La Nvova Francia

Dublin Core


La Nvova Francia




La Nvova Francia, a cartographic depiction of the eastern seaboard, was first published in Ramusio’s Navigationi et Viaggi in 1606. Originally carved on a wood-block, its borders extend from New York Bay (“Angouleme”) in the lower left corner of the land mass shown on the map, to the southern coast of Labrador. This map was made to illustrate Giovanni da Verrazzano’s discovery of New York Habour and Cartier’s exploration of the St. Lawrence River and the Maritimes. It is thought to be the first map to depict this area with any accuracy. La Nvova Francia originated from Venice, Italy.

What this work of cartography is lacking in accuracy (and understandably so because of its age), it makes up for in its artistic detail. The entire map, except for the region marked as “Part Incognita” (unknown area), is textured which gives it an almost three-dimensional quality. The map is further brought to life by Ramusio’s illustrations of the native population and the various natural features (such as trees and wildlife) present throughout the map. La Nvova Francia provides a glimpse into the wonders of the new world that both Verrazano and Cartier had encountered on their voyages. It gave future explorers an idea of both the nature and shape of the land (and water) that they would need to navigate through.


Giovanni Battista Ramusio


N/A (maybe Ramusio?)




Alex Eikelboom


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at:


27 x 37 cm (original), on sheet 32 x 41 cm








North America-Canada

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format


Physical Dimensions

27 x 37 cm

Contributor's Research

The main significance of Verrazano’s explorations comes from his discovery of New York Habour, which is located in the lower left corner of the map and labeled as Angouleme (named by Verrazano in order to flatter his French emperor, Francis I) (BLR Inc., 2016). From there, Verrazano sailed along the coast in the north-east direction, encountering long island (Flora) and Narraganset Bay (Port du Refuge). The map implies that Verrazano sailed in an almost absolute easterly direction, which can most likely be attributed to either an error in communication between Verrazano and Ramusio, or an error in navigation that led Verrazano to believe he was sailing in a different direction than he really was. The fact that long island is represented by a peninsula rather than an actual island reveals that Verrazano did not actually sail between long island and the mainland, but underneath the island, leading him to believe that the two areas were connected. The numerous tiny islands shown in New York Bay represent its notoriously dangerous and rock-strewn waters which possibly discouraged Verrazano to more thoroughly explore the region. The fact that New York Bay and Connecticut are represented on a disproportionally large scale most likely reflects Ramusio’s misinterpretation of Verrazano’s extensive journal entries of his exploration of the coastline (Geographicus, 2016).

The areas north and east of Port du Refuge are illustrations of Jacque Cartier’s discovery of the St. Lawrence at the same time that Verrazano explored New York Bay. The fact that the distance between Cape Breton Island and Port du Refuge is so small reflects the erroneous belief that Cartier and Verrazano met at some point during their voyages and that this meeting point represents the extremities of both their journeys (Geographicus, 2016). Because of this, much of the eastern seaboard between modern day Nova Scotia and Massachusetts is missing from the map. Another false assumption made by Ramusio in his illustration of Cartier’s voyages is that the St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers connected, which is most likely due to a misinterpretation of Cartier’s descriptions of his second voyage (Geographicus, 2016).

As experienced during the georectification portion of this assignment, the inaccuracies described above severely limit its use as a navigational tool today (although it was the best representation of the region at the time). There are few points of reference to associate with a modern map of the region and none of the intricate details of the coastline actually present are reflected on Ramusio’s map. While the map’s shortcomings may be frustrating for a school assignment, if one considers the map in its context and scope this marks the extent of its limitations. The fact that such severe inaccuracies are present provides much more information than if these mistakes were less obvious or nonexistent and this essay provides only a glimpse into the wealth of knowledge it communicates. It provides an illustration for both Cartier and Verrazano’s voyages and the challenges associated with navigating the “new world”. It shows the communication and not just the representation of information presented in cartographic form as the various disconnects between Ramusio and the explorers in the communication of their voyages are evident in the inaccuracies present on the map.

On a more global level, the inaccuracies of Ramusio La Nvova Francia reveal the challenges of cartography at the time. Verrazano and Cartier could not simply take a picture of what they were exploring and send it to Ramusio, but rather were forced to record it in written form to later be understood and converted into an illustration. Because of this, there was much more room for error, as the information had to be processed through multiple “stages” to finally be presented as a final product. Today, similar challenges exist, but in a different form. Knowing how to properly communicate data and represent it on a map is crucial to the process of map-making, but issues associated with losing information as it is processed and recorded are no longer so significant. This brief analysis reveals that inaccuracies in a map, while severely limiting to its usefulness as a navigational tool, can sometimes prove to be useful in ways that are not always immediately evident.


Giovanni Battista Ramusio, “La Nvova Francia,” Omeka Testbed, accessed July 21, 2018,