One of the treasures of the University of Minnesota’s James Ford Bell collection is Henricus Martellus Germanus’ copy of Cristoforo Buondelmonti’s Descriptio Archipelagi et Cicladum aliarumque Insularum (Description of the Archipelago, the Cyclades, and the Other Islands).
Buondelmonti (c.1385–c.1430), a priest and a member of a prominent Florentine family, began traveling in the Aegean in 1415, starting on the island of Crete. He left home on a mission — to find Greek manuscripts for the humanist scholars of Florence, among whom was Niccolò Niccoli. He bought two manuscripts on Crete, but he also found himself captivated by the picturesque and historic islands of the Aegean world. He undertook a lengthy tour of Crete, first sailing around it, and then crossing it from east to west on horseback. He marveled at and mourned the ruins of antiquity, got briefly captured by bandits, and listened to bitter complaints against Venetian rule. He wrote up his adventures and observations and sent them to Niccolò.
But this was not the end of his travels. Over the next dozen years, he traversed the Greek seas, beginning at Corfu, then going down the western coast of Greece and into the Aegean Sea. He sailed from island to island, writing up a descriptive text about each and drawing a map. The first version of the manuscript, completed in 1420, was dedicated to the wealthy bibliophile, Cardinal Giordano Orsini.
Henricus’ version dates from c.1475. In the manuscript presented here, Henricus added maps and text for five new islands: Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Britain. The manuscript is in magnificent shape — the writing is a clear, legible humanistic script. The maps that accompany each entry are in vivid color.
In cooperation with the James Ford Bell Collection, Italica Press presents this book in full color at 8.5 x 11 inches, nearly the full size of the Bell manuscript. The images of all the folios in MS 1475_fmA that appear in this edition are reproduced exactly as photographed for the James Ford Bell Library. This edition also offers a complete transcription of the manuscript, with apparatus, and a full English translation.
Evelyn Edson’s translation remains faithful to Buondelmonti’s humanist Latin while still offering a modern English text. For ease of reference the elements in the heading apparatus in the translation match those of the transcription. The editor has also annotated useful historical, geographical, and bibliographical information and indicated her choice of readings.
This edition will appeal to historians of cartography and to anyone interested in the ancient, medieval, and early modern Mediterranean. It also invites readers to deepen their understanding and enjoyment of this monument of early modern geographical and classical learning.
Preface, Acknowledgements, Introduction, Complete Facsimile, Latin Transcription, English Translation, Bibliography, Index.
Frontispiece, 94 full-color facsimile pages, 1 map.