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Book of the Week — La Navtica Rilvcente o’ sia Diario Della Navigazione

“Navigation…is the square between nations.” — Pietra Rosa, 22 May 1700

La Navtica Rilvcente o’ sia Diario della Navigzione
Pietro Rosa (fl. 1700)
Brescia: G. F. Valvasense, 1700
Only edition, first issue

This handbook on navigation deals with location at sea, elapsed time, distance traveled, charting a course, reading maps and using tables of solar and stellar declination. An extended dialog between instructor and student discusses different types of sailing; and the names of the lines, sails, masts, sprits and more. It details the execution of dozens of maneuvers, relying on the student’s growing practical experience on the water. The final portion guides sailors across the Atlantic: forty-eight destinations in the New World – from St. Pierre and the Strait of Belle Isle to Cartagena and Panama. It also gives distances between more than four hundred points in the Mediterranean.

Author Pietro Rosa held various high posts in the Venetian fleet and served as Commander of the Imperial Navy on the Danube.

Illustrated with an etched allegorical frontispiece by Isabella Piccini (1644-1734). Isabella Piccini was the daughter of Venetian engraver and printer Giacomo Piccini (d. 1669), a member of a family of engravers. He trained her in the arts of drawing and engraving in the styles of the great masters, especially Titian and Peter Paul Rubens, both of whose works were reproduced by Piccini’s uncle, Guglielmo. Isabella’s childhood was punctuated with copper plates, chisels, inks, and illustrated books. Engraving requires a certain amount of strength, making it an unusual art and skill for a woman, particularly in the 17th century. In spite of this, Isabella’s plates were deeply cut, which allowed printers to pull a significant number of prints. She was a teenager when her father died, but, at 19, she already had marketable skills and business savvy. She presented the Doge with a request for exclusive authorization to print some of the subjects engraved by her father and was granted this privilege. In 1666 she entered the Convent of Santa Croce in Venice. She continued to work as an engraver, accepting numerous commissions from publishers in Venice, Padua, Brescia and Bassano, mostly to illustrate liturgical books, biographies of saints, and prayer manuals, but also books of poetry and science. She maintained these business relationships for nearly forty years. As a Franciscan nun dedicated to a life of poverty, she divided her significant earnings between the convent and her family, in particular her sister Francesca.

Twenty-six woodcuts throughout the text depict astronomical instruments and the astronomical principles required for navigation.

Rare Books copy bound in contemporary gilt red morocco decorated with double-rule outer frame, inner frame of hearts, diamonds and blooms flanked by narrow geometric rolls, corner fleurons; bouquets in the spine compartments; edges gilt and gauffered. Marbled pastedowns.

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