A cartographic history of Caribbean islands

Determining the Edition of Porcacchi Maps

A total of eight editions of Thomaso Porcacchi's L'Isole Piu Famose del Mondo were published between 1572 and 1713. Little or no alterations were made in the copperplates of the first six editions (1572, 1576, 1590, 1604, 1605, and 1620) and therefore it is often difficult to determine the date of publication of the numerous separate maps in circulation. The confusion is so great that most loose maps in circulation, except those taken directly from dated books, are dated incorrectly. However, notice that later editions of all copperplate prints appear more faded, as shown above. (Note: Jamaica was retouched slightly in 1590 or 1604).

Below is a general guide that will help determine the edition of a Porcacchi map, in most cases. Below the general guide is a specific guide to the maps of the West Indies (and World) that includes more details, such as page numbers.

A few pointers: the 1686 edition can be ruled out quickly because the maps were printed on pages without text. Also, the copperplates were altered (lines were re-engraved). The 1713 edition (Lasor a Varea) can be ruled out because the text is in three columns. The first edition (1572) can be ruled out because the pages with maps lack a headpiece (ornamentation at top of page). Exceptions to that last rule are the 1604–1620 World maps, which also lack a headpiece. For the remaining editions, the key is the headpiece, which differs in each edition. However, there is no difference between the 1604 and 1605 editions, which were printed from the same type setting (effectively same edition). Eventually I will construct a comprehensive table with page numbers for each map in each edition.

General Guidelines
Edition Text on page Headpiece
1572 One column Not present
1576 One column Porcacchi Headpiece, 1576
Porcacchi Headpiece, 1576
1590 One column Porcacchi Headpiece, 1590
Porcacchi Headpiece, 1590
Porcacchi Headpiece, 1590
1604–1605 One column Porcacchi Headpiece, 1604
Porcacchi Headpiece, 1604
Porcacchi Headpiece, 1604
1620 One column Porcacchi Headpiece, 1620
1686 None Not present
1713 Three columns Not present

World and Caribbean maps Page number
Region Title 1572 1576 1590 1604–1605 1620
World (Mercator projection) Carta da Navigare 114 198 198 197? 197
World (Gastaldi projection) Mappamondo 109 193 193 193 193
New World Mondo Nuovo 101 161 161 161 161
Hispaniola Isola Spagnuola 81* 165 165 165 165
Cuba Isola Cuba 88 172 172 172 172
Jamaica Isola Iamaca none** 175 175 175 175
Puerto Rico Isola di S. Giovanni none** 182 182 182 182

*appears as "18" (typographical error) in at least some copies.
**Jamaica and Puerto Rico were not included in the first edition of the book.