Rare Lafreri map of Elba and the Tuscan town of Piombino

ELBA / ILBA sive ILVA insula…

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SKU: NL-00614 Category: Tag:
Date: ca. 1575
Place: Venice
Dimensions: 21.5 x 28 cm (8.5 x 11 in)
Condition Rating: VG
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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.


Donato Bertelli

The Bertelli family represents the largest group of publishers, engravers, cartographers, and merchants of 16th century prints. The most productive was Ferrando Bertelli, active between 1560 and 1570, but maps of the last quarter of the century are known with the signatures of Andrea, Donato, Lucca, Nicolò, and Pietro. The latter was mainly active in Padua, where he led a printing and engraving workshop.

Donato Bertelli (active 1558-1592) was a Late Renaissance printer, publisher, and mapmaker. Operating under the banner of San Marco in Venice, Bertelli was one of the more prominent members of the ‘Lafreri School’ of cartography working out of Rome and Venice during the 16th Century.

Although born in Padua, Donato Bertelli moved to Venice as a young man and spent his entire career there. In 1559, shortly after first arriving in town, he found work in Ferrando Bertelli’s workshop. When Ferrando died, Donato either took over the entire shop or at least acquired his plates, which he then used to launch his publishing career. Donato Bertelli would also publish plates from other Lafreri mapmakers, including Forlani and Camocio, and would often make the prints his own by adding personal elements.

Giovanni Francesco Camocio

Giovanni Francesco Camocio was born in the first half of the sixteenth century, possibly in Asolo (Treviso) where the presence of the Camosio family, of Piedmontese origin, to which Giovanni Battista belonged, a well-known Hellenist considered by some to be a relative, if not brother of the Camocio, is widely documented.

Camocio was a prolific engraver of maps and prints, based in Venice.

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.