Pietro Coppo
Prominent Istrians


ietro Coppo (Latin Petrus Coppus) is known to be the first Venetian Istrian geographer, cartographer and public servant, and he was probably the most prolific Italian cartographer of his time before Giacomo Gastaldi.

Coppo was born in Venice (possibly Izola, Istria) in 1469 or 1470, the son of the patrichian nobleman Marco Coppo. The Coppo family was originally from Caorle, a coastal town in the republic of Venice that was founded in the 1st century B.C. by the Romans who named it Caprulæ. They were part of the Major Council (Maggior) Consiglio of Venice, "la Serenissima", that also produced several podestà.

Coppo studied geography and other sciences for three years in Venice under the Venetian humanist Marcantonio Sabellico (Latin: Marcus Antonius Coccius Sabellicus), the author of 92 books of the Rhapsodiae Historiarum. Coppo read with close attention the Historia Naturalis of Pliny which left a profound impression on him and his own works. After completion of his studies, Coppo started working as a municipal clerk, often changing his place of residence. He spent several years travelling across Italy and all over the Mediterranean. He was in Lombardy, near the Po River, in Rome, and visited Naples and many other cities. He went to Crete twice where he lived for six years near an uncle.

In 1499, Coppo moved to Izola, where he at first worked as a notary public. Among the influential families he was involved with was the Manzioli family that had emigrated from Bologna in 1321 and which in the middle of the XV century was included in the city council. The same held true with the Ugo family which had been included in the city council by the order of Doge Pasquale Malipiero in 1459. On January 1, 1499, Pietro married Carlotta di Ugo, daughter of ser Cado di Ugo, and they had five children together.

At the end of 1505, acting as speaker, Pietro was sent to the doge in Venice to gain certain freedoms for Izola. Succeeding in this task, the Izola City Council granted Coppo the status of citizen and counsellor of Izola on February 1, 1506 which opened doors to higher positions in the Council of Izola and in dealings with the Republic. In 1511 he became city chancellor; controlling the revenue and expenditures of the city budget, and he presided over the city council which was controlled by important noble families of Venice, Tuscany and Emilia. In 1514, 1531, and 1532 he was deputy mayor (vicedomino).

Coppo's public powers where not limited to the functions of the deputy mayor. In 1533 he was also a judge and in 1537 he became the judicial chancellor and was a trustee of the Venetian Senate for Istria. In 1536 Pietro Coppo and Tommaso Manzioli were appointed by the communal council to oversee the "Mandracchio", the dredging of the small sheltered harbour of Izola and restoration of its pier. In 1546 Coppo was sent with Domenico Carlino to Venice to win the confirmation of Izola's communal privileges and their expansion from Doge Francesco Donato. His public activities did not distract him from research and studies in the fields of geography, history, and cartography for which he had a great love his entire and long long life. In 1550, around the age of 80, he wrote his will, then it is presumed that he passed away in Izola sometime between December 1, 1555 and January 29, 1556.

Pietro Coppo map in 16th century

Pietro Coppo's world map of 1520 is one of the last ones to feature the so-called ‘Dragon’s Tail’ leading down from the edge of Asia, based on Ptolemy's idea from 1500 years earlier that the Indian Ocean was almost landlocked.


c. 1485 - There is a small number of Italian books that used woodcuts maps. Bartolommeo dalli Sonettìs untitled book of the islands of the Greek archipelago, published in Venice circa 1485, contained 49 woodcut charts, each without any lettering within them. Among the most famous was Benedetto Bordone's Isolario, Libro Di Benedetto Bordone Nel Qual Si Ragiona De Tutte L'Isole Del Mondo, first published in Venice in 1528, containing 111 woodcut maps and plans.  Two other rare Isolarii were prepared by Pietro Coppo. 

1518-20 - By his own assersion, Coppo produced all his great works in Izola. His greatest achievement, a manuscript atlas titled De toto orbe, dated from 1518 to 1520. He collected the data for this work partly on expeditions and partly by studying both older and more recent geographical works. The atlas contains a map of what is now called the Balkan Peninsula with a representation of Croatia. In manuscript form, the work consists of four volumes containing 22 general and hand made maps. Two manuscript copies have been preserved, one in Biblioteca Comunale dell'Archiginnassio in Bologna, and the other in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

1524-25 - Coppo produced an abridged version of the same work under the title De summa totius orbis. That version, known only in a unique manuscript and the only fully preserved atlas and also known as the Codice piranense, is preserved at the Sergej Mašera Maritime Museum in Piran. It consists of four books and fifteen maps, some dated between 1524 and 1525 (or 1526). The most significant among them being a map of the Balkan Peninsula and a map of Istria from 1525, which is dedicated to doge Anerea Gritti. Istria is represented at the approximate scale of 1:280 000, and the map, apart from general geographic content, typical of the period, such as hydrographical data and schematic representation of mountains, contains 296 toponyms. Several manuscript copies of the map have been preserved in codices of Piran, Venice and Paris. As typical of the period, apart from general geographic content, the map includes hydrographical data and schematic representation of mountains and contains 296 toponyms. [See also Codice piranense at http://www2.arnes.si/~kppomm/frames/ital/coppo_codice.htm]

1528 - his second Isolario called Portolano delli lochi marittime et isole del Mar Mediterraneo et fore del streto de Zibelterra, da ponente et tramontana (otherwise known simply as Portolano), published in Italian by Agostino de Bondoni of Venice. It was a collection of rutters/sea charts (seven woodcut maps) as well as the story of Christopher Columbus. Several manuscript copies of the Portolano have been preserved in the codices of Paris, Piran, and the British Museum in London. The original, however, has not been preserved in complete form, probably because of its frequent usage.

Histriae tabula, map of Istria by Pietro Coppo, printed in Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Antwerp, 1573. The source for this map was Coppo's map of Istria from 1525, as cited in the cartouche. (Coppova karta Istre objavljena u Ortelijusovu atlasu iz 1573. U kartusi pise daje izvornik za tu kartu Coppova karta Istre iz 1525. godine.) Click image to enlarge.

1529 - Coppo’s last work was finished in 1529 yet was only published in Venice in 1540. It is a description of Istria entitled Del sito de l'Istria and includes a cartographic presentation of the Istrian peninsula. It is a booklet of only 13 pages containing data of Coppo's expeditions in Istria combined with data obtained by earlier geographers and historians. This work, divided into two parts, is the first geographic description of Istria that contains descriptions of towns, villages, islands, ports and rivers. Coppo enclosed a general map of Istria printed in woodcut, which is a reduced version of the above-mentioned map from 1525 that was already included in De Summa totius Orbis. Edited for Lafreri by Fernando Bertelli, it was published posthumously in 1569. Ortelius, in his famous atlas Theatrum Orbis Terarum, used Coppo's maps for the representation of what today is part of western Croatia.  A copy of the map, inscribed in stone, can now be seen in the Pietro Coppo Park in the center of the town of Izola.


  • http://www.zrs-kp.si/zrs/coppo/index.html
  • http://www2.arnes.si/~kppomm/frames/ital/coppo_vita.htm
  • http://cartographic-images.net/Cartographic_Images/341_Coppo.html #34
  • "Pietro Coppo - 450 Years After his Death", Cartography and Geoinformation, Vol. 5 No. 6 (28.12.2006.) KiG 2006, 6, p 180-181 - http://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show=clanak&id_clanak_jezik=13432
  • http://www.mapsorama.com/pietro-coppo-map-in-16th-century/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PietroCoppo.jpg

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Created: Wednesday, July 20, 2011; Last Updated: Saturday, February 27, 2016
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