This extremely rare set of late-renaissance Italian globes was the work of the cartographer, engraver, and publisher and print merchant Mario Cartaro, who was born in Viterbo in circa 1540 and died in Naples in 1620. In 1560, Cartaro was working in Rome, where he produced his first known engraving, a print in reverse after a drawing by Heinrich Aldegrever. In the following years Cartaro was associated with the celebrated cartographer and publisher Antonio Lafreri (1512-1577), and his engravings may be found in two of Lafreri’s composite publications: Speculum romanae magnificentiae and Tavole moderne di geografia. In 1586 Cartaro moved to Naples, and in 1589 he was appointed cartographer to the Giunta de Regi Lagni, holding the position until his death in 1620.
Cartaro was also an important figure in the history of Italian globe-making. In the first half of the sixteenth century, the only globes produced in Italy were either manuscript globes or engraved metal globes, and Cartaro’s terrestrial globe of 1577 was the first dated printed globe to be made in Italy (the brothers Livio and Giulio Sanuto had produced an earlier, undated terrestrial globe with engraved gores of circa 1564-1574), and the accompanying celestial globe was the first celestial globe with printed gores to be produced in Italy. These globes are celebrated for the restrained delicacy, precision, and beauty of their engraving, which is reminiscent of Lafreri's work, and Suarez comments that, ‘the engraving quality [of Cartaro’s globes] is typical of the finest Italian makers, for whom elegance and clarity were overriding concerns, and superfluous decoration avoided’, and Shirley judges that ‘the twelve gores […] with their stippled oceans and minimal decorations, are in execution among the best Italian work of the era’, whilst Raymond Lister identifies Cartaro as one of the ‘important sixteenth-century globe-makers’ working in Italy (Old Maps and Globes (London: 1979), p. 78).
The terrestrial globe is based on Giacomo Gastaldi’s xylographic world map of circa 1561, and it is thus the first dated globe to show the strait of Anian separating America and Asia, and to name Canada, following Gastaldi, who first showed these features. However, in other regards Cartaro updated Gastaldi’s cartography where he could use more recent surveys and explorations – for example, he correctly marks New Guinea as an island, which Gastaldi did not. The terrestrial globe is known in two states, and this example is (like that described by Suarez) in the later state, with North America extending deep into the polar circle and two lakes appearing in the continent, the more northerly marked ‘Cani’ (i.e. Lake Conibas). The celestial globe is derived from Gemma Frisius’ celestial globe of circa 1537, and the stylized pictorial constellations are similar in form and design to those on Frisius’ globe, which, in turn, are mainly derived from Albrecht Dürer’s 1515 xylographic charts of the northern and southern celestial hemispheres, ‘Imagines coeli septentrionales, cum duodecim imaginibus Zodiaci’ and ‘Imagines coeli meridionales’.
Cartaro’s globes are of great rarity in either terrestrial or celestial forms, and only one other pair has been traced apart from this (Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma): combining Stevenson’s census with later sources provides the following corpus of surviving examples:
Terrestrial: Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Rome (formerly Osservatorio del Collegio Romano, Rome, part of a set; noted in the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza catalogue record for their celestial globe); Mr. Reed, New York City; New York private collection (recorded by Suarez).
Celestial: Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Rome (formerly Osservatorio del Collegio Romano, Rome, two examples: one part of a set, the other ‘once belonging to the astronomer, Virgilio Spada, and later to the Biblioteca Vallicelliana’); Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence (described by Stevenson as ‘presented to the museum by the Grand Duke Leopold I’, but its provenance currently given as ‘Medici Collections’, i.e. those formed by Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574) and his descendants; interestingly, La Guardaroba Medicea, where the collection was originally housed, was painted for Cosimo between 1563 and 1581 by Egnazio Danti, whose map ‘Descrittione del territorio di Perugia’ (1580) was engraved by Cartaro).