Verona, Biblioteca Civica, Ms. 3119 and Ms. 398

Giovanni Leardo Map of 1442, with Letter of Prester John Facsimile Edition

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The Venetian geographer Giovanni Leardo lived in the fifteenth century. He is known for three world maps that he made and signed. Manuscript 3119 at the Biblioteca Comunale in Verona is a map of the world dated 1442 and signed by Giovanni Lear­­do. His other two maps are preserved in the Museo Civico in Vicenza and the library of the American Geographical Society. These maps consist of planispheres derived from travel reports and scientific discoveries.

The Map of Giovanni Leardo: The World Seen through the Eyes of Late Medieval People

The map, drawn with East on top, shows Europe, Asia and Africa. Thus, Giovanni Leardo created the map depicting the world known to Europeans. As it was common in late medieval cartography, the world represented by Giovanni Leardo included Europe, Asia and Africa.

Because of the religious significance of the city of Jerusalem, the city usually appears in a prominent position. In this map, Jerusalem is placed at the center of the world, which consists of the three known continents.

All the lands are surrounded by the ocean; because the shapes of the Mediterranean Sea and of Western Europe are surprisingly well drawn; they were most likely based on the navigation charts of the time.

The Letter of Prester John to Emanuel of Constantinople and the Wonders of His Land

Manuscript 398 contains the Letter of Prester John, a king in the Eastern lands. Written in vulgar, the Letter of Prester John is an interesting document of the Middle Ages.

Composed at the end of the 12th century and addressed to prince Emanuel of Constantinople, the letter describes the land of wonders governed by Prester John, a Christian king of some place as rich and extraordinary as the Earthly Paradise. The text was quickly translated into several languages and became extremely popular.

The exceptional animals and materials found in this land pushed people to go in search of this paradisiac reign. This legend can be seen as a source that enhanced Late Medieval geographical discoveries.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Giovanni Leardo Map of 1442, with Letter of Prester John": Mappamondo di Giovanni Leardo e Lettera del Prete Gianni facsimile edition, published by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte, 2015

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