Mapping Venice 1500: Searching the De Barbari Map


The De Barbari map is an aerial view map of Venice published in 1500 by Jacopo de’ Barbari. Due to the extremely high level of detail and extensive aerial coverage illustrated in the map, the De Barbari map has become a tool of paramount importance for historians aiming to understand Venice throughout the 16th century. By comprehensively annotating the built environment of the map, one can see its evolution through history when working with more modern maps.

The De Barbari Map (Wikimedia Commons)

Given the high level of details present in the De Barbari Map of Venice, we aim to accurately label the important buildings and other landmarks on the map using the DHCanvas platform. This would enable users to locate specific buildings, as well as find out what was occupying a particular location in 1500.


At the end of this project, we would have two main deliverables. First, a fully searchable De Barbari map would be available on the DHCanvas search engine. In addition, map labeling would also be extended to other important historical maps of Venice on the DHCanvas platform. This would eventually allow users to use the DHCanvas search engine to look up specific Venetian landmarks on the De Barbari map as well as the other historical maps at the same time. These deliverables would be of particular use to people interested in studying the evolution of Venice through time in various perspectives.



In order to realize these outcomes, we plan to divide the workflow into four distinct parts:

  1.     Background research and comparison to other historical maps of Venice

For the accurate identification of buildings and landmarks on the De Barbari map, other resources will be consulted. These include other maps, cadastral surveys as well as other relevant literature that document the built environment of Venice. We will be using maps that were produced at the same period as the De Barbari map (circa. 1500), as well as more modern maps from later time periods. By comparing resources produced during the same period as the De Barbari map, we can check for corroboration among the various documents and thus more accurately identify the buildings and structures. On the other hand, working with resources produced over different time periods allows us to follow the evolution (if any) of buildings and landmarks. Some of these resources we plan to consult are the Venezia Città Mirabile: Guida Alla Veduta Prospettica Di Jacopo De’ Barbari, the website and the Topographical Map of Venice by Lodovico Ughi from the early 18th century.

  1.     Labeling of the De Barbari map

Referring to other relevant maps and literature identified in Part 1, we plan to first locate and label all buildings and landmarks on a paper copy of the De Barbari map in order to facilitate the eventual labelling within DHcanvas. As mentioned, some valuable resources have already been identified, the website and the Venezia Città Mirabile; each of these sources provide many pictures of specific features within the map (often) associated with their names.  Our initial step in the labelling process will be to divide the total number of structure/building types presented in these sources in four parts, so that each of us searches and identifies one quarter of the elements listed and labels them on the printed copy of the map. Once completed, we will compile all identified features by annotating them in DHCanvas.  Each feature will be represented by a rectangle on the digitized copy of the map. This enables us to locate elements with more specificity than a point marker (which becomes increasingly important for larger features, such as palazzos or canals), without having to develop a new annotation method, as DHCanvas is currently adapted to rectangular annotation. Next, we will print a new paper copy of the map that contains the previously identified features; this map will be divided into quadrants, so that each of us will be responsible for filling in missing information for their quarter of the map.  Each person will update the DHCanvas with the elements identified within their respective quadrant.

The primary goal will be to annotate structure types (bridge, church, canal, etc…); feature names will also be annotated where relevant and easily accessible. Time permitting, we will also attempt to associate smaller, less important features with names so they can be queried to return other relevant information catalogued within the DHCanvas.

  1.     Proof-Test DHCanvas search engine

After digitization and labeling is complete, we would test the DHCanvas search engine on the newly-annotated De Barbari map. A search for a particular building (e.g. Church K), would highlight the building on the map. Alternatively, clicking on a particular building on the map would return results on the type and name of the building. During this test, we would also double check the labels entered onto DHCanvas with the labels we have on the printed copy of the map to ensure that there were no errors during the data entry process.

  1.  Extend labeling to other historical maps

If the DHCanvas search engine works well with the annotated De Barbari map, we will extend the same labeling process to other historical maps provided by the Digital Humanities Lab. These additional maps will be labeled at a lower level of detail, focusing on larger and more historically significant element. This would result in a set of maps, that can be used to study changes to the Venetian built environment over time.




Foreseen Deadline

Planning and Preparation

December 8, 2015

Background research and compilation of relevant resources

March 8, 2016

Identification of features from resources

March 23, 2016

Annotation in DHCanvas

March 30, 2016

Identification of missing features

April 15, 2016

Annotation in DHCanvas

April 22, 2016

Testing DHCanvas search engine on the labelled De Barbari map

April 29, 2016

Label other important historical maps

May 13, 2016

Final overall testing of DHCanvas with De Barbari map and other maps

May 20, 2016

Write and finalize report

End May 2016

Group members:  Giacomo Giudice, Melissa Pang, Ouail El Aamrani, Rebecca Himsl


  1. Balistreri-Trincanato, Corrado, ed., Venezia Città Mirabile: Guida Alla Veduta Prospettica Di Jacopo de’ Barbari (Caselle di Sommacampagna (Verona): Cierre, 2009)
  2. Il Tridente S.r.l, ‘La Veduta’, 1997 <> [accessed 7 December 2015]
  3. De Barbari Map <’_Barbari_-_Venetie_MD_-_retouched.png> [accessed 7 December 2015]