Of the many photographs sent, I have chosen eight original and two requested to illustrate the fragment which had been discovered. They are;
IMG 20211110_091209.jpg; _091115.jpg; _091156.jpg; and _090626.jpg
IMG 3782, 3790, 3791, and 3793.
These photographs were taken by Dr Joan Abela and Chanelle Briffa of the Notarial Archives Valletta, Malta and those containing the scale ruler and the attempt to slightly unfold the stitching are the later requests. Thus I could estimate the size of the Portolan original from the Wind Rose construct and use that for later comparisons of extant charts.
My final request was the fold that is visible on the chart through Italy should be opened as far as possible as over Venice was a Flag, which did change over the years. I was quite surprised when I saw there was a design on the partial crescent shape of the flag, but, even under the ultra-violet lamp so far it eluded me at first viewing, although that quickly changed as the following sections illustrate.
However the vignette upon that fragment, a beautifully simple drawing of Venice, I thought would be a very good guide to the cartographer and the flag would indicate, perhaps, a development of the overall chart. It is all discussed later.
THE SEARCH FOR THE CARTOGRAPHER BEGINS
Fortunately the preservation of the toponyms on the main fragment of Italy was excellent and I produced lists for this and as many areas on the chart as possible to compare to known tables of toponyms, thus a comparison of not only date but spelling and listing could be carried out.
Not being a Palaeographer, even though I was prepared to say that this comparison gave me a clear indication it was from an Italian cartographer who was the scribe, I required assistance. If I found a likely candidate a comparison of the script would help confirm or reject. There are two excellent palaeographers I generally ask and depending on their work load one normally was available. However as I only had photographs I was cautious asking at this point for assistance.
THE SEARCH TURNS TO LOOKING THROUGH NUMEROUS BOOKS AND PHOTOS
I turned first to probably the best book written concerning Portolan Charts, “Les Cartes Portolanes” by Professor Ramon J Pujades, and the CD –ROM which came with it.
I knew that he had included a page entitled, “Evolution of the representation of the cities of Genoa, Venice and Avignon” from charts dating 1403 to 1456 as the attached diagram illustrates. However, as beautiful as these vignettes are they are not the simple yet also beautiful drawing on the fragment. Clearly shown on the fragment are St Marks, the Campanile, the Piazza and the Marciana with the wall to the Grand Canal. Thus I had a specific goal and had to look through my own collection of books and scour the internet to find the elusive drawing match.
It was a long, long frustrating search, but I finally stumbled upon a chart held in the Austrian National Library Vienna, with the attribution “Giovanni Antonio da Maiolo, quondam Visconte, M.D. LXV”, and what I thought there-on was a very similar vignette for Venice.
But, it required to be thoroughly investigated before I made a decision.
THE ARDUOUS TASK OF COMPARING SCRIPT AND TOPONYMS BEGINS
I immediately asked my Malta contact if they had a Palaeographer to assist them in their work to whom I could turn for assistance. That was on the basis that I only had photographs and somebody on Malta could if necessary look at the original which would be more satisfactory for a detailed visual appraisal.
I was introduced to Vanessa Buhagiar, who agreed to assist in the research and the results were good. I asked her to look at the Fragment for Italy as it was the most complete and I thought was well shown for tiny detail that the Palaeographers required to use. I received a list of the toponyms for Italy and compared them to my own list. The minor mistakes I had made had been corrected and thus I thought it would be possible to compare the fragment to the Austrian Chart.
The emails exchanged are as follows;
06/12/2021; email to Vanessa Buhagiar and Chanelle Briffa, Malta
Hi to you both, I am certain the latest fragment is by Giovanni Antonio Maggiolo and would be from c1565-1575 where there is a gap in his records. The Maggiolo family is from Genoa and all worked there from 1528 to 1600. Giovanni Antonio Maiolo had a son Baldassare whose work is from 1583 to 1605 and is also a possibility as they both produced plain charts and vignettes but their predecessors decorated theirs.
OK, does the script etc agree with Genoa and if not what? Not a lot to ask!!
09/12/2021 email from Vanessa Buhagiar
Basic observations on the Malta nautical chart.
Having limited myself to studying place names of the Italian Peninsula, it was fairly visible from early on that the scribe was writing in a form of Humanistic script. A clear indication of this are his short wide letters, which is termed “aspect”, as opposed to the Gothic standard of tall and narrow writing. Other key Humanistic elements include particular miniscule letterforms such as single-compartment “a”, the long “s”, and the right-leaning ascenders of “b”, “d”, “h”, and “l”, where the tip of the ascender is curved inwards. The use of square capitals as majuscule letterforms is also another practice of Humanistic script. The only differing letterform would be the letter “g”, which the scribe renders more angular and in a shape characteristic of the Gothic script system.Other than that the scribe’s handwriting is easily legible, as he writes with frequent pen-lift and leaves individual letters unconnected from each other. In general terms, the writing is largely plain and undecorated, which is in line with the functional, as opposed to aesthetic purposes of the nautical chart
I immediately sent the portion of the Vienna Chart containing Italy by return email and asked for a comparison.
10/12/2021, email from Vanessa Buhagiar
A close examination of the Vienna nautical chart quickly revealed that the two portolan charts were written by the same hand. As in the Notarial Archives’ portolan chart, the Vienna scribe also writes with pen-lift, leaving space between one letter and the next, and employs a short-and-wide aspect. The same key letterforms described earlier, like the single-compartment “a”, the inwardly curved ascenders and particular form of “g” are present. Other outstanding similarities include the miniscule “z”, where the bottom horizontal stroke is extended and lengthened below. Indeed, no significant alterations were made between the Malta and Vienna maps in term of letterforms: only minor, decorative, and arbitrary changes can be noted.
A sharp difference, however, was observed in how the Malta chart placenames of the Italian Peninsulas are more ‘crammed’ and overlap more than the Vienna map. The reasoning behind this distinction, however, remains elusive at this stage of research.
My response was, “oh well I think I can now say 100% that the fragment is by Giovanni Antonio Maggiolo and put this down to a winning situation thanks to teamwork. I like it when it all comes together!”
In the mean-while I had been frantically trying to obtain a copy of the Giovanni Antonio Maiolo charts held in Cagliari and St Petersburg, Russia. They both proved to be a real trial of patience.
Cagliari refused to accept my email, sending it back with a note stating, “you have sent 20 emails and they are spam”. I was shocked and asked a colleague to email them on my behalf. They responded but did not send a copy of the chart. I then asked a very good friend in Italy, a Professor if he could contact them and obtain a copy, he being attached to a large Library in Italy. He tried telephoning them and had great difficulty, and as he said a very frustrating time finding some-one responsible but they eventually sent a copy of the chart. One down and one to go! The chart in Russia was proving a real problem to obtain.
However, on 31/01/2022, I received a response to my request that Vanessa Buhagiar look at the Cagliari chart. I had asked as follows; “attached are the Cagliari chart and a MSPM section for Italy which when printed to A3 is easily read. This chart is the 1575 version and the Vienna chart is 1565. If I am correct then the Malta chart could fit in the middle nicely at 1570. The Cagliari chart looks older and less refined. I have copied out the toponyms and they follow your list well, with extras. Thus the question is, does the writing look like an older version of the first two?
The response was,
The Cagliari nautical chart agrees with the Vienna and Malta maps in terms of writing, observing the same palaeographical features described previously: one can easily identify the same use pof the long “s”, the right-leaning and inwardly curved ascenders, and the peculiar shape of “z”. The same Gothic “g” is also featured, as are the square capitals. Like the Vienna chart, place names of the Italian Peninsula are more spaced out and do not overlap as in the Malta map.
Whilst the similarity is appreciated, as it further confirms the attribution of Maiolo for the Notarial Archives’ map, it simultaneously poses a problem to the question raised by Michael; there are no clear palaeographic signs that outright indicate whether the Malta map is an earlier, median or later version of the Vienna and Cagliari maps. To determine this, a wider, more thorough and in-depth palaeographic assessment of this particular hand is necessary and which, at this stage, is not possible.
THE FINAL PART OF THE JIGSAW IS FOUND
The last problem I encountered as inferred already was obtaining a copy of the Giovanni Antonio Maiolo chart held in St Petersburg. The Archive where it was kept was closed for moving and renovation. I mention this to Professor Corradino Astengo (who unfortunately passed away soon after), he sent the message that an Italian Journal had published a paper entitled “Rotta Su San Pietroburgo” by Ekaterina Zolotova of the Moscow State Institute of Art History. Unfortunately I could not find this online but a contact knew of it and sent a copy. Written originally in Russian it had been translated into Italian and was described as “Una Carta Nautica di Giovanni Antonio Maggiolo” and the photographs therein indicated the same design of the vignette for Venice, although the flag was different. The chart was signed, “Carta navicaroria di mano di Giovanni Antonio de Maiolo quondam Visconte fatta nell’anno MDLXXVIII”
Through the Institute I managed to contact the author and she kindly sent me a scanned copy of the chart she had obtained from St Petersburg which confirmed what I had seen in the article and thus I believed I now had four extant charts by Giovanni Antonio Maggiolo. Thus with the dates already known, Vienna 1565, Cagliari 1575 and St Petersburg 1578, the fragment found in the Archives could possibly be dated from 1565 to 1575 and 1570 it is for now! However the interim summary should be noted well.
HISTORY OF CARTOGRAPHY, Volume 3, part 1, chapter 7, by Prof Corradino Astengo.
Quoting directly from the above text in “The Renaissance Chart Tradition in the Mediterranean”, page 211;
“Just when Jacopo’s professional output started to thin out his elder brother Giovanni Antonio215 perhaps after a period in which he dedicated himself to other activities, drew up three nautical charts in 1565, 1575 and 1578 respectively. The place of production is not given on any of these charts, so it could have been other than Genoa. However, one might explain this return to cartography as Giovanni Antonio’s attempt to secure the appointment of one of his sons as Jacopo’s successor in the post of official cartographer- though of course this remains more than conjecture.
What is certain is that in the years immediately afterward, Giovanni Antonio’s son Baldassare, did produce charts, works that are very similar to those of his father, who favoured a more sober style than did Vesconte and Jacopo.
The death of Giovanni Antonio must have occurred before 1600, when Baldassare begins signing himself “Quondam Giovanni Antonio”.
215) The question is complicated by the fact that Jacopo had a son who was also called Giovanni Antonio, but he died at an early age, leaving his father without male heirs. What is more, the cartographer declares himself to be “Quondam Visconte”, and so could only have been Jacopo’s brother.
Having finally obtained the three extant charts I was able to study the flags placed above Venice and indicate if the photographs in ChGAM/1/D05 did actually match.
Curiously the Vienna chart did not have a flag and thus it was only the 1575 and 1578 charts which could be used for comparison. Both though have square flags which include the Winged Lion of Venice, the standard emblem. However, the small section of the crescent on the fragment certainly looked like it was the Feathers of a wing illustrated.
I already had a copy of Baldassare de Maiolo’s 1592 chart to hand and it obviously answered the question regarding the “crescent” as I have illustrated on ChGAM/1./D14 with the overlay sections of all three charts. However Baldassare da Maiolo, drew a chart in 1583, which is only 5 years after the St Petersburg chart was drawn and that has a rather large and flowing flag with a double crescent tail as illustrated on ChGAM/1/D15.
I was convinced that the Malta fragment had on the crescent the feathered wing tip of the left side wing. But that left me with the quandary of dates. Did the flag by GAM evolve and is this fragment actually dated after St Petersburg, 1578 chart as it would be closer to the 1583chart, but the later 1592 chart of Baldassare da Maiolo and more likely to have used the 1578 chart to copy the flag. Thus there were several options to consider, including the fact that Jacopo Maggiolo on his 1551 chart actually has virtually the same flag, and he was alive to train both Giovanni Antonio and Baldassare. The date is therefore to be solved!
All that remains now is to await the experts at the Notarial Archives Valletta, Malta to stabilize that fragment, flatten it out and thus for the first time in many centuries we will see this 50% of a Portolan chart by Giovanni Antonio Maggiolo.
At present without being able to use the fragment to physically compare it to the 1565, 1575 and 1578 charts I merely said 1570 as a base guide.
However that leaves open the question of a chart between 1565 and 1570 and another between 1570 and 1575, as well as the fragment being possible pre 1565 and post 1578. Thus there is the distinct possibility that there are three more GAM charts yet to be found or if “Anon” identified. If it is after 1578 the foregoing still applies.
Thus, there is a large amount of research still to be carried out, not only on the fragment but into the 10 year blank period.
But also, we can perhaps hope that the missing sections of the Domenico Vigliarolo chart and the Anon Chart and this latest chart appear binding other archived folios and thus we could see the whole charts at last.