Book presentation


F. Cavazzana Romanelli and G. Grivaud

Cyprus 1542. The Great Map of the Island by Leonida Attar

In Cyprus Cartography Lectures No. 7

The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, Nicosia 2006.

145 p. with colour ill. and maps, 220x300 mm, Paperback; ISBN 9963-42-848-7.

  • A study of the up to now unedited map of Cyprus by the Cypriot engineer Leonida Attar (1542) from the collection of the Civico Museo Correr of Venice.. With extended documentary appendices, 43 illustrations, the Attar's map in 180x380 mm and a cd-rom.

A review by Leonora Navari (December, 2006)

The publication of Leonida Attar’s map of Cyprus by the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation is a milestone in the study of the chorography of Cyprus. Those of us who were privileged to hear the lectures by Francesca Cavazzana Romanelli and Gilles Grivaud in Nicosia in 2003 realized that we were listening to new discoveries. It is a great pleasure now to have not only the substance of those lectures in printed form, but to have it accompanied by the detailed contextual studies, with all the scholarly apparatus necessary for further research.  The present publication forms an extraordinary paradigmatic cartographic study, which should provide guidelines for future studies.  The publication of the map with its attendant commentaries is a shared work by the two authors, and, as they state in their preface “the product of a unique experience in shared writing”.

Attar’s map, preserved in the Correr Museum in Venice, was discovered almost by chance a few years ago. There have been several previously published accounts of the map, but the Bank of Cyprus publication is a definitive study of the map and its author. This publication not only places the map in the cartographic tradition of the period, but provides an extensive text describing in detail the complex political and historical circumstances under which the map was made, based on detailed research in the sources available in the Venetian State Archives and the Correr Museum and on a rich knowledge of the bibliographical sources of the period, all fully annotated.

The work is in three sections: the first part is an account of the map itself and its author. The authors begin with a short but very clear guide to the early chorography of Cyprus and to its place in Mediterranean and, in particular, Venetian cartography.  They go on to discuss the Attar family, where attempts to uncover information about Attar lead to a description of the social and cultural environment in which the map was produced. Attar was a member of a Cypriot family that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries, but which may have had roots in Syria. The family’s fortunes were closely connected with the history of the Lusignan family at this time. Leonida himself seems to have worked not only as a cartographer, vide his map, but also as an hydraulic engineer, a builder of bridges, and as an engineer who also worked on fortifications in Venice, in association with the military architect Michele Sanmicheli. Each element found on the map comes under scrutiny, including the coat of arms of Cosmo Da Mosto, to whom the map was dedicated, and who was in Cyprus in 1542. Thus the Da Mosto family, and its activities in Venice and Cyprus are examined for their connection to the circumstances under which the map was produced. This offers a wide field for discussion of the political and economic arena in Cyprus in the 1540s.

Part two discusses the different sorts of information available from the map itself: topographical, hydrological, strategic and social.  There is data on land settlement, religious monuments, archaeological remains, and administrative geography, all based on a rational iconographic system, which is discussed in detail.

Part three contains a history of the map, which was never completely finished in all its detail. Most of the ornamentation is incomplete, some of the iconographic symbols have not been coloured and some of the place-names have not been filled in. Presumably Cosmo Da Mosto took the still unfinished map with him when he returned to Venice in the autumn of 1543. There it disappears from sight. The authors present several hypotheses to account for this disappearance, which had disastrous results for the chorography of Cyprus. Certainly the cartographic information available on Attar’s map was never disseminated, and the maps of Cyprus produced by the prolific cartographic workshops of renaissance Italy were completely uninfluenced by Attar’s map, which contained the most complete information on Cyprus up to that time,

 Not only is the map itself illustrated in a folding plate at the end of the book, but many detailed photographs depict the numerous place names, iconographic symbols, and other topographical details with which the map abounds. Lastly there is an appendix of documents that support the research presented in the text.

 As a final and extremely useful addition, the publication is accompanied by a CD that contains a digitized version of Leonida Attar’s map itself, which allows the user to magnify any part of the map and to examine in detail the iconographic symbols, the place names, and other information provided by the cartographer.

This is an exemplary publication, which cannot be too highly praised.


Leonora Navari

December 2006


Contact: BoCCF

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