This chart of Southern India is quite impressive for the time, as while it is not based on systematic surveys, it shows a relatively advanced 17th Century mariners’ understanding of the nature of the coastlines of the Indian Peninsula. Dudley relied on a variety of Dutch and English antecedents, although his mapping does not precisely correspond to any other known chart. It is thought that Dudley had access to some of the manuscript maps made by the navigator John Davis (c. 1550-1605), who made three voyages to South and Southeast Asia between 1598 and 1605.
The chart is from Robert Dudley’s Dell' Arcano Del Mare (1646-7), which translates as ‘The Mystery of the Sea’, a fantastic and highly unusual masterpiece that maintains the distinction of being the first maritime atlas to cover the entire known World as well as the earliest original maritime atlas made by an Englishman (albeit one who was working in Italy).
Dudley’s charts were masterfully engraved in a unique Italian Baroque style by Antonio Francesco Lucini, an accomplished Florentine artisan. Lucini claimed that Dudley had spent around 40 years preparing the Arcano, while he himself had taken 12 years to engrave the plates, employing over 5,000 lbs. of copper.Sir Robert Dudley (1574-1649) was a brilliant, controversial and larger-than-life character. After leading an expedition to find ‘El Dorado’, the apocryphal ‘City of Gold’ in South America, he established himself as a foremost authority on maritime navigation. After falling out with King James I, he left England for exile in Tuscany, where he enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy Medici family.