Ruscelli/Rossacio’s 1599 map of the Eastern Seaboard: influential, important, highly aesthetic, and full of detailed and embedded stories.

Tierra Nueva.

Out of stock

SKU: NL-01664 Category:
Date: 1599
Place: Venice
Dimensions: 31.5 x 24 cm (12.25 x 9.25 in)
Condition Rating: VG
Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist


When Ruscelli first created this map of the North Atlantic seaboard, it was meant for the first edition of his La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo (1561). While the mapmaker drew on earlier Italian charts in the process, the end product soon became quite influential, as it constituted one of the first dedicated maps to focus on the North American coastline. Due to its influence and popularity, Ruscelli’s map was later included in Giuseppe Rosaccio’s 1598 edition of Ptolemy. However, before including it in his tome, Rosaccio amended and embellished Ruscelli’s map significantly.

The original 1561 map was based heavily on a 1548 map by Gastaldi, which focused strictly on delineating the coastline. Ruscelli added more detail about the interior, particularly a network of coastal rivers and one of the first depictions of a mountain chain in the North American interior. But a lot had happened since Ruscelli’s map was first created, and knowledge of the Americas was constantly expanding and improving. Moreover, seminal mapmakers from Germany and Flanders had begun incorporating the latest discoveries and noting new toponyms on their maps. Rosaccio wanted to follow suit, leading him to update Ruscelli’s plate before including it in his edition. Among Rossacio’s sources was Ortelius’ map of America (1570), from which many of the changes seem to have been inspired. But other Dutch mapmakers, for example Theodor De Bry, also influenced Rosaccio’s decision-making. 

Among the new features that Rosaccio added to Ruscelli’s original plate were explicitly decorative elements such as the sea monster and sailing ship, which are the primary ways to distinguish a Rossacio edition from the earlier states. But he also added a litany of new features and toponyms. In the first category, we note the presence of many more mountains in the interior and entirely new islands in the North Atlantic (e.g. Icarus and Drogeo di Francis). Many of the regional place names in the American interior, such as Avagal (from Ortelius 1570) or Virginia (from De Bry/White 1590), were also added by Rosaccio.

Rosaccio even goes so far as to rename the continent India Nuova (upper left corner – immediately below is a printed note referring to Columbus’ discovery). And finally, Rosaccio adopted place names for topographic features, such as cape and coves, directly from Ortelius (e.g. C. de Laborador and C. Fredo). Despite the obvious adoptions, other new features have more obscure origins. The insertion of a river and lake in the far north, for example, or the very southern placement of the new but well-known toponym Terra Corte Real, are difficult to contextualize.

Neatline’s example of this excellent map is the updated state from the Rosaccio edition. We note that our map comes from the second edition of Rosaccio’s work, published in 1599, as a visible crack in the plate (bottom left corner) does not appear in the editions from 1598. It remains one of the earliest dedicated maps of the East Coast that one can freely acquire. The map essentially covers the East Coast from Labrador in the north to the Carolina-Florida border in the south. It contains a significant number of place names, including sites that since have developed into well-known cities (e.g. New York/Angoulesme or Kitty Hawk/Larcadia in North Carolina). 

We at Neatline think that Tierra Nueva is a fantastic map that is the ideal foundation to start a collection of this region and the history of North America.



We have identified only three independent listings of this map with OCLC (no. 48663207), but a significant number of institutions carry the Rosaccio tome from which it derives. Examples appear on the market regularly, but they continue to command growing prices.


Giacomo Gastaldi

Giacomo Gastaldi was one of the most prominent Italian cartographers, perhaps most recognized for his introduction of copperplate engraving in cartography or his frescoes of Africa and Asia in the Palace of the Doge. He was, in his time, named Cosmographer of Venice.

Girolamo Ruscelli

Girolamo Ruscelli (1518–1566) was an Italian mathematician, polygraph, and cartographer active in Italy during the early 16th century. He was born around 1518 in Viterbo to a family of minor nobility and humble origins. Throughout his life, Ruscelli moved around, living all over Italy. He started in Aquilea, but his work soon drew him to more important centers of learning. He moved first to Padua, and around 1540, he settled in Rome, where he founded his Accademia dello Sdegno. Around 1545, Ruscelli left Rome for Naples, and in 1548 he finally settled in the city that would make him most famous, Venice.

While posterity primarily remembers Ruscelli as one of the most important cartographers of the Venice School, his primary source of income came from publishing – both his works and copying the work of others. While he wrote on a broad range of subjects himself, the works plagiarised from others were often published by his partner, Plinio Pietrasanta. This lucrative relationship lasted until 1555 when Ruscelli was arrested and tried by the Inquisition for re-publishing a satirical poem by Pietrasanta without his formal permission. Any confrontation with the Inquisition was unpleasant enough, but Ruscelli may have been particularly susceptible to pressure because his wife’s family entertained Protestant sympathies. His brother-in-law was burned at the stake in Rome some years later.

The relationship with Pietrasanta had nevertheless soured, and the publishing firm was soon closed. Instead, Ruscelli partnered up with another Venetian publisher, Vincenzo Valgrisi. It was with Valgrisi that Ruscelli published his famous Ptolemaic Geografia in 1561. This atlas contained sixty-nine engraved maps sporting the latest ideas in Italian cartography. Despite containing some of the latest cutting-edge ideas about the world’s composition, Ruscelli’s atlas also drew heavily on earlier works. Forty of the 69 maps in Ruscelli’s atlas were copied almost directly from Giacomo Gastaldi’s Geografia from 1548.

Despite Ruscelli’s fame as a cartographer, he also achieved considerable recognition under his pseudonym Alessio Piemontese. His greatest success in this regard came the same year as his arrest (1555), with the publication of De Secreti del Alessio Piemontese. In this book of alchemy, Ruscelli reveals himself as a true Renaissance man, dabbling proficiently in multiple disciplines at the same time. His ‘Secrets‘ contained instructions on how to make everything from alchemical compounds and medicines to cosmetics and dyes. The work was so popular that it was re-issued numerous times over the next two centuries, and translated into French, English, German, Latin, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, and even Danish.

Giuseppe Rosaccio

Little is known about the life of Giuseppe Rosaccio (c. 1530 – 1620), a Venetian geographer and scholar.

Condition Description

Very good. Adhesive residue along top edge. Some bleed through from the verso. Centerfold reinforcement on verso.