Riding the wave

Aegean Sea

From the seventeenth century to the national charting agencies

Between 1618 and 1619, Francesco Basilicata, cartographer in the service of the Republic of Venice, dedicated to Natale Donà, commander of the Cavalry of Candia, the atlas of the Kingdom of Candia, consisting of 43 tables enclosed in multicolored floral frames, taken from a "bird's eye view ", which reproduce the entire perimeter of the island. With skillful use of color are shown the topography and morphology of the regions represented, while particular attention is paid to every detail of economic, military and nautical relevance.

Fortress Palaiokastro from the Atlas by Francesco Basilicata.
(Venice, Museo Correr, Port 4).

In 1625 George Corner produced The Kingdom of Candia which essentially incorporates the earlier work of Basilicata. The atlas contains 31 colored drawings, full of imaginative and decorative images, and a detailed description of the island of Crete. The author, a resident of Candia, claims to have personally made and dedicated the atals to the Trevisan family, whose coat of arms appears on the plates of red and gilted leather binding.

To the Island of Crete is still dedicated a series of 61 engravings by Marco Boschini, made in 1651, entitled The entire Kingdom of Candia, made from a "bird's eye view". In 1658 he created a work entitled "The Archipelago With all the islands, reefs, shoals, and shallow waters ... which consists of 48 engravings with short texts to the side, giving nautical, geographical, economic, historical and mythological news.

The first table of The entire kingdom of Candia depicts the island of Crete: at the top, as on all other tables, the title appears to the right, the scale of 12 miles in a cartouche. The representation is remarkable for the thick number of place-names and the detailed reliefs
(Venice, Museo Correr)

The islands are found, of course, in the Mirror of the Sea (1679), by Francesco Maria Levanto, in twelve "demonstrations," illustrates the coasts and the main ports of the Mediterranean.

To the second half of the sixteenth century date back two general maps of the Aegean, which provide the basis for later "books of islands": they were made by Nikolaos Sofianos from Corfu, and contain ancient place names from Greek and Latin classics, trying to identify them in the contemporary ones; and of ' of the same period are the works by the Italian Jacopo Gastaldi, which inspired first Ortelius for his paper "Modern Greece", and then Mercator.

At the end of the century, the Neapolitan Francesco Piacenza published Egeo Redivivo ...,; the work is not intended for nautical use but it deserves a mention because it outlines a route along the coasts and islands of the Aegean, accompanying illustrations of places with a comprehensive description of all relevant details, from history and traditions, to economics, ethnography, literature and architecture.

The engraving is by Francesco Guianotti. The second panel represents the Aegean Sea with its islands.
(Venice, Museo Correr)

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli too inclueded the Aegean in his Isolario of the Atlante Veneto (1696-97), late example of a genre by then obsolete, in the spirit of a "Theatre of cities" on the model of the atlas by Braun and Hogenberg.

The island of Corfu from the 'Isolario' of the Atlante Veneto by Vincenzo Coronelli.
(Genoa, Civico Museo Navale)
The island of Kefalonia from the 'Isolario' of the Atlante Veneto by Vincenzo Coronelli.
(Genoa, Civico Museo Navale)

The Turkish-Venetian war stimulated the production of maps of the islands, appearing in all Italian atlases of the period and later in the Dutch, British and French ones, as a result of the commercial interests that the European powers entertained in the area.

Remarkable is the production of the Dutch cartographers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - including J. Blaeu, J.A. Colom, the Visschers and the van Keulens - which included maps and views of the Aegean.

The panel dedicated to the Cyclades, in the Atlas Maior of Jan Blaeu

Also the general map of the Mediterranean commissioned by the King Sun included large-scale maps of the islands, consequento th the hegemonic aspirations of the Sovereign. The French-hydrographers - including Bellin - with the establishment of the Dépôt des cartes resumed systematic surveys in the Aegean for the next two centuries, and so did the British hydrographers (see J. Drew), until the formation of the Greek Hydrographic Service in 1920.

Turkey too - widely present in the maps produced in France (see Carte ... de Karamanie ) and in Britain (see F. Beaufort and T. Graves) - in 1909 had established a hydrographic office within the Admiralty, which later changed names and hierarchical dependence, up to the creation in 1972, of the present hydrographic service within the Navy.

Most works mentioned here are at the Museo Correr in Venice, who recently published a fascinating catalog of its rich collection ( (Navigare e descrivere ... , edited by C. Tonini and P. Lucchi, Venice, Marsilio Editori , 2001)