Sir Robert Dudley was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Soon after 1605 he left for Italy where he remained for the rest of his life with his wife and cousin Elizabeth Southwell, becoming naval advisor to Cosimo de' Medici and Ferdinand II. The Arcano del mare was the principal source of his fame, demonstrating the state of the technical art of the period.
At the outset, he employed Antonio Francesco Lucini to engrave the plates. The Arcano del mare was a monumental and totally original task, the charts, representations of instruments and diagrams all engraved on huge quantities of copper over many years with an exactitude incorporating the minutest detail and printed on the best possible paper. The whole surpassed anything published before and was not equalled in quality until fifty years later in France under Louis XIV. Lucini was born in Florence c.1610 (or 1605, according to Benezit). He was a pupil of Callot and a friend of Stefano della Bella. Before entering Dudley's employ, he had already published engraved views of Florence and scenes of the Turkish Wars. Lucini put the stamp of his personality on the finished work as much as Dudley himself; the delicacy and strength of the engraving, the embellishments of the lettering "alla cancellaresca", make it a true example of Italian Baroque art. In a printed introductory leaf found in one copy in the British Library, Lucini states that he worked on the plates in seclusion for twelve years in an obscure Tuscan village, using no less that 5,000 lbs of copper. According to the engraver, the Arcano del mare took forty years to prepare and twelve to execute.
"His Arcano del Mare (Secrets of the Sea) was published in three very large volumes ... It is an encyclopedia of everything connected with the sea from shipbuilding to navigation to cartography. This volume, the only one of the three in this collection, contains the text and volvelles for the sections devoted to navigation. It has been said that this volume is to the history of precision instruments of the seventeenth century what Peter Apian’s Astronomicum Caesareum was to the sixteenth" (Tomash & Williams).
Collation as follows: π1, §1, book 1, A-P, illustration: printed title with plate of a navigational instrument pasted on, engraved facsimile of the Patent, 27 engravings, 23 of which have movable parts or volvelles; book 2, A-M, illustration: 10 engravings, 6 of which have movable parts or volvelles (5 smaller); book 3, A-N, illustration: 7 engraved plates (2 folding); book 4, A-F, illustration: 14 engraved plates, 1 of which has moving part (7 folding or double-page); book 5, A-N, 88 engraved plates, 36 of which have volvelles or movable parts (3 folding).
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