( Navigare e descrivere ..., edited by C. Tonini and P. Lucchi, Venice, Marsilio Editore, 2001)