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Nicolo Zeno, a descendant of the Zeno brothers, supposedly found the manuscript along with a map, which he published in Venice in 1558. It was claimed that this showed that it was not the Genoese Christopher Columbus who had discovered America, but the Venetian Zeno brothers a century before. In the map, Frisland and Icaria are islands near Greenland, Estotiland is part of the North American continent, and Drogio is a large island nearby, perhaps Nova Scotia. It is now generally thought that this volume was a complete fabrication, but it was widely accepted as true when first issued.
The original map was published in 1558 and this was followed in 1561 by another version issued by Giordano Ruscelli, also from Venice. Gerard Mercator, in his seminal world map of 1569 included the Zeno geography, and this depiction was followed closely by Abraham Ortelius in his influential map of the Northern Atlantic in 1573. The non-existent lands of the Zeno brother's account, then, were spread widely to most other cartographers of the late sixteenth century.
The most interesting of these mythical lands is Frisland, which Mercator included in a separate inset on his 1595 map of the North Pole. This non-existent island led to considerable confusion in the mapping of Greenland and Baffin Island in the following centuries. Martin Frobisher, in his important exploration of 1576, reported "sight of a high and rugged land." What he had sighted was the coast of Greenland, but as he was following Mercator's map of the world, he though he had seen Frisland (which he claimed for England in the name of Queen Elizabeth). When he then got to Baffin Island, he thought he was at Greenland, and so the reports of all his explorations around Baffin Island were ascribed to Greenland. Thus it was that for many years "Frobishers Strait" (which interestingly is actually a bay) was put at the southern tip of Greenland rather than on Baffin Island. Frisland, which was accepted by most cartographers during the following century, appeared as late as the eighteenth century on a map by T.C. Lotter!
A fine example of the "Zeno map," one of the most interesting maps from the sixteenth century. The area depicted is the northern Atlantic extending from Scandinavia to Greenland. The map is based upon the alleged explorations of Nicolo and Antonio Zeno, whose journal was published by their descendant Nicolo Zeno in 1558. The voyage was supposed to have taken place in 1380, with the Zeno brothers going to the islands of Frisland, Greenland and Icaria. On their travels, they heard of lands one thousand miles to the west; Estotiland and Drogio. These latter lands the Zenos did not visit themselves, but they heard fishermen's tales which included descriptions of natives sounding much like American Indians and of visits by other Europeans. This journal is now generally accepted as a fabrication, but many have tried to fit the Zeno account to actual geography. Whatever its history, the account and its accompanying map were very influential on the mapping of the North Atlantic.
Ruscelli's map is based directly on the map issued with the original journal, and it is the first obtainable version of the Zeno geography. The non-existent islands of Frisland and Icaria are shown just below Iceland, and further south are Estotiland and Deogeo. These latter are drawn running to the edge of the amp, indicating that they might be part of the North American continent. If the Zeno travels have a basis in fact, these lands may reflect reports of early exploration of the New World. Whatever its link to reality, this is a graphic image of Renaissance cartography and legend; a truly fabulous map. (Nordenskiold; p. 52ff.) $975
After Abraham Ortelius. "Gemeine Beschreibung Aller Mitnachtigen Lander alsz Schweden Gothen Norwegien Dennmarck &c." From Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia. Basle: Sebastian Petri, . 12 1/4 x 14 1/4. Woodcut. Full margins. Very good condition. German text.
An early derivative of the Oretlius map of the North Sea, containing many non-existent lands and islands, most based on the Zeno geography. This map was introduced to Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia by Sebastian Petri in 1588, replacing an early map of the same region. It is based upon Abraham Ortelius' map first issued in 1573. The non-existent islands of Frisland and Icaria are shown near Iceland, and further west Estotiland is shown as a part of North America. Other mythical features abound, including the islands of St. Brendan, Brazil, Verde, and Groclandt. Whatever its link to reality, this is a graphic image of Renaissance cartography and legend; a truly fabulous map. (Nordenskiold; p. 52ff.) $1,400
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