# 15247

CESAREO, Agostino

POL-21365 L’arte del navigare, con il regimento della Tramontana e del sole; e la vera regola et osservanza del flusso e reflusso delle acque sotto breve compendio ridotta.

  • Sold

[No place], 1587.

Manuscript, quarto; 66 leaves followed by 13 leaves with additions in a different hand, 8 full-page illustrations (including one of the Southern Cross constellation), 4 with volvelles (movable paper figures); with a dedication to Don Pietro Borgia, Prince of Squillace (d. c.1624), dated 1587, and an accompanying sonnet; contemporary limp vellum sewn on three cords; some water staining throughout, possibly indicating practical use; housed in a quarter morocco solander box.

Unpublished illustrated handwritten manual of navigation in the Levant as well as in the South Seas, representing the state of Italian navigational art in the second half of the sixteenth century. This is one of the best known Italian navigational manuals of the period. It is probable that Cesareo composed his navigational treatise before 1567 and that several manuscript copies were subsequently produced, of which this is one. Although it was approved for publication by the papal authorities, no printed edition is known. This is precisely the kind of manual that would have been in the hands of the merchant navigators on whose ships the Venetian jeweller Gasparo Balbi famously travelled to India and Arabia during the years 1579-88 (his account, Viaggio dell’Indie Orientali, was published in Venice in 1590).

The text is divided into three parts (other manuscript versions have the same material divided into six), the first of which deals with cosmography and navigation in general; navigation by the North Star (with a particularly evocative volvelle including a tiny ocean-going ship that circles the globe from pole to pole); and navigation in the southern hemisphere, by the Southern Cross and the south celestial pole. The latter section is titled Conto, o ragione del Polo Antarctico and comprises eight pages that include a detailed explanation of how the Southern Cross may be used as a navigational aid, a diagrammatic illustration of the constellation (differing quite markedly from that of Andrea Corsali, the Italian traveller who was the first to depict the Cross in 1515), and a diagram of the equatorial winds. Part two describes navigation by the altitude of the sun, with extensive examples and tables, including the meridians throughout the Mediterranean, followed by “la regola della navigatione di Levante in ponente per longitudine.” Part three is devoted to the action of the tides, including details on the various hazards of the English Channel and the Strait of Messina, and contains a sketch map of the man in the moon, controller of tides.

A few other copies of the text are known: a copy formerly in the National Maritime Museum and now MS 562 at the Beinecke Library (71 ff.) is dedicated to Giulio Colonna and dated 1568, while the British Museum holds a copy (74 ff., MS Add. 25882) with a preface and sonnet to Paolo Sforza, dated 1570. Another copy is kept at the Vatican (De Ricci, Census, p.1899: with the ecclesiastical censors’ imprimatur, though no printed edition is known), and an anonymous manuscript is in the Library of Congress (Ms. Ac. 4325).

It is noteworthy that the majority of surviving copies are dedicated to powerful Italian noblemen. The present copy carries a dedication to Don Pietro Borgia, Prince of Squillace, dated 1587. (Squillace is on the east coast of Calabria in southern Italy). Don Pietro was a lineal descendant of Gioffre Borgia (1482-1516), son of Pope Alexander VI and younger brother of Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia Borgia.