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Rare Lafreri map of Elba and the Tuscan town of Piombino

Place/Date: Venice / ca. 1575
Title: ELBA / ILBA sive ILVA insula…
21.5 x 28 cm (8.5 x 11 in)
Condition Rating


Rare, early plan of Elba with graphic depictions of the topography, cities, churches, and the fortification of Cosmopoli (Portoferraio).

Elba is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 50 km (30 mi) east of Corsica. Its ancient name was Ilva, and was known as an important source of iron. The island hah an interesting history in the decades before and after this map was made. In 1544, the Barbary pirates from North Africa devastated Elba and the coasts of Tuscany. In 1546, part of the island was handed over to Cosimo I de’Medici, who fortified Portoferraio and renamed it “Cosmopoli.” In 1596, Philip II of Spain captured Porto Azzurro and had two fortresses built there.

Elba is perhaps most famous as the place to which Napolean was exiled following his forced abdication in the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1814). The exile was nothing more than symbolic, however, as he was allowed to keep a personal guard of 600 men and was nominally sovereign of Elba, although the nearby sea was patrolled by the French and British navies.

During the months that he stayed on the island, Napoleon carried out a series of economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life there. After staying for 300 days, he escaped to France, on 26 February 1815.

This is the third state, as indicated by the addition of the plate number “79” in the lower right corner. This number was added by Donato Bertelli, who acquired the plates and published them in numerical sequence Isole Famose.

Condition Description

Various blemishes, including tiny holes and tear in left margin. Re-margining along top. Map image clean and bright with strong impression. Good, thick paper.


Bifolco (2018), Tav. 1009.

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