State Library of NSW
In 1516, Italian explorer Andrea Corsali became the first European to draw and describe five stars in the Southern Hemisphere pointing towards the South Pole. Having observed the Southern Cross in Cochin (Kochi), India, he informed his patron, Giuliano de Medici, in Florence. ‘This cross is so fair and beautiful,’ he wrote, ‘that no other heavenly sign may be compared to it.’ This copy of the letter was made by a Venetian scribe for Andrea Gritti, Procurator and later Doge of Venice; whether it was made secretly or by arrangement is unknown. Espionage cannot be ruled out, as Florence and Venice were rival maritime trading powers.