Mulazzo, Massa-Carrara, Italia


Year 2, no. 5                         April 10/2001

Edited by Dario Manfredi, Translated by John Black


1.  On March 17 the Town Council of Mulazzo approved a motion proposing to the Region of Tuscany – which has jurisdiction over this matter – that the official name of the town be amended.  According to this proposal the town would be called "Mulazzo Malaspina," in memory of the Navigator who was born there on November 5,1754.  The proposal was adopted as the result of an initiative by the officials of nine Lunigianese cultural institutions, who brought to the Town Council an appeal-letter in which were explained the reasons for and the opportune nature of this historic change.  The letter was signed by: the Accademia Lunigianese di Scienze "Giovanni Capellini," the Associazione "Amici del Campanone," the Associazione Culturale Lunigianese, the Associazione "Manfredo Giuliani" per le Ricerche Storiche ed Etnografiche della Lunigiana, the Centro Aullese di Ricerche e di Studi Lunigianesi, the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani "Alessandro Malaspina," the Centro di Studi Umanistici "Niccolò V," the Cinquecentesca Accademia degli Imperfetti, the Deputazione di Storia Patria per le Province Parmensi, and the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri.

2.  On April 1 in Montignoso (Massa), the Aghinolfi Castle was opened to the public. The
fortification, which dates back more than a thousand years, belonged for some time to the Malaspina family.  Its restoration has been carried out to very high standards, allowing one to read  clearly the various phases of construction.

3.  On April 9 – the anniversary of the death of Alexandro Malaspina – at the Centro di Studi     Malaspiniani, a working meeting took place to develop a program of research for 2001-2002. The outcome of this meeting will be reported in an upcoming newsletter.

4.  On the proposal of Dario Manfredi, Prof. Rossana Piccioli, Director the Civico
Museo Etnografico della Spezia, has agreed to collaborate closely with the Centro and, in particular, to take over the running of the "Archive of Lunigiana" (19th century) and
"Malaspina Expedition" (ethnography branch) sections.


J. GIL, Miti e utopie della scoperta. Oceano Pacifico: l’epopea dei navigatori, Milan, Garzanti, 1992, 440 pp.

In this well-documented volume (first edition 1989), the final section of Chapter XI (pp. 373-381) is devoted to the Malaspina Expedition. With all respect for the authority of the author, we do not concur at all in the final evaluation of the thought of Malaspina.  J. Gil argues that, in 1792, Malaspina would have excluded Francisco Mourelle de la Rua from the expedition in search of the Northwest Passage (carried out by the schooners Sutil and Mexicana), on the grounds that "in the rigid thinking of Mourelle there was room only for an absolutist conception of power, while Malaspina leaned towards more liberal ideas."  Such a claim is supported on the basis of the actions of Mourelle on the occasion of the insurrection at Riego, whose troops were shelled by the naval squadron stationed at Cádiz.  Now, apart from the fact that there is a typographical error in the Italian edition which makes the account pretty well incomprehensible (the revolt of Riego, in fact, happened in 1820, and not in 1720, as written), the fact remains that Malaspina, in 1792,
could hardly have supposed what the position of his colleague would be almost thirty years later, and ten years after his own death… In truth, it is a great deal easier to suppose that Malaspina – who had great pride about the scientific enterprise he was carrying out – wanted also to keep the secondary expedition in the northwest under the direction of officers who were his subordinates; and in fact the two schooners were commanded by Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés.
I. VAZQUEZ DE ACUÑA, «La expedición científico-política del capitán de navío don Alejandro Malaspina (1789-1794)», Boletín de la Academia Chilena de la Historia, n. 108-109, Santiago, 2000, pp. 133-174. The author – who is a member of the Academia Chilena de la Historia and of other prestigious academies in various countries – offers in this paper the adumbration of a complex research project on the naval history of Chile. The bibliography is very full, even if not completely up-to-date.  Unfortunately, we must point out the usual inaccuracies about the fiefdom of Lunigiana and the true historical role of the Malaspina family. G. CAPELLINI, Ricordi di un viaggio scientifico nell’America settentrionale nel MDCCCLXIII, Bologna, Vitali, 1867, 280 pp..

G. CAPELLINI, Relazione di un viaggio scientifico fatto nel MDCCCLXIII nell’America settentrionale, Bologna, Gamberini e Parmeggiani, 1864, 44 pp.

The famous geologist Giovanni Capellini, in 1863, visited the northeastern part of the United States ofAmerica and Québec. Discovery, anno 1776. Il terzo viaggio del Capitano Cook, Genova, Turmena, 1997, 30 pp. This is the catalog of an exhibition held at the Acquario di Genova from September 19, 1996 to March 19, 1997.  We draw your attention to a paragraph devoted to Nootka and a reference to the ethnographic collection of Cook's third voyage kept at the Museo Nazionale di  Antropologia e Etnologia di Firenze. M.G. ARMANINI e M. TANGHERONI (eds.), Gli Obertenghi di Massa e della Lunigiana ed i regni della Sardegna (secoli XII.XIV), Pisa, Pacini, 1999, 150 pp. We highlight, among various articles:   - R. RICCI, «Il ramo Obertengo da cui i "Massa-Corsica" e gli stessi fino alla conquista del Giudicato di Cagliari (1033-1192) tra Massa e Lunigiana» (pp. 69-83) We point out one error: Marquis Obertp's act of renouncing the four Lunensian parishes was neither in 988 (as is written on p. 72) nor in 986 (as is written on p. 76), but rather in 998. - A. SODDU, «Storia della penetrazione dei Malaspina nel Logudoro» (pp. 109-121). This very accurate work has been compiled using much unpublished documentation contained in the Archivio Domestico dei Malaspina di Mulazzo. P. CAMPODONICO (ed.), Storie di polene, Genova, Tormena, 1997, 48 pp.

A. BARBUTO, Nostra Signora dell’Acquasanta, La Spezia, Ed. del Tridente, 1991, 44 pp.

A recapitulation of the history of the Mariano Sanctuary (situated in the Gulf of La Spezia) and of the traces of ancient water-cults, probably going back to prehistory. R.E.G. PICHI SERMOLLI, Contributo alla Storia della Botanica in Toscana. Precursori dell’esplorazione floristica delle Alpi Apuane, Verona, Associazione Nazionale Musei Scientifici, 1999, 290 pp. Contains biographies and bibliographies of the following naturalists: Luca Ghini, Luigi Anguillara, Andrea Cesalpino, Ulisse Aldrovandi, Michele e Baldasare Campi, Paolo (Silvio) Boccone, Bruno Tozzi, Pier Antonio Micheli, Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti, Fulgenzio Vitman, Domenico Viviani, Antonio Bertoloni, Antonio Bottari, Gerolamo Guidoni, Giuseppe Bertoloni.


«Revista del Instituto de Estudios Histórico-Marítimos del Perú», no. 19 (2000).

We draw your particular attention to the articles by F. Kauffmann: Doig (Tupac Yupanqui rumbo a Oceanía) and J. Castañeda: Murga (Apuntes para la etnohistoria del litoral de los valles de Trujillo). «Varzi viva», VII (April 2001) We point out the news that our friend Giacomo Malaspina has been recognized by the Council of the Italian Nobility as a member of the aristocracy, having been able to show beyond doubt that he is descended from the Malaspinas of Mulazzo.   In this edition is reprinted an article by D. Manfredi (L’araldica della casa Malaspina) which already appeared in 1997 as a publication of the Domus Malaspiniana. R. MAMBELLI, «Castelli danteschi», I Viaggi di Repubblica, 31 January, 2001, pp. 41-47. Popular article on the Malaspina castles of Lunigiana.  Some inaccuracies in the text
and in the photo-captions.

An unpublished sketch by Antonio Pineda, naturalist on the Malaspina Expedition.

The collection of the sketches produced by the Malaspina Expedition (1) has recently been enriched with a new addition. (2).

The piece, in truth, is not of great artistic value and has not even reached us in good condition; nevertheless, it has the claim to uniqueness of being - so far - the only one which has appeared in Italy. Fortunately, it has found the most appropriate of resting-places: in fact, it now forms part of the archive of the Centro "Alessandro Malaspina" in Mulazzo (3).

The drawing, or rather sketch, is in pencil and takes up a little less than half a sheet of 310 x 220 mm. (v. fig.).

Underneath, still in pencil, appears the caption "Vista de un grupo de basaltos en la Barranca  oriental sacada del O desde la casa del administrador [View of a group of basalt columns in the eastern ravine, from W of the administrator's house]."

The handwriting shows certain similarities to that of the naturalist Anthony Pineda, suggesting attribution of the sketch to him; besides, among the naturalists of the expedition, it was Pineda who was most interested in lithology. (4).

The simple reference "barranca oriental" does not allow identification of the site with absolute
certainty; nevertheless, knowing that the Malaspina Expedition visited and drew a geographical chart of the coast of Uruguay "hasta las barrancas del medio al oeste de Montevideo [as far as the ravines in the area to the west of Montevideo]" (5), one can hazard a guess that the sketch is of an adjacent area, or rather one situated to the east of the central ravine.

The subject, as can be seen, is made up of basaltic rocks, not very different from those of
Querétaro (Mexico) which were of so much interest to the artists of the expedition. (6).

We note, finally, that the expedition naturalists' interest in the basalt columns was likely to have been not only of an aesthetic nature (it being also beyond doubt that the regularity of the basaltic prisms provoked a certain interest) but also, and above all, of a speculative character. In fact, at that time, studies were made of the volcanic origin of basalt for the purpose of formulating, or
supporting, theories about the formation of the Earth.

D. M.


(1) See the catalogue of drawings in: SOTOS SERRANO, C., Los pintores de la expedición de Alejandro Malaspina, Madrid, Real Academia de la Historia, 1982, vol. 2, pp. 300, 716, ill.

(2) After the publication cited in the preceding note - when it was thought that all the surviving graphic works of the expedition were known - the works of Fernando Brambilla came to light in London.; see SOTOS SERRANO C., Nuevas obras de Fernando Brambila en Londres, in Homenaje al Profesor Hernández Perera, Madrid, Ed. Comunidad Autónoma de Canarias, 1992, pp. 453-458; BARBER P., Malaspina and George III. Brambila and Watling: three rediscovered drawings of Sydney and Paramata, in PALAU M. - OROZCO ACUAVIVA A. (eds.), Malaspina '92. I Jornadas Internacionales: Madrid - Cádiz - La Coruña 17-25 Sept. 1992, Cádiz, R.Academia Hispano-Americana, 1994, pp. 356-374.

(3) The sketch was included in the Ala Ponzone estate, since its provenance, to all appearances, is identical; see  MANFREDI D. Inventari dei fondi "Ala Ponzone" e Ramón Ximénez" conservati nell'Archivio del Centro "Alessandro Malaspina" della Spezia, "Giornale Storico della Lunigiana", Nuova Serie, XL (1989), pp. 135 - 160.  We should mention, by the way, that since 1992 the above estate archives are no longer found in La Spezia, but in Mulazzo.

(4) Lola Higueras Rodríguez - whose opinion we sought - agrees with us. We express here our heartfelt thanks for the ongoing collaboration and the true friendship she continues to show  towards us.

(5) See HIGUERAS RODRIGUEZ M.D., Catálogo crítico de los documentos de la Expedición Malaspina /1789-1794) del Museo Naval, Madrid, Museo Naval, vol. II, 1987, doc. no. 1634.

(6) See the drawings of Gutiérrez and Brambilla, catalogue nos. 433 and 434, in SOTOS SERRANO, C., Los pintores, cited above.

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