Infernal cosmography: a Genevan map of the Catholic world

This astonishing ‘map of the new papistical world’ is a brilliantly sophisticated piece of Protestant propaganda against Tridentine Catholicism. It was the work of Jean-Baptiste Trento, a zealous Italian convert to Calvinism who took refuge from the Inquisition in Switzerland, and the French engraver Pierre Eskrich. Published in Geneva in conjunction with a pamphlet, the map draws upon the tradition of moral cosmography to depict the world as the city of Rome framed by the jaws of an infernal beast. Drawn on the Ptolemaic grid placed inside the mouth of the devil, its genius derives in part from its appeal to a society with a growing appetite for the cartographic products of global expansion and discovery. These are combined with motifs derived from polemical pictures, emblem books, and illustrated bibles. Among the many intriguing images with which its panels are filled are figures of the founding fathers of reform flinging copies of the gospels as weapons and firing cannon balls from the walls. They invoke the idea that the Protestant world is engaged a holy war against the Catholic Church. Created in accordance with the tropes of Renaissance rhetorical theory, this map must also be understood as a ‘memory theatre’. AW

[Jean-Baptiste Trento and Pierre Eskrich], Mappe-monde nouvelle papistique ([S.l.: s.n., c. 1926?). Reduced scale facsimile of map first printed in Geneva in 1566. There are only five extant copies of the original. These are preserved in Florence, London, Paris, Sonderhausen and Wroclaw.


The map was accompanied by a book written under the pseudonym of M. Frangidelphe Escorche-Messes: Histoire de la mappe-monde papistique, auquel est declaire tout ce qui est contenu & pourtraict en la grande table, ou carte de la mappe-monde ([Geneva]: for Brifaud Chasse-diable, 1566). The CUL has a copy of the 1566 edition (F.9.9) and two of the 1567 edition (P.10.49 and Peterborough D.6.2.21).

Further Reading

Jean-Baptiste Trento and Pierre Eskrich, Mappe-Monde nouvelle papistique: histoire de la Mappe-Monde papistique, en laquelle est déclairé tout ce qui est contenu et pourtraict en la grande table, ou carte de la Mappe-Monde (Genève, 1566), ed. Frank Lestringant and Alessandra Preda, Travaux d’humanisme et Renaissance 463 (Geneva, 2009).

Dror Wahrman, ‘From Imaginary Drama to Dramatized Imagery: The Mappe-Monde Nouvelle Papistique, 1566-7’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 54 (1991), pp. 186–205.

Frank Lestringant, ‘Le Gouffre et L’Atlas, ou la Cosmographie Infernale de Jean-Baptiste Trento et Pierre Estrich: La Mappe-Monde Nouvelle Papistique de 1566’, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 69 (2007), pp. 561–88.

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