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The Kraus Map Collection


Kraus 11, Peru est la derreniere Contree descouuerte des terres Neufues (1545)

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Title   Peru est la derreniere Contree descouuerte des terres Neufues
Alternate Title  
Cartographer   Denisot, Nicolas (1515 - 1559)
Subject   Peru--Maps
Publisher   Not identified
Repository   Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Place of publication
     or creation
Date(s)   1545
Format   Printed map
Kraus catalog no.   11
Dimensions in mm.   268 x 335 mm.
Rights   No known U.S. copyright restrictions. Please cite the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, as the image source.


Etched map. From the Hauslab-Liechtenstein Collection. Matted. Folio.

THE FIRST PUBLISHED MAP OF PERU, meant to accompany Jacques Gohorry's narrative L’Histoire de la terre neuve du Perù en I'lnde occidentale which was published in Paris, 1545. However, this extremely rare map is missing in most copies of the book and there is no other copy of it in the United States.

Nicolas Denisot (1515-1559) was a French aristocrat of many interests and talents: courtier, poet, artist, draftsman and cartographer. He is best known today for his poetry he signed with the pseudonym "Conte D'Alsinois" (anagram of his name). Least known of Denisot's accomplishments are his works as a cartographer. In 1539 he had collaborated with Mathieu Ogier on a map of Maine, his native province. The present map of Peru is the only other known example of his skill in this field.

Very little reliable information was yet available of the cartography of Peru "la derreniere Contree descouuerte des terres Neufues" (inscription in the cartouche to the right, trans.: "the latest country discovered in the new world"). The best source then at hand was the account of the conquest of Peru by Francisco de Xerez, the secretary of Pizarro; it had appeared together with Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes' Chronicle of the Indies, had been translated into the Italian and was published in a French version by Jacques Gohorry in Paris in 1545. In making this map, Denisot had Gohorry's text to draw from, but it is more than doubtful that there was any manuscript cartographical material available to him.

The map forms a rectangle which is divided into two halves by the equator; there are decorative wind heads of the four directions just outside the margin with the scales. Two rectangular cartouches to the right and the left contain the etched explanatory text. In the present copy the outer frames of these cartouches are cut off, affecting most of the "D'Alsinoys" signature below the far right of the cartouche.

On the map proper the Isthmus of Panama is rather accurately delineated; the coast to the south, however, shows arbitrary indentations of several large peninsulas. Under the equatorial line, numerous localities are named although their positions are not exact.

The charming naiveté of this finely preserved map of Peru and its extreme rarity counteract its cartographic shortcomings of which the author was well aware himself and for which he apologizes at the end of his description in the cartouche to the left: "Or n'a il este possible de vous faire ung portraict de description plus parfaicte sur imparfaicte congnoissance. Touttefoys - iaye pensé qu’en attendant mieulx, encores aymeriez vous mieulz peu que rien." ("It has not been possible to describe a more perfect portrait from the imperfect knowledge. Anyhow, I thought that, in waiting for something better, you would rather have a little than nothing.")

G. Marcel, Cat. des Documents Géographiques exposés à la Bib. Nat. (1892), no. 251; G. Marcel, "Le Conte D'Alsinoys géographe" in Revue de géographie (1894), pp. 193-199 (wrongly attributing the year 1549 to the map, although being aware of the fact that it accompanied Gohorry's narrative of 1545).