Jacopo de' Barbari was a Venetian painter printmaker and engraver whose career reached its apogee in 1500 with the work you see in thumbnail form above: a map of the Venetian Forma Urbus. It's really the first time the Serenissima had her portrait taken. [Note to Veniceblog readers ... Alas, the link to the map site is now dead. I stay vigilant for new postings of the map, but so far nothing. Sorry.]
Or here is the tip of La Giudecca by San Giorgio Maggiore -- the present site of the Cipriani Hotel before it glittered with the glitterati.
It's fun to glide around Venice in the 1500's with an omniscient eye. Many, many of the buildings and urban features are still easily recognizable. Not only can you see details like windows, doors and trees, but it is said that there are more than more than ten thousand individual chimney-pots that can be picked out.
The original prints are roughly 4 by 9 feet, printed on 6 sheets of paper. Nothing so large had ever been printed before. You can see a print and the original woodblocks used to print it in a wonderful exhibit in the Museo Correr in Piazza San Marco.
Consider this: manned flight didn't occur until nearly 3 centuries later. And while de' Barbari consulted detailed urban surveys that were done in 1498-99, he still had to imagine the whole scene in his mind's eye -- the relative heights of buildings, the complex perspective (still a young science at the time), the whole crazy labyrinth that is Venice.
It wasn't until the 18th century that de' Barbari was duly credited for the map. Many thought it was the handiwork of German Albrecht Durer, the genius painter/printmaker, who lived in Venice for a number of years and befriended de' Barbari.