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  • Writer's pictureDubravko

The oldest map of Croatia found in the State Archive of Venice

Here's an interesting piece of news for all you medieval cartography nerds out there (I know you exist. I want to believe!) - a previously unknown map of Croatia was found in the State Archive of Venice in April!

Up until now, the oldest map of Croatia was Petar Kopic's (Pietro Coppo) map of Istria from 1525. It did not show the entire territory of Croatia, but instead only Istria, the largest peninsula in the Adriatic sea, most of which is Croatian territory. It is a beautiful map of which I definitely need to make a replica as soon as possible! The second oldest was a map by an unknown author which was published by Matteo Pagano in 1530.

Now Coppo's map has been dethroned, as a previously unpublished map was discovered in Venice. Originally bought by the Archives in the 1990s from private collectors, it was researched in detail upon its recent re-discovery by University of Zadar historian Kristijan Juran and geographer Josip Faricic.

Hand-drawn by an unknown author, the map shows a part of northern and a large portion of central Dalmatia, with the focus on Sibenik and Knin area. The rest of the shown area is much less geographically detailed. The numerous toponyms on the map suggest that it was made by somebody who was very familiar with the depicted area, although the linear and spatial proportions are not accurate, mostly because there was no standardized method of collecting, analyzing, and visualizing spatial data. Despite this, the map boasts a large quantity of geographic data that was previously achieved only by Coppo. Cross-referencing the various details on the map with Coppo's and Pagano's maps and various written sources, the researchers were able to date the origin of the map between 1505 and 1510 with a fairly high level of certainty. This, then, would make it the oldest known large-scale map of this part of Croatia.

Details of different fortifications from the map

The historical circumstances of the period when the map was made (the second Ventian-Ottoman war was just won by the Ottomans, and Venice tried everything to secure its vulnerable position, including detailed mapping of the surrounding area with the goal of improving strategic knowledge) would suggest it had a predominantly military-strategic purpose, especially considering the detailed depictions of forts, refuges, roads and river crossings. Unfortunately, since it was published only in manuscript form, it remained largely unnoticed for a long time. Now, thanks to the work of Juran and Farcic, it has been brought to light with the publication of their work in Geoadria, a journal published by Croatian Geographical Society of Zadar and the University of Zadar's Department of Geography. I highly recommend you read the full article (it was published in English as well), as it shows an interesting piece of Croatian history from the turn of 15th and 16th centuries.

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