Tripoli citta di Barbaria

Cartographer(s): Antonio Lafreri
Date: ca. 1559
Place: Rome
Dimensions: 43 x 36 cm (17 x 14 in)
Condition Rating: VG

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Rare Lafreri bird’s-eye-view of Tripoli depicting the expedition of King Philip II that never made it


Very rare bird’s-eye-view of the city of Tripoli during the imaginary Spanish reconquest of 1559.

In an attempt to recapture Tripoli, which the Ottomans conquered in 1551, King Philip II of Spain organized a great naval expedition in 1559. But the campaign ended in disaster: the Christian fleet was intercepted and surprised near the island of Djerba in May 1560 by the forces of Admiral Piyale Paşa, and about half of the ships were sunk or captured. This event marked the apex of Ottoman domination in Mediterranean waters.

This view was certainly made before 1560; the first state of the copperplate, in fact, bears in the lower margin a historical notation which states that the city of Tripoli, “è stata redificata & fortificata da Dragot Rays famoso corsaro che vi stade residentia” (“was rebuilt & fortified by Dragot Rays, the famous corsair lived there”), a reference to the fort of St. Peter built by Darghut Pascià in 1559.

The text further reads: “Novamente il Duca di Mendina Celi Vicere di Sicilia con l’armata del Re Philippo et con aiuto della Sede Apostolica, del Duca de Fiorenza…Sperando con l’aiuto di DIO di reportarne Vittoria” (“Recently the Duke of Mendina Celi, Viceroy of Sicily, with the armata of King Philip and with help from the Apostolic See of the Duke de Florence…Hoping with the help of GOD to report her Victory”), demonstrating that the expedition had not yet ended with the ruinous defeat of the Spaniards.

There are four states of this map. The first state was published without editorial data, but is attributed to Antonio Lafreri’s typology, because in the Index of 1571 there is a “Tripoli citta di Barbaria.”

The second state, without the text in the lower margin, shows the title: TRIPOLI CITTA DI BARBARIA.

The third state bears the imprint Claudij Duchetti formis; to which, in the fourth, the imprint is added Giovanni Orlandi formis romae 1602.

In the final state, represented by this example, the name of Orlandi replaced by Henricus van Schoel formis romae 1602.

Examples: 1°: Birmingham, Public Library; Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale; Hatfield House; Londra, British Library; Londra, Royal Geographical Society; Parigi, Bibliothèque Nationale; Roma, Biblioteca Nazionale; Washington, Library of Congress. 2°: Dillingen, Studienbibliothek (2); Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale (2); Londra, Royal Geographical Society; Madrid, Real Biblioteca; New York, Public Library; Parigi, Bibliothèque Nationale; Roma, Biblioteca Nazionale; Roma, Istituto Centrale per la Grafica; Rostock, Universitatsbibliothek; Stoccarda, Württembergische Landesbibliothek; Torino, Archivio di Stato; Washington, Library of Congress; Wolfenbuttel, Herzog August Bibliothek. 3°: Salisburgo, Universitatsbibliothek. 5°: Londra, British Library; Malta, National Library; Roma, Istituto Centrale per la Grafica (2)


Antonio Lafreri

Antonio Lafreri, or Antoine Lafréry, also Antoine du Pérac Lafréry (Orgelet, c. 1512 – Rome, 1577), was a French engraver, cartographer and publisher, active in Rome.

Condition Description

Excellent; ample, clean margins.


Alberti (2010): n. 111; Borroni Salvadori (1980): nn. 237, 315; Cartografia Rara (1986): n. 137; Destombes (1970): nn. 140-140b; Hatfield House (1992): n. 87; Phillips (1914): n. 92; Ruge (1904-16): IV, n. 56.97 & n. 89.105 & n. 90.129; Shirley (2004): II, n. 61 & III, n. 70; Sotheby’s (2000): n. 341; Wieder (1915): n. 159. Fumagalli: p. 38; Manfroni: pp. 267-268; Tooley (1939): n. 554; Tooley (1983): n. 555a.