Vincenzo Coronelli

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650 – 1718) was a Franciscan printer, cartographer, and globe-maker from Venice. Due to his religious background, many of his charts have been signed P. Coronelli, meaning Père or ‘Father’, and referring to his status as a friar of the Franciscan Order. He was appointed official cosmographer for the city of Venice and was later employed as royal cartographer to the King of France. In particular the latter position meant that he had access to the latest records and materials from French pioneers and voyages of exploration. This caused many of his charts to be cutting-edge innovations that redefined the newly discovered parts of the world in an entirely novel fashion. It also meant that Coronelli would have no scruples in declaring uncontested or virgin land in the New World as part of Nouvelle France. This is exemplified in Coronelli’s celebrated 1685 chart of Western Canada or Nouvelle France, in which the official French territories have been expanded thousands of miles to the west and south, so that most of the Midwest, including the Mississippi Valley, has been subsumed under a French claim.

Coronelli’s access to the latest French sources and intelligence is part of what has made his maps so cartographically decisive and collectible. An example of this is found in his 1688 chart of upper Mexico and the Rio Grande (modern Arizona, California, and parts of New Mexico). This map was, at the time of its publication, one of the most detailed and accurate maps of the Rio Grande on the market. The detailed information conveyed in Coronelli’s map came directly from Diego Penalosa, the Spanish governor of New Mexico (1661-63) who turned rogue and provided the French King with a wealth of strategic geographical information. His ambition was to lure the French into attacking New Mexico from the neighboring territory of Louisiana. Despite the controversial source of his information (or perhaps precisely because of it), Coronelli does not hesitate to lay credit where credit is due, and mentions Penalosa directly in the map’s cartouche.

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