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Nautical Charts, Texts, and Transmission: The Case of Conte di Ottomano Freducci and Fra Mauro

Chet Van Duzer (notes)


The article addresses an unstudied nautical chart made by Conte di Ottomano Freducci in 1529 (British Library Add. MS. 11548) which is unusual for its long and non-traditional legends (descriptive texts). Following a discussion of what we know about Freducci and a survey of all his surviving works, I supply a full transcription, translation, and study of the legends on this chart, and compare them as far as possible with those on the other two charts by Freducci that have very similar long legends (Lucca, Biblioteca Statale, MS. 2720, and a chart sold at Christie’s on 20 May 1998). Study of these legends reveals that some of the information in them came from the maps and notes of Fra Mauro, the Venetian cartographer who was active almost a hundred years before Freducci made these charts. While Freducci was willing to set aside traditional nautical chart legends, instead of composing legends with information about new discoveries, he wrote texts with recondite pieces of information culled from older sources, including Fra Mauro, probably in part out of respect for Fra Mauro’s cartographic work. The appearance of information from Fra Mauro is also discussed in maps by Angelo Freducci, son of Conte di Ottomano Freducci, and in a map by Giorgio Calapoda made in 1541. I also argue that a nautical chart in the Vatican (BAV Borgiano V), which is known to have legends similar to those on Fra Mauro’s mappamundi and had been attributed to Fra Mauro’s workshop, was actually made by Conte di Ottomano Freducci. The article allows us a glimpse into the world of early sixteenth-century chartmaking, and into the life of a cartographer about whom we otherwise know almost nothing.

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