RAMUSIO, GIOVANNI B. (GASTALDI), 1606
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Though this map looks quite different from Samuel Champlain's 1612 map of New France, the two share some elements. Both maps depict the same relative area of the northeastern part of the New World. Gastaldi's map dates to the mid sixteenth century (1556) and like Champlain's map is a combination of cartographic fact and imagination.
Giacomo Gastaldi was from Piedmont, Italy, and worked as an engineer in the service of the Venetian Republic. He was also a skilled professional cartographer, completing nearly one hundred maps before his death in 1565. He began his cartographic career twenty years earlier, in 1542, with a map of Spain. One of his major accomplishments was his Italian edition of Ptolemy's Geographia for which he adapted thirty-one Munster maps (Sebastian Munster was another prominent sixteenth century geographer).
Fueled by a quest for gold, natural resources, new lands and the elusive Northwest Passage (supposedly a way through the New World to Asia) many explorers traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to discover new lands during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Interestingly, Gastaldi's map incorporates some of Giovanni Verazzano's (c.1485 to 1528) forays into present day Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, while John Cabot's (c. 1450 to 1498) information from journeys to the same area were not included. Similarly, except for the title of Nouva Francia, French explorer Jacques Cartier's 1534 voyage to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is largely overlooked by Gastaldi's map.
This map is a collage of artistic impressions and details about the New World. The illustrations show the variety of native flora and fauna to be found in the New World. Native Americans populate the land and are depicted hunting, fishing, and even sleeping under a canoe. Fantastical winged, horned creatures inhabit the Isola Demoni (Isle of the Demons) a mythical island thought to be located off the northern tip of Newfoundland inhabited by beasts and malicious spirits.
Historians guess that the "demons" may have been Indians defending their territory, or perhaps native birds and beasts unfamiliar to Europeans. Sea monsters share the water with fish. Birds and animals inhabit the land. Weeping willows and firs dot the landscape. Gastaldi's representation of the new land is rich in resources and inhabitants. A great bank surrounds the lands of Norumbega, an Abenaki name meaning "quiet waters between two rapids," Nouva Francia, and the unknown world, like a great protective serpent. Gastaldi created a map rich with details and impressions of the New World.