Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese – Orbis Pictus – 2445 – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)

Venice (Italy) — Ca. 1540

The depiction of sea routes, shallows, and harbors: one of the earliest, most valuable, and beautifully decorated Portolan atlases in world history

  1. One of the earliest and simultaneously one of the most valuable portolan atlases in world history

  2. The work of Battista Agnese (ca. 1500–64) is characterized by detailed and charmingly illustrated maps of seas and harbors

  3. It also contains a solar declination table, an armillary sphere, a zodiac calendar, and other information

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

One of the earliest and simultaneously one of the most valuable atlases in world history was manufactured in Venice in 1540. It is the Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese. The scientist and highly talented artist created his atlas with the aid of the most modern cartographic information, e.g. he relied on the findings of the circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan. Alongside incredibly detailed geographic expositions, the portolan atlas distinguishes itself through its charming, splendid pictorial adornment.

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

In the 16th century, Venice was a stronghold of geography and cartography. Some of the most accurate and modern maps of the time were manufactured in Venice. The best and most valuable example thereof is the Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese. The precious geographic work comprises 30 pages with luxurious depictions of the Earth and its individual regions. Additionally, the atlas contains a table of the declination of the Sun and an armillary sphere, a zodiac calendar, as well as two pages of text with astronomical and cosmographic information. The elaborately designed, precious work is considered to be one of the most detailed and artistically valuable map collections of the Renaissance.

Battista Agnese: Artist and Scientist

Battista Agnese was a cartographer in the Republic of Genoa and lived from the early- to the mid–16th century. Agnese was the leading geographer of a Florentine cartography workshop in Venice. In collaboration with his staff, he created at least 71 atlases and sea charts between 1534 and 1564, all of which were of the highest quality and were purchased exclusively by wealthy buyers. One work by the Venetian master was commissioned by Emperor Charles V for his son Philip II. Agnese’s 1546 Portolan Atlas was the result of an edition of some 30 autographed works. It represented the current geographic knowledge of his time and is considered to be one of the earliest cartographical works of world history. The gorgeously decorated atlas served not only for navigation while travelling, but also for the study of geography in the wealthiest houses of the Renaissance.

Science and Mythology Combined

In his atlas, Agnese depicted the world in an overall map in oval projection that showed the route of the world circumnavigation of Magellan. In doing so, he oriented himself on the newest geographic findings of his time. 12 maps of the atlas demonstrate the artist’s modern and scientifically substantiated work in a special way. The map of the new world with California and the Pacific Ocean, the map of the Atlantic Ocean with Africa and parts of Europe, the map of the Indian Ocean, and the map of Europe are only a few examples of the representational talent and the comprehensive geographic knowledge of the master. The pictorial adornment of the luxurious maps is particularly enchanting. Colorful, luminous depictions with splendid gold embellishments adorn the pages of the atlas. The fanciful images from Greco-Roman mythology lend the atlas an incomparable charm. The scenes show the famous mythological tales of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts as well as the storms that afflicted them, of Aeneas and his flight to Carthage, and of the god Atlas, who bears the world on his shoulders.


Alternative Titles
Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese
Size / Format
30 pages / 26.0 × 19.0 cm
Ca. 1540
Artist / School
Previous Owners
State and University Library of Königsberg

Available facsimile editions:
Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese – Orbis Pictus – 2445 – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Orbis Pictus – Pelplin
Limited Edition: 295 copies
Detail Picture

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

The North Sea

This map of the North Sea not only details the surrounding coasts but even includes smaller islands such as Orkney or the Faroe Islands. Important settlements are marked with red buildings, seated figures represent kings, and Boreas, the Greek god of the cold north wind, can be seen in the upper right corner. The location of Greenland is uncertain, and thus its southern tip appears twice at the top of the page. A sailing ship, a whale, and a giant turtle populate the blue-green waters.

Portolan Atlas
Single Page

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

World Map

This is one of the most popular and copied maps of the world and is significant for three reasons: it represents the most current geographic knowledge of mid–16th century European cartographers, it is rendered in an oval projection resembling a modern map, and it depicts the sea route chosen by Magellan for his circumnavigation of the globe.

Rather than being a practical aid for navigators, this watercolor was intended for display in the homes of the wealthy and educated. It is surprisingly accurate, e.g. it correctly depicts Baja California as a peninsula, unlike many later maps that show it as an island. The Anemoi, ancient Greek wind gods who were each ascribed a cardinal direction from which their respective winds came, frame the map.

Portolan Atlas
Facsimile Editions

#1 Portolan Atlas

Orbis Pictus – Pelplin

Publisher: Orbis Pictus – Pelplin
Limited Edition: 295 copies
Binding: Embossed goatskin leather with embossing and decoration. Comes in wooden case with a stamped gold inscription, padded with jute
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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