A map of “firsts” for the American East Coast

[Giacomo Gastaldi], Tierra Nueva, [Venice, 1548].
Uncolored woodcut, 5"h x 6.75"w plus margins
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A remarkable attempt to reconcile the findings of Verrazzano’s 1524 voyage, which demonstrated the existence of a continuous coastline from Florida to Nova Scotia, with those of Cartier’s voyages to the Canadian Maritimes in the 1530s. It is also the first printed map of the East Coast and the first to identify Narragansett Bay, Block Island, New York Harbor, Long Island and possibly the Outer Banks or the DelMarVa coast.

Tierra Nueva depicts the East Coast between Florida and Labrador and the Atlantic Ocean as far east as the Azores. Gastaldi divides the mainland into four distinct regions, being “Tierra del Laborador,” “Tierra del Bacalaos,” “Tierra de Nurumberg” and “La Florida.” While there is considerable detail in the coastal contours and toponymy, the interior is essentially void of information.

The map is most interesting for its depiction of “Tierra de Nurumberg” extending over present-day Nova Scotia, New England and the mid-Atlantic. The name first appeared as “Oranbega” on a manuscript world map of 1529 by Verrazzano’s brother Girolamo, where it delineated a point on the Maine coast. The term soon became magnified to mean either a mythical kingdom located along the Penobscot River or, as on this map, a large territory spanning much of the Northeast. Within “Nurumberg” nine locations are named, most of which have been identified by 20th-century readings of the Cellere Codex, a contemporary copy of Verrazzano’s report to his sponsor Francois I of France. Running roughly from southwest to northeast, these are as follows:

  • Larcadia: probably some part of the Outer Banks (per Morison and Burden) or the DelMarVa region (per Wroth and Suarez)
  • Angoulesme: New York Harbor
  • Flora: probably the southern coast of Long Island
  • le paradis: unclear
  • Brisa: probably Block Island (Morison’s view, with which we concur, though Stokes argues for Martha’s Vineyard, while Wroth is uncertain)
  • Po Real: unclear
  • Po Refuge: Narragansett Bay
  • Tierra de los broton and C. breton: Nova Scotia

With the exception of Nova Scotia, this represents the first time these locations are named on a printed map. By contrast, Gastaldi commits a massive sin of omission: Narragansett Bay (“Refugio”) is shown contiguous with Cape Breton, with no sign of the coastline of Massachusetts and Maine. The likely explanation is that Verrazzano was forced by the dangerous waters around Nantucket to give Cape Cod a wide berth, then crossed the Gulf of Maine without siting land until somewhere in the vicinity of Nova Scotia.

Also of interest is another omission, albeit one less sinful: for reasons not clear, Gastaldi has omitted the so-called “Sea of Verrazzano” shown so prominently on Munster’s 1540 map of North America. Having coasted along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and observed only water on the other side (Pamlico and Albermarle Sounds), Verrazzano had hopefully asserted that “this [sea] is doubtless the one which goes around the tip of India, China, and Cathay.” (Cellere Codex as translated by Wroth, p. 136) On Munster’s map the Outer Banks are shown accordingly as a narrow isthmus separating the Atlantic from a northern sea providing a direct passage to the Pacific.

References
Burden, The Mapping of North America, #16; McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps #548.1; Suarez, Shedding the Veil, #25. Background was also obtained from Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, pp. 277-338; Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, vol. 2 pp. 11-29 and vol. 4 pp. 14-20; and Wroth, The Voyages of Giovanni da Verrazzano, pp. pp. 1-216 and plates.

Condition

Some foxing at edges and a small stain in upper margin, but printed area clean and without any noticeable flaws. Edgebound, so lacking the centerfold usually found on this map