Carta particolare dello istreto è/ Mare iscoperto da Hen / Hudson...
SIR ROBERT DUDLEY
Published 1647, Florence
Size:18.75" X 28"
A very rare chart and the first sea chart devoted strictly to Hudson’s Bay that has been described by Philip Burden as “one of the most important maps of the region ever produced.” Of the three known states, this is the first state which is discerned by “d’Euro” being absent from the title in the cartouche. It is a rare find and only one other copy is known to exist.
Sir Robert Dudley’s depiction is partly derived from Hessel Gerritsz 1612 map Tabvla Navtica. However, Dudley adds greater detail and nomenclature to a region which was particularly important to the ongoing exploration for the coveted Northwest Passage. It is even postulated that Dudley might have been in possession of Henry Hudson’s original material when compiling information for this chart.
Dudley’s sea charts were originally published in Arcano del Mare, in 1647, a work described as “one of the greatest surviving textual and visual monuments to England’s growing engagement with the maritime world.” Only two editions of the Arcano del Mare were ever published, thus making his charts rare on the open market.
The relevance to cartography of Dudley’s sea charts comes from the fact that he was the first cartographer to publish a work charting the entire world using only Mercator’s projection with the addition of prevailing winds, ocean currents and magnetic declinations. As such, the importance of Mercator’s projection to sailing charts, is based on the fact that sailors could now use longitudes and latitudes to mark their headings. Prior to Mercator’s projection, rhumb lines emanating from wind roses were the conventional way for sailors to chart their course and determine distances, albeit from a distorted basis. By using Mercator’s projection, Dudley was able to produce charts using only longitudes and latitudes, yet still give mariners an appreciation of the distances and directions from one nautical point to another. The Arcano de Mare is also renowned for the first representation of Great-circle navigation where the shortest sailing distance between two points along a “great-circle” can be charted.
Dudley, a distinguished sailor in his own right following an expedition to the West Indies in 1594 and a successful raid on Cadiz, Spain, during the Anglo-Spanish war in 1596, was the illegitimate son of the Earl of Leicester. When Dudley was unsuccessful in 1605 to have his hereditary titles recognized by James I, Dudley left England and sought employment with the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I, in Florence. It was during this time that Dudley embarked on his famous maritime Atlas. Dudley’s Arcano del Mare follows in the footsteps of fellow English cartographer, Richard Hakluyt and was the first major cartographer to challenge the monopoly of Dutch mapmakers during their golden age of cartography.
Collectors are also drawn to Dudley’s charts because of their aesthetic beauty emanating from his use of the “alla cancellresca script” or Florentine style of calligraphy. In fact, Dudley’s attention to detail coupled with the fine engraving of Antonio Lucini, was a work that spanned over four decades and is a testament to the excellent workmanship that can still be appreciated three and half centuries later.
(Sources: The Sailings, National Imagery and Mapping Agency. Mentz, S. Secrets of the Sea, John Carter Brown Library. Burden 276, Kershaw 91 )