Ichnography  pronounced ik-nog-rəfi, in architecture, is a term defined by Vitruvius (i.2) as the ground plan of the work, i.e. the geometrical projection or horizontal section representing the plan of any building, taken at such a level as to show the outer walls, with the doorways, windows, fireplaces, etc., and the correct thickness of the walls; the position of piers, columns or pilasters, courtyards and other features which constitute the design, as to scale.

Giambattista Nolli (or Giovanni Battista, April 9, 1701 – July 1, 1756) was an Italian architect and surveyor. He is best known for his ichnographic plan of Rome, the Pianta Grande di Roma which he began surveying in 1736 and engraved in 1748, and now universally known as the Nolli Map. The map is composed of 12 copper plate engravings that together measures 176 centimetres (69 in) by 208 centimetres (82 in) and was published in response to the commission of Pope Benedict XIV to survey Rome in order to help create demarcations for the 14 traditional rioni or districts.[3] It was by far the most accurate description of Rome produced to date at a time when the architectural achievement of the Papacy was in full flower.

Nolli Map

The Nolli map reflects Bufalini’s map of 1551, with which Nolli readily invited comparison, however Nolli made a number of important innovations. Firstly, Nolli reorients the city from east (which was conventional at the time) to magnetic north, reflecting Nolli’s reliance on the compass to get a bearing on the city’s topography. Secondly, though he follows Bufalini in using a figure-ground representation of built space with blocks and building shaded in a dark poché, Nolli represents enclosed public spaces such as the colonnades in St. Peter’s Square and the Pantheon as open civic spaces. Finally, the map was a significant improvement in accuracy, even noting the asymmetry of the Spanish Steps. The map was used in government planning for the city of Rome until the 1970s; it was used as a base map for all Roman mapping and planning up to that date.

The map is framed with a vedute by Stefano Pozzi. A scaled-down edition, a collaboration between Nolli and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, was published in the same year the original map was finished. Piranesi was instrumental in getting the work printed; Giuseppe Vasi also contributed.

82″ wide x 68″ high (208 cm x 173 cm)

1748 Nolli Map of Rome

to see enlarged maps click the link bellow

Enlarged Nolli’s Map

“La grande pianta del Nolli del 1748 divide comecolonna miliare, la serie delle piante di Roma in duelunghi periodi; nell’anteriore prevale il criterio artistico,nel posteriore lo scientifico.

(Like a milestone, the great 1748 plan of Rome by Nolli divides the series of maps of the city of Rome into two long periods; in the first the artistic element prevails, while the second is dominated by the scientific method.)
I l748, the middle of the century which historians refer to as the Enlightenment, the Pianta Grande or large map of Rome was published by Giambattista Nolli. The plan was engraved on 12 copper plates which are currently stored in the Calcografia in Rome (along with most of the Piranesi and Vasi plates). From these plates, sets of twelve prints were produced, each measuring 42 by 70 centimeters (16.5 x 27.6 inches),which could be assembled into the Pianta Grande , itself measuring 167 by 206 centimeters (66 x 81 inches). Together with the large map, Nolli published a smaller map reduced “dalla Maggiore” to the size of one of the 12 sheets, as well as a reproduction to the same scale of the 1551 Bufalini plan of the city. The whole set was completed by two indices for the Pianta Grande, one numerical, the other alphabetical.On the Pianta Grande Nolli shows detailed plans of churches, theaters and the courtyards and porticoes of buildings, as well as the entrance ways and stairways of major palaces. Thus the white areas on the map represented all the public and semi public spaces in the city (most of Rome’s courtyards were open to the public until the 1970s), while the hatched areas indicate lesser buildings. Surviving ancient structures are shown in black on the map, with reconstructions of missing parts shown in white. The dotted lines along some of the streets represent the borders of the fourteen Rioni,or administrative regions, of the city. Indeed, the 

redefinition of these borders by count Bernardini in 1744 was actually based on the original drawing of the plan that Nolli was to publish four years later.
 His graphic convention for depicting private and public space, solid and void, has become familiar to use as the Figure/Ground plan; so much so that we often hear architects use Nolli as a verb: to “Nolli” a plan,that is to render it according to the graphic convention of the Pianta Grande.
 It was to revolutionize the map-making of the Urbs, and became the standard for nearly all subsequent maps of the city for more than a hundred years. With his map, Nolli set the standard for accuracy and wealth of fine detail which has yet to be surpassed.Te critical study of map making associated with David Woodward and J. Brian Harley has sensitized us to the myriad ways in which experience can be mapped out and the uses to which conventional western maps can be put.
 The old internal history of cartography, of which Nolli is an exemplary figure, has been rendered problematic. The notion of cartographic exactness,for example, has been questioned as to its over all motivation and susceptibility to ideological motivations.How are we to understand Nolli’s achievement? As the gradual result of work built on his predecessors or as a document relying on essentially unique circumstances?How did Nolli address the ideological demands of civic representation of the greatest city in Christendom? These questions and more are answered in the following essays, devoted to (I) Nolli’s Predecessors, (2)Nolli and 18th Century Contemporaries, (3) Te NolliPlan: Its Influence on Other Cities, (4) Revisiting Plansand Views of Rome in the Digital Age, and (5) Nolli’sInfluence on 20th Century Design.
I is remarkable to note that while afer 1748 ichnographic plans (i.e.: plan-maps) of Rome prevail, between Bufalini’s plan of 1551 and Nolli’s plan of 1748 there appeared only four of these:
 Alò Giovannoli 1616. cm. 52 x 39  ( Frutaz CXLIV) Matteo Gregorio de Rossi 1668. cm. 169 x 129 (Frutaz CLVII) Antonio Barbey 1697. cm. 53.5 x 58 (Frutaz CLXII) Nicolas de Fer 1700. cm. 24 x 31(Frutaz CLXIII)
Of these four, only De Rossi’s and Barbey’s plan bear any relationship to Nolli’s work. Giovannoli’s is a reduced, though updated version of Bufalini (showing the scheme of Sixtus V’s urban plan); de Fer’s map is too small and lacking in detail to be considered in this context. De Rossi’s map is really a hybrid: a plan-map with selected monuments depicted in perspective. Part of its importance in relation to Nolli is that it picksup on Bufalini’s device of showing churches in plan. Barbey’s map, which is probably influenced by that of De Rossi, employs the same technique, and extends it to the depiction of major palazzi in plan. Nolli seems to have adopted this technique and combined it with the detailed information on planting and villa gardens which De Rossi was able to show on his large map. The antique precursor to the
Pianta Grande was the Forma Urbis. William Stenhouse returns us to the sixteenth century and its discovery to uncover attitudes about its reception, or better put, misreception. Found in the forum, the fragments of the Forma Urbis
 were gathered and kept by the Farnese librarian Fulvio Orsini. Their ichnographic form, so obviously useful to our eyes today, were not appreciated immediately for their value. Part of the problem, as Stenhouse explains, was that no scholarly categori esexisted with which to understand the fragments.Conventions of antiquarian categorization could handle inscriptions but visual material like a carved map was beyond the ken. Therefore, it languished. Nolli’s great predecessor Leonardo Bufalini, whom he honored in the reprinting of his map of Rome, is anatural point of interest for Nolli studies because he produced the first ichnographic map of Rome when the Forma Urbis  was still unknown. Jessica Maier reflectson its dual ocus: recording Rome as it was in 1550 but  also looking back in antiquarian fashion to what Rome was in its Roman grandeur. Maier follows the rise of urban cartography, from Leonardo’s plan of Imola to Bartolomeo Marliani’s

Urbis Romae topographia  (1544) and Bufalini. Noting the uniqueness of Bufalini’s ichnographic map, and general apathy toward such representations, Maier stresses the pictorial literacy that developed only slowly allowing acceptance for Nolli’s innovations. To this picture Paul Schlopobersky adds a detailed technical examination of Bufalini’s plan in comparison to Rome’s actual layout. true to a military focus,Bufalini’s city walls are unusually accurate, suggesting that the architect actually surveyed the whole Aurelian circuit. However, two substantial parts of the map do not match up, suggesting instead that Bufalini sighted these from an elevated position but did not combine these insights with ground surveys. Bufalini’s military prerogatives are partly confirmed and his uncanny accuracy qualified. Ian Verstegen, finally, reflects on the shortcomings of sight as found in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci butalso hinted at by Alberti and Raphael, as possible sources for planimetric and ichnographic representational systems. Te need to record a building or city “as it is”rather than “as it seems” nominated the exploration of the conventions later used by Bufalini and Nolli in Leonardo’s plan of Imola and Raphael’s ill-fated survey of Rome.


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