Drake’s “Island of Thieves”
By DUDLEY, Robert, 1661
Carta particolare del’Isole di Ladroes con l’Isole di Gilolo e de Molucchi Lalongitud.no Comincia da l’Isola di Pico d’Asores. d’ Asia Carta XII. L.o 6.o.
- Author: DUDLEY, Robert
- Publication place: [In Firenze
- Publisher: Giuseppe Cocchini
- Publication date: 1661].
- Physical description: Engraved chart.
- Dimensions: 550 by 430mm. (21.75 by 17 inches).
- Inventory reference: 17529
Even further to the east are the Marianas, then the Ladrones Islands,of which Robert Morden famously wrote in his ‘Geography Rectified’ (1688), “I find nothing memorable,… except their names in some maps”. However, they were of increasing value to the Spanish, who used them as a way-station for their voyages between their outposts in Acapulco and Manila.
In about 1512 the Moluccas were discovered by the Portuguese, who thereafter colonized them and established a trading center on the island of Ternate. Volcanic in origin, the islands are lush and mountainous and important for being the origin of the spices nutmeg and cloves. During the following century, the islands reverted to Dutch control and, during the height of the VOC, a monopoly in the clove trade was established. The British gained a foothold twice in the islands, but they became official Dutch colonies, once again, during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
From the second edition of ‘Dell’arcano del mare, one the “greatest atlases of the world” (Wardington), first published in 1646 when its author, Robert Dudley, was 73. It was not only the first sea atlas of the world, but also the first to use Mercator’s projection; the earliest to show magnetic deviation; the first to show currents and prevailing winds; the first to expound the advantages of ‘Great Circle Sailing’ – the shortest distance between two points on a globe; and “perhaps less importantly the first sea-atlas to be compiled by an Englishman, albeit abroad in Italy” (Wardington).
Robert Dudley (1574–1649) was the son of the Earl of Leicester (the one time favourite of Elizabeth I) and Lady Douglas Sheffield, the widow of Lord Sheffield. Although born out of wedlock, Robert received the education and privileges of a Tudor nobleman. He seems to have been interested in naval matters from an early age, and in 1594, at the age of 21, he led an expedition to the Orinoco River and Guiana. He would later, like all good Tudor seamen, sack Cadiz, an achievement for which he was knighted.
His success upon the high-seas was not matched, unfortunately, by his luck at court, and at the beginning of the seventeenth century he was forced to flee, along with his cousin Elizabeth Southwell, to Europe. Eventually, in 1606, he ended up in Leghorn, Italy, which he set about turning into a great international naval and commercial seaport, in the service of Ferdinand I. Dudley, successful at last, married his cousin, converted to Catholicism, helped Ferdinand wage war against the Mediterranean pirates, by designing and building a new fleet of fighting ships for the Italian navy, served as Grand Chamberlain to three Grand-Duchesses of Tuscany in succession: Maria Maddelena, widow of Cosimo II; then Christina of Lorraine, widow of Ferdinand I; then to Vittoria della Rovere, Princess of Urbino, and wife of Ferdinand II, who created Dudley Duke of Northumberland.
- Suarez ‘Early Mapping of Southeast Asia’, pages 205–207