La Nvova Francia, G. B. Ramusio, Venice 1556 (1565)
An excellent example of the rare first state /first issue.
The chronicler Ramusio credits Giacomo Gastaldi with authorship of this map. It is the first printed map focusing on the region of New England, and it established the name “New France” (La Nuova Francia) to denote the French possessions in the north.
This work bears some relation to the 1548 Tierra Nueva of Gastaldi, adding some interior geography and depicting the coast in more elaborate detail. The courses of the several rivers have been modified, and a westerly branch of the Hudson has been added. The landmass called Isola de Demoni on the 1548 work is now part of Labrador (extending off the map), but the name has been retained for the northernmost and largest island of Newfoundland. It has been suggested that the demons illustrating this Isola de Demoni are the Beothuk Indians, described by Pasqualigo half a century earlier as “shy” and “gentle”, now defending themselves against European aggression. Separating Isola de Demoni from Terra Nuova (i.e., Newfoundland) is the Golfo di Castelli, which was the Bay des Chasteaulx of Cartier, present-day Strait of Belle Isle. Ramusio resurrects the old Baccalaos (cod fish) for one of the other islands to the south. Bonne viste is Cape Bonavista, Cartier’s first sighting of land in Newfoundland. The illustration of birds nearby reflects Cartier’s Isle des Ouaisseaulx (“Isle of Birds”, now Funk Island). C desperaza (i.e., “de speranza”) is North Pt. Miscov, and C. de’ras is Cape Rouge. A cross with a fleur-de-lis is planted on that island, symbolizing Cartier’s claiming of the region for France. The two major islands which separated the mainland and Terra Nova /Isola de Demoni on the 1548 work have here been eliminated. In the Atlantic is a stylized representation of the Grand Banks, the mid-point of which is Isola della rena (“Island of Sand”). As with the 1548 Gastaldi work, Cartier’s penetration of the St. Lawrence to Montreal is not shown (although Ramusio included that voyage, along with a plan of Montreal, in the third volume of the I Navigazione, the same volume in which this map appeared).
Angoulesme, the strawberry-shaped bay in the lower part of the map, is Verrazano’s New York Bay, which the navigator described as
“a very attractive site between two small prominent hills, in between which a very great river flowed to the sea [the Hudson], deep at its mouth, and from sea to the place where it merged any loaded ship could go on a rising tide, which we found to be eight feet. Having anchored off shore in a sheltered place we did not wish to venture farther without knowing the nature of the river mouth. We took the longboat from river to the land, which we found greatly inhabited. The people were about the same as we had met before, dressed with bird feathers of different colors, and came toward us happily, giving loud shouts of admiration, and showed us where we could take the boat safely.”
The longboat ventured as far as Upper Bay, but then suddenly “there arose a contrary wind from the sea which forced us to return to the ship and, greatly to our regret, to leave that land.” Verrazano thus missed the opportunity to enter the Hudson (though Ramusio speculatively charts it).
East of New York is the flat, east-west oriented southern coast of Long Island (lacking Long Island Sound), which Verrazano skirted “always in sight of land.” The fin-shaped eastern shore of Long Island is discernable at Flora. Verrazano continued east to Newport Bay (Port Real), “a most beautiful harbor [where upon entering] we saw about twenty boats of people who gathered about the ship with various cries of astonishment.”
Finally, Port du Refuge is Narragansett Bay, in which “a fleet of any size could stay … in security without fear of tempest or other hazard of fortune.” After this point, Verrazano’s reconnaissance becomes cursory, and his influence on Ramusio ends.
Clipping the coasts of much of what is now Massachusetts and Maine, Cartier’s Cape Breton and Cape Breton Island are grafted onto the eastern bounds of Narragansett Bay. Due both to the omitted stretch of coast and to the effects of magnetic declination of the mariner’s compass at high latitudes, southern Newfoundland is shown slightly south of New York Bay.
The woodblocks for Ramusio’s work suffered a tumultuous life. The original woodblocks, the only ones that can rightly be ascribed to Gastaldi, were destroyed in a fire the year following their maiden use, so a second set, virtually identical but containing a bit more ornamentation and somewhat modified tree depictions, was prepared for the second edition. A third edition followed in 1606, identical except for some damage to the woodblock by vermin, their tracks visible as lines of missing print.