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Το Βασίλειον της Κρήτης [The realm of Crete] – Cretae Regnum, Francesco Basilicata, 1618. Heraklion, Mikros Nautilos Publications – Vikelaia Municipal Library – LUCC Crete, Crete, 1994.

Francesco Basilicata was an Italian cartographer and military engineer, who lived in Crete for several years, in the service of the Venetian Republic. Basilicata probably arrived on the island in 1609. He kept on enriching his drawings until the end of his life (probably around 1638, the date of his last manuscript). His long stay on the island obviously provided him with numerous opportunities to verify his drawings "in situ" and to improve them continually.

Basilicata often dedicated his works to high-ranking officials of the Venetian administration, either to curry their favour or because drawing was part of his brief as a military engineer. This “Atlas”, probably composed in the years 1618-1619, was dedicated to Natale Donato, Provveditore of the Cavalry in Candia, and accompanied by a lengthy report ("Relazione") on Crete, which expands on the fortifications and defence strategies, but also discusses the geography, history, archaeology, administration and economy of the island.

In his maps, Basilicata highlights the topography and the morphology of each region through skillful use of colour. He takes special care to represent every detail of economic importance, both in the coastal areas and in the military positions. Drawn with artistry and aesthetically pleasing alternations of colour, the maps are impressive for the harmonious distribution of spaces and the cartographer’s fondness for minutiae.

They depict villages, saltpans, gardens, mills, wells and even trees. Special prominence is given to military installations, such as bastions, barracks, warehouses, shipyards and harbour works. The manner of representation, sometimes from afar and above, sometimes from the side of the sea and at others from inland, was unusual and original for the time. Basilicata’s map of Crete was acknowledged to be the most precise of the period, and served as a model for the maps by M. Boschini and V. M. Coronelli.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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