A map of the world dating back around 320 years has been acquired by Heritage Malta to be part of the national collection and in time become one of the star items in the future display of the Gozo Museum. The map has also inspired the choreography of one of the dances in a recent production by ŻfinMalta.
The original map was produced by Antonino Saliba, a Gozitan who lived in the time of Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, and who possibly knew at least one of them. He graduated in Canon and Civil Law, was a Doctor of Philosophy and excelled in mathematics, astronomy and astrology. It is thought that he was educated outside Malta since in those times such studies were impossible to pursue locally. He was also the first Maltese to earn international fame as a scientist, and the first Maltese to have his work printed since the invention of printing.
The original version of Saliba’s map was engraved by Mario Cartaro of Naples and published in Italian in 1582. It was copied many times over by important European map makers for longer than a century, as it was considered to be a very fine piece of work. Only one example of the 1582 original is known worldwide. This copy is preserved in Germany at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel.
The version purchased by Heritage Malta is in Dutch and was printed in Haarlem, the Netherlands, in around 1700. It was issued by Ambrosius Schevenhuyse, a seller of charts and works of art. Heritage Malta acquired it from a London dealer of rare books.
Saliba’s map is truly beautiful and fascinating, consisting of nine concentric rings representing the world as seen from the eyes of a 16th century astronomer. The spheres depict fire, comets, winds, clouds, storms, people, houses, trees, and even the subterranean world and the inferno.
The beauty and history of the map have served as inspiration for ŻfinMalta, the national dance company. A contemporary dance show by the company, held on the 2nd of October at the Aurora Theatre, included a dance choreographed by Paola Mangiola, ŻfinMalta’s artistic director. He was inspired by the map after meeting Nicoline Sagona, a Heritage Malta senior curator, who explained Saliba’s work in detail.