ZORZI, Giovanni Domenico (ca.1485-1558). La vera descritione de la gran cita del Caiero...Opus Iohannis Dominicus Methonei. ["Stampato in Venetia in Frezaria per Mathio pagan al segno della Fede", ca. 1549].
Woodcut map of the city of Cairo on 21 sheets (lettered A-I,K-T,V,X) joined to form a wall-map, overall 980 x 1970mm. Title on upper margin in Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and Coptic, upper right corner with the woodcut device (fide and crossed hands) of Matheo Pagano. The bird's-eye view of the city taken from the west bank of the Nile, the pyramids to the right, the Nile in the foreground and the Nile delta to the left, the houses, principal streets and mosques of the city laid out, the principal buildings described and numbered, the environs filled with gardens and fields, incorporating scenes of a caravan of merchants showing their wares, jousting, horsemanship and sport, with longer explanatory descriptions of these sports and of the pyramids and obelisks, including the routes to Rosetta and Damietta. (The sheets browned, mounted on paper and laid down on board, two small areas of darker stain, margins slightly shaved, lower right corner [sections of sheets O and X] torn away, one or two small holes.) Framed. Provenance: Erich Bier.
The second printed map of Cairo, the first of the 16th century, ONE OF TWO RECORDED COPIES, and the only example in private hands. The other known copy is in the Kupferstichkabinett, Neubau am Kemperplatz, Berlin, the copy used for Bagrow's reproduction of 1940. Giovanni Domenico Zorzi, also known as Joannes Dominicus Methoneus and Dominic de la Greche, was born in the Greek port of Methoni (then called Modone) in the Peloponnese. When the Turks attacked the city in 1500 his mother and two brothers were taken as slaves but he escaped. By 1525 he was in Constantinople where he painted a world map on cloth, which he offered to Piero Zeno, the Venetian ambassador at the Porte, to assist him in getting financial restitution from the Sultan for damage to his family. Zeno encouraged Zorzi to go to Venice and present his maps to the council; this he did and after some initial disappointments, by 1531 he had established himself in Venice where he undertook cartographic commissions. Karrow lists a small number of maps attributed or signed by Zorzi.
In the early 1540's Zorzi undertook a journey to Jerusalem travelling via Cairo. He returned to Venice in 1546 and in 1547 he requested a privilege from the council to print drawings which he had made on his travels. This important map of Cairo is undoubtably one of these 'drawings'. Whilst the wall-map is undated, in 1549 Pagano published a booklet Descriptio Alcahirae Urbis quae Mizir et Mazar dicitus which contains a third part listing 34 sites in Cairo, probably intended as legends to this map, and almost certainly published at the same time.
With the exception of the sketchy view of Cairo in Breydenbach's Peregrinatio in Terram Sancta first published in 1546, the Zorzi map of Cairo has no known printed precedents. Neither Schedel, in the Nuremberg Chronicle nor the first edition of Münster's Cosmographia (1544) included a view of Cairo. It is however quite likely that Zorzi had other manuscript maps of the city at his disposal, which would account for his impressive accomplishment of rendering Cairo in such complex detail. Zorzi's view became a source for many other cartographers of the period, notably the maps of Cairo by Bertelli 1568; Braun and Hogenberg 1572 as well as a later edition of Münster Cosmographia in 1574. Karrow 87/13 (erroneously calling for 3 copies, this example is the copy described by Karrow as in the Royal Library, Copenhagen. The Royal Library do not hold a copy but this example was in a private collection in the same city; the example described in the British Library is in fact a Bagrow reproduction); Bagrow Mathei Pagano, 1940 with reproduction of the Berlin copy; Erich Bier Unbekannte Arbeiten des Domenico delle Greche, Rome, 1937; Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archaölogischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo. 32, 1976, Eine Stadtansicht des mamlukischen Kairo aus dem 16. Jahrhundert von Viktoria Meinecke-Berg.