Mapping Venice

Jacopo de Barbari's map of Venice, Museo Correr, Venice
There are many good reasons for visiting the Museo Correr, but for me one of the most compelling is to feast my eyes on the six wooden blocks (the details of which always take my breath away), which gave birth to one of the most spectacular achievements of Renaissance printmaking.

Jacopo de' Barbari's aerial view of Venice (1500), a landmark achievement in both cartography and printmaking, was the first ever bird's-eye view of a city. The map was printed from six large blocks of pear wood onto six sheets of paper. The sheets were then joined together to create an area nearly four square metres in size.

Jacopo de' Barbari (c.1460-c.1516) was born in Venice, but the publisher of the print was Anton Kolb, a German merchant from Nuremberg, who was resident in the city. Kolb recorded that no woodcut on such a size and using such large blocks had ever been made before. Sheets of paper on such a scale were also unprecedented.
Jacopo de Barbari's map of Venice, Museo Correr, Venice
The map's most striking feature is its incredible attention to detail and debate still rages as to just how Barbari managed to surveyed his city in such detail. 


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