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2010/11 Winter Catalogue > 10. CORONELLI’s CALIFORNIA & NEW MEXICO An Important Early Map of the American Southwest

10. CORONELLI’s CALIFORNIA & NEW MEXICO An Important Early Map of the American Southwest

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli. “Della California,” untitled globe gore [1688]. Published in Coronelli’s Isolario (1696-97) and his Libro dei Globi (1699). Copperplate engraving with later hand color. Image: 18 x 10 7/8." Sheet: 19 1/2 x 13 1/2." Marginal chip at u.r.; minor marginal stain at l.r. Excellent.


Vincenzo Coronelli enjoyed extraordinary fame as a globe maker, which led to his unusual publications of atlases that included some of his globe gores (half-gores). The present gore includes northwest areas of New Spain, New Mexico, and the Island of California. Perhaps one of the most compelling features of Coronelli’s cartography was his adherence to the notion of California as an island. In the adjacent cartouche it is however noted, “Some believe that California is a peninsula contiguous with New Mexico.” An important advance by Coronelli is to show the course of the Rio Grande correctly flowing to the Gulf of Mexico rather than to the Sea of Cortez, as it had been previously represented. While it was Giovanni Battista Nicolosi who first introduced this fact in his maps, it was Coronelli’s notoriety that increased its acceptance.

The fine detail of this map includes the many settlements of New Spain and New Mexico, Native American tribe names, pueblo locations, the mythical Quivira, the California islands of Santa Catalina and San Clemente, and the Port of San Diego. In the decorative cartouche, Coronelli notes several early explorers of the California region, whose activities substantiate Spanish claims there, naming Cortez, d’Ulloa, Alarcon, and Cabrillo.

. . . He gives Fray Rodriguez (Padre Ruyz, as he is referred to in Hakluyt’s Voyages) credit for launching explorations into New Mexico, followed by Espejo’s expedition. He explains his use of more than one designation for the region, by referring to Peñalosa’s Relation, in which he called Nuevo Mexico, Nuevo Marata. The manuscript map was prepared by Peñalosa between 1671 and 1687, as part of the disgraced former governor’s attempts to interest the French King Louis XIV in a military expedition against New Spain. (New Mexico Humanities Council)

In his youth, Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650-1718) trained as a maker of woodcut prints before entering the Franciscan order. While studying theology in Rome, he also undertook the study of astronomy and geometry, and then applied himself to geography. He received numerous royal commissions for globes, enabling him to travel to European capitals where he had access to the latest geographical information coming from new world explorations. In addition, his knowledge of the activities of Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico at the time added fresh details to his cartographic production. Coronelli’s most famous works include two massive globes created for Louis XIV and his comprehensive atlas, the Atlante Veneto.

Refs.: Leighly, pl. 14, no. 83; Shirley no. 537, pl. 376B; Wheat no. 73.

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