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A new map of Italy distinguishing all the sovereignties in it, whether states, kingdoms, dutchies, principalities, republicks, &c : with the post roads, and many remarks not extant in any map

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A new map of Italy distinguishing all the sovereignties in it, whether states, kingdoms, dutchies, principalities, republicks, &c : with the post roads, and many remarks not extant in any map

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This map could easily have been titled "A Disaster-lovers Guide to Italy," filled as it is with pictures and vivid descriptions of infestations, eruptions, and earthquakes. Mt. Aetna is described as a mountain that "sometimes issues out pure flame, and at other times a thick smoke with ashes & streams of fire run down, with great quantities of burning stones, and [it] has made many great eruptions." Eruptions of Mts. Aeolius, Vesuvius, and Aetna are vividly depicted in the insets at the left. The town of Syracuse ("Siracusa") on the island of Sicily is said to have been "almost entirely ruin'd" by the earthquake of January 11, 1693. In fact, the city was completely destroyed and thousands lost their lives. Further north, Taranto is said to be the home of the tarantula, since the giant spiders "abound in the neighborhood, their sting is very dangerous, makes people weep, dance, tremble, vomit, laugh, faint and die if they are not relieved by musick which sets them dancing and dissipates the poison by the exercise." There was in fact a neurological disorder once prevalent in this part of Italy called "tarantism," which induced in the sufferer a kind of hysteria, including a sudden inclination to dance and spin -- the perspiration of dancing helped the body to heal itself. It was commonly thought, as expressed on this map, that the illness itself was brought on by the bite of the tarantula and that the dance was the cure. The Italian folkdance, the tarantella, originates from this folktale.
Courtesy of Boston Public Library

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Date

1714
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Source

Boston Public Library
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Public Domain

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norman b leventhal map center collection
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