DUDLEY, Sir ROBERT, styled Duke of Northumberland and Earl of Warwick. Dell' Arcano del Mare. [Books 1-4 (of 6) only]. Florence: Francesco Onofri 1646. 2 vols. (of 3) in one, folio, 338 x 236 mm. (13¼ x 9¼ in.), contemporary vellum, title lettered in ink on spine, edges stained red, pastedowns torn, lacking half-title and title to Books 3-4, 2 plates in vol. 1, one folding plate in Book 4 and errata leaf at end, dampstaining to half-title, title and folding engraved patent plate, the latter worn along central fold, 3-inch tear to second folding plate (unnumbered) in Book 1, a few short marginal tears, map of the Americas with small tear at fold juncture, a few of the double-sheet maps slightly browned along sheet junctures from original paste, occasional light foxing, edges a bit dusty, underlining and a few marginal notes in red pencil throughout, some pencil markings to plate 1. FIRST EDITION, Books 1-4 of 6, half-title, title (dated 1646) with engraved vignette, folding engraved facsimile of the patent of nobility granted to Dudley in 1620 by Ferdinand II, 15 engraved folding charts in Book 2 (5 double-sheet) and 66 (of 69) engraved plates by Antonio Francesco Lucini, various sizes, 49 folding, the plates variously numbered (see Phillips), including 30 plates of astronomical or nautical instrument designs with volvelles, pointers or string-pointers, 7 double-sheet plates of diagrams of ship-building in Book 4, and one very small engraved diagram pasted down in lower margin of fol. I2 in Book 4, four plates in Book 1 with letterpress text on versos, 5 inserted unnumbered leaves in Book 3 containing 10 letterpress diagrams of naval formations. Phillips 457; Burden 266-267; Nordenskiöld Collection, 7.
Dudley's great sea-atlas Dell' Arcano del Mare, rarely found complete, was the first sea-atlas compiled by an Englishman, the first atlas to show the charts constructed on the Mercator projection, the first to show prevailing winds and currents in the principal harbors, and the first to give magnetic declination. The 15 maps in book 2 consist of large-scale maps of the four continents; five relate to the Americas, including a map of Central America and Peru with a detailed inset showing the Californian coast, which is the first printed sea chart of the west coast of North America (Burden 266), and a map of the eastern seaboard that is the first printed sea chart by an Englishman of the eastern North American coast, as well as the first to methodically record soundings. The soundings in Chesapeake Bay are recorded only here: they are "curiously lacking in the more detailed chart published in the sixth part... The most interesting area is that of New York where any indication of the Dutch presence is removed" (Burden 267). The entire edition contained 341 engraved plates and charts; in the dedicatory epistle to the second edition of 1661 the engraver Lucini stated that "he worked on the plates in seclusion for twelve years in an obscure Tuscan village, using no less than 5,000 pounds of copper in the making" (Phillips). Based largely on first-hand reports of English and other pilots of the period, the charts are exceptionally accurate for the time.
Provenance: Childish early inscription on title, "En reela libreria reel colegio...cuenca" -- Contemporary manuscript numbering to plates.