One of the treasures in the James Ford Bell collection at the University of Minnesota is Henricus Martellus Germanus’ copy of Cristoforo Buondelmonti’s Description of the Archipelago, the Cyclades, and the Other Islands.
The work was written in Latin in 1420, and Henricus’s copy dates from c.1475. Cristoforo Buondelmonti’s original book was an account of the Greek islands, illustrated with maps, beginning at Corfu, then going down the western coast of Greece and into the Aegean Sea. In his version Henricus added maps and text for five new islands. The manuscript is in magnificent shape — the writing is a clear, legible humanistic script, and the maps that accompany each entry are in vivid color.
Buondelmonti (c.1385–c.1430), a priest and a member of a prominent Florentine family, had begun traveling in the Aegean in 1415, starting on the island of Crete. He had left home on a mission: to find Greek manuscripts for the humanist scholars in Florentine circles, among them Niccolò Niccoli. He bought two manuscripts on Crete, but he also found himself captivated by the picturesque and historic islands of the Aegean world, and undertook a lengthy tour of Crete, first sailing around it, and then crossing it from east to west on horseback. He marveled and mourned at 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 to be the end of his travels. Over the next dozen years, he traversed the Greek seas, going from island to island, writing up a descriptive text about each, and drawing a map. The first version of the manuscript was dedicated to the wealthy bibliophile, Cardinal Giordano Orsini, who was also interested in maps, and had an early copy of Ptolemy made for his library.
Evelyn Edson presents a facsimile edition of the entire manuscript, with introduction, complete transcription, English translation, notes, bibliography and index.
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.