TITLE: Fra Mauro's Mappamundi
DATE: 1457 -1459
AUTHOR: Fra Mauro
DESCRIPTION: This large circular planisphere (6 feet 4 inches in
diameter), drawn on parchment and mounted on wood in a square frame, is
preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice. Unusual for medieval
European maps, it is oriented with south at the top (Indian Ocean, top left;
Mediterranean, right center) and so meticulously drawn and full of detail
and legends that it has been described as a "medieval cosmography of
no small extent, a conspectus of 15th century geographical knowledge cast
in medieval form." Though the coasts are drawn in a style recalling
that of the portolan charts, loxodromes and compass roses are absent,
and the effect is definitely that of a mappamundi, not a nautical
chart. The map was fully described and reproduced on vellum for the first
time by Placido Zurla in II Mappamondo di Fra Mauro Camaldolese,
published in 1806 in Venice (now in the British Library), and later by Santarem
in his Atlas of 1849.
Fra Mauro, a Camaldulian monk from the island of Murano near Venice, was
active in about the middle of the 15th century. He seems to have been, to
some extent, a "professional cartographer", substantiated by the
monastic records that document expenditure on materials and colors for mapping,
wages for draftsmen, and so on. The first entry relating to Fra Mauro as
a mapmaker dates from 1443, in connection with his map of the district of
S'Michele di Lemmo in Istria; and during the years 1448-49 he was known
to be at work on a mappamundi. However, working from a commission
granted by King Alfonso V of Portugal, a patron who supplied money and information
on the on-going Portuguese discoveries, Fra Mauro and his assistant, sailor-cartographer
Andrea Bianco (Slide #241 ), spent the years 1457
to 1459 constructing the requested world map that was the prototype for
the map known today as Fra Mauro's mappamundi. The map was completed
on 24 April 1459 and dispatched to Portugal, but for some reason has not
survived. A commemorative medal which was struck in honor of this event
describes Fra Mauro as "geographus incomparabilis". He died during
the following year while working on a copy destined for the Seignory of
Venice; however, Bianco or another of his colleagues produced the now extant
second map, which was subsequently discovered in the monastery on Murano,
then transferred to the Ducal Palace in Venice.
Fra Mauro's map was in many ways a more up-to-date map than the printed
versions of Ptolemy which succeeded it two decades later. Ptolemy's Geographia
was 'rediscovered' in Western Europe and had been circulating in Latin manuscript
form since 1406, coming to Italy fresh from the Byzantine conquests. It
is clear from numerous legends on his map that Fra Mauro was very much aware
of the great deference then paid to the cosmographical conceptions of Ptolemy,
and the likelihood of severe criticism for any map which ignored them. Nevertheless,
in general, Mauro stands by contemporary ideas and forestalls criticism
by stating the following:
I do not think it derogatory to Ptolemy if I do not follow his Cosmografia,
because, to have observed his meridians or parallels or degrees, it would
be necessary in respect to the setting out of the known parts of this circumference,
to leave out many provinces not mentioned by Ptolemy. But principally in
latitude, that is from south to north, he has much 'terra incognita', because
in his time it was unknown.
Ptolemy, he writes, like all cosmographers, could not personally verify
everything that he entered on his map and with the lapse of time more accurate
reports will become available. He claimed for himself to have done his best
to establish the truth.
In my time I have striven to verify the writings by experience, through
many years' investigation, and intercourse with persons worthy of credence,
who have seen with their own eyes what is faithfully set out above.
Therefore, Mauro did not use Ptolemy's framework of longitude and latitude
and he also opened up the Sea of India, which in editions of Ptolemy
is traditionally landlocked, but was generally left open to the circumfluent
ocean by Mauro's contemporaries. Mauro did, however, take account of Ptolemy's
geography and travellers' reports concerning the great extent of the East,
and as a result, moved Jerusalem away from the position as the world's center,
a marked departure from medieval custom to its true position, west of center
in the Eurasian continent. This non-conformity clearly worried the friar,
and he excuses himself by the following:
Jerusalem is indeed the center of the inhabited world latitudinally, though
longitudinally it is somewhat to the west, but since the western portion
is more thickly populated by reason of Europe, therefore Jerusalem is also
the center longitudinally if we regard not empty space but the density of
Like the Greek geographers before Ptolemy and like the Arab cartographers,
Fra Mauro shows all of the continents as being surrounded on all sides by
the great ocean. He did not see the earth as simply a disc, the circular
form of the map was his way of depicting a sphere. However he had not been
able to arrive at an opinion on the overall size of the globe.
Likewise I have found various opinions regarding this circumference, but
it is not possible to verify them. It is said to be 22,500 or 24,000 miglia
or more, or less according to various considerations and opinions, but they
are not of much authenticity, since they have not been tested.
Fra Mauro, therefore, did not have a very accurate conception of exactly
what proportion of the earth that he was portraying in his map. By moving
its center eastwards, however, he had made the relative longitudinal extents
of Europe and Asia approximately correct. Putting the center at Jerusalem
had of course resulted in the longitudinal extent of Asia being reduced
in relation to that of the Mediterranean: on his map he represents it as
about twice the length of that sea, which is fairly accurate for that latitude.
AFRICA: Putting aside for the moment questions of interpretation,
it is impossible not to be struck by the illusion of accuracy which the
general shape of the continent produces here, especially when compared with
most of the previous medieval European representations. Africa, in outline,
resembles the representations on the Catalan-Estense map of 1450-1460
(Slide #246) and Pietro Vesconte's world map of 1321
(Slide #228), save the fact that the Estense map
is almost severed in two by the prolongation of the Sinus Ethiopicus.
Details of Abyssinian topography have been expanded to cover most of the
center and south, except for the southernmost extremity, which is separated
by a river or channel, from the mainland and named Diab.
By 1459, the year of the map's construction, the Portuguese had sailed some
2,000 miles beyond the Straits of Gibraltar, that is, as far as Rio Grande
(i.e. ,the Jeba River, 12 degrees north, or probably not beyond Sierra Leone
- it is disputed whether at that date the Cape Verde Islands had been discovered).
Mauro apparently had knowledge of this exploration for he tells us as much
in a rubric near the west coast of Africa and adds, circumstantially, that
. . . everywhere they found the coast not dangerous, with the soundings
good, convenient for navigation and with no risk from storms . . . they
have framed new charts of these regions and given names to the rivers, bays,
capes, and ports. I have many of these charts in my possession . . .
Since very little of the coastline beyond Cape Roxo shows a linear correspondence
with the actual coastline, these charts may have been worthless counterfeits,
the latest official Portuguese findings having been suppressed even at this
early stage of exploration to protect the competitive advantage that such
knowledge bestowed. Actually the only contemporary names that Mauro has
included are C. Virde and C.Rosso, immediately north of the
great gulf; the small river in the vicinity may be the Rio Grande. Mauro
portrays the sea outside the recently discovered Guinea coast merely as
a large gulf, the Sinus Ethiopicus, cutting deep into the long coastline.
The delineation of this great gulf can scarcely rest on first-hand knowledge
possessed by the Portuguese, but rather it probably represents a feature
derived from earlier medieval maps and perhaps is the result of rumors of
the actual Gulf of Guinea. According to some accounts, the Portuguese are
stated to have reached the meridian of Tunis (10 degrees East) and perhaps
even that of Alexandria. Curiously enough, on Fra Mauro's map the eastern
end of the gulf may be said to be on the meridian of Tunis, as in fact the
eastern terminus of the Gulf of Guinea is. As to the latter speculation,
to have crossed the meridian of Alexandria would have entailed rounding
the Cape of Good Hope.
The lack of tangible examples displaying the latest information on the map
has been criticized, especially as Mauro's assistant, Bianco, was employed
in its production, but it is scarcely justifiable to argue from this that
information was deliberately withheld from the cartographer by the Portuguese
authorities. According to G.R. Crone, the principal cartographers were well
informed on the progress of the navigators. However, it has also been pointed
out by researchers such as Portuguese scholar Professor J. Cortesão
that, in pursuance of their ambition to hold a monopoly of the trade of
West Africa, successive kings of Portugal decided on the suppression of
all information calculated to excite the interest and jealousy of other
powers. This Portuguese colonial policy in the 'conspiracy of silence',
as it has been called, reached formality with John II (reigned 1481-1495),
using his energies to prevent leakages of the news of discoveries at a time
when foreigners were seeking by every means to acquire it. In the reign
of his successor, Manuel I, the vigilance of the government was even more
intensified, especially after the return of Cabral from India. "It
is impossible to get a chart of the voyage," wrote an Italian agent
concerning Cabral's expedition, "because the King has decreed the death
penalty for anyone sending one abroad." It is also said that charts
were sometimes only lent to navigators by the Portuguese India House and
at the end of a voyage the chart had to be returned to that institution.
But even if such a view was prevalent earlier in the 15th century, what
could have been the motive or objective of King Alfonso in withholding from
Mauro information which would have enhanced the value of his planisphere
and substituting for it presumably worthless caricature of charts ? In attempting
to solve this riddle G. Kimble states that the chief cartographical need
of the Portuguese at this time was not so much a map of the world that would
merely portray with precision what they already knew, as a map that would
give the opinion of learned geographers on the extent of Africa and on the
possibility of a sea-route to the East. Mauro's planisphere fully met this
need. At the same time, by its allusions to navigators in the southern seas,
the map was calculated to spur on the Portuguese to renewed effort to reach
It is, however, evident that Fra Mauro's map depicts the coasts of Africa
as far as Senegal and Cape Verde, which were explored by the Portuguese
expeditions of 1441, as well as giving evidence of that country's penetration
as far as the Congo. The coasts charted by Diaz have been fitted into the
limiting circular outline of Mauro's world picture, presenting such a marked
trend to the southeast that the 'Cape of Good Hope' (?) seems to be positioned
due south of the Persian Gulf, whereas it is in reality due south of the
Adriatic. More than one student of cartography has shared Alexander von
Humbolt's conviction that the southernmost point, called Cavo de Diab,
is none other than the Cape of Good Hope made known to Mauro by some daring
expedition similar to that which Mauro himself speaks of as having taken
place in 1420. One of the many legends on his map, near the southern extremity
of Africa says:
About the year of Our Lord 1420 a ship, what is called an Indian junk
[Zoncho de India], on a crossing of the Sea of India towards the Isle
of Men and Women, was driven by a storm beyond the Cape of Diab, through
the Green Isles, out into the Sea of Darkness on their way west and southwest,
in the direction of Algarve. Nothing but air and water was seen for forty
days and by their reckoning they ran 2,000 miles and fortune deserted them.
When the stress of the weather had subsided they made the return to the
said Cavo de Diab in seventy days and drawing near to the shore to supply
their wants the sailors saw the egg of a bird called roc, the egg
being as big as a seven gallon cask, and the size of the bird is such that
from the point of one wing to another was sixty paces and it can quite easily
lift an elephant or any other large animal. It does great damage to the
inhabitants and is very fast in its flight.
Fra Mauro's Indian must be taken to mean 'Arab'. The Arabs had established
regular trade connections with places far to the south in East Africa, and
it is not unlikely that a vessel may have rounded the Cape of Good Hope
and sailed into the Atlantic, which the Arabs had long been calling the
Sea of Darkness. Elsewhere Mauro says that he had spoken to persons
who had been driven forty days beyond the Cavo de Soffala. The
roc is, of course, an allusion to the fabulous bird of the Arabian
Nights. An interesting point is that 500 years before Fra Mauro's time
an Arab chronicler writing about Soffala has a very similar story of a vessel
not only being driven by storm but also encountering the roc. Fra Mauro,
then, was probably drawing ultimately on Arabic sources, and the doubt,
arises whether any significance should be attached to the date of 1420.
There is other evidence of eastern sources in this quarter: for instance
the names of the two islands Negila [beautiful, Sanskrit] and
Mangula [fortunate, Arabic].
The large island at the extreme southern end of Africa, named Diab,
is probably based upon reports of the existence of the great island of Madagascar.
There would be no improbability in a vessel being driven down to the latitude
of the Cape of Good Hope, or of Arabs at Soffala having some inkling of
the trend of the coast to the south. In fact there are a number of place
names on Diab that are of Arab origin: Xegiba [Zanzibar],
Soffala, Chelue [Kilwa] and Maabase [Mombasa]. It is extremely
unlikely, as has been argued, that the Cape of Diab is nothing more
southerly than Cape Guadafui. But an analysis of most of the features of
the hinterland by G. Kimble makes it clear that they do not refer to 'South
Africa', for the Mareb and Tagas Rivers with their affluents
Mana, Lare and Abavi, can be none other than the Abyssinian
rivers Mareb, Takkazye, Menna, Tellare and Abbai; while
flumen Xebi and flumen Avasi are traced with such extraordinary
fidelity that they can be readily identified with the Ghibie and
Hawash Rivers of Southern Abyssinia - a region not thoroughly explored
until modern times, but such accuracy could have been the result of information
received from an Ethiopian mission to Florence in 1441. The fact that these
rivers are the southernmost feature of the map (they are placed at the same
latitude as Cavo de Diab ) makes it almost impossible to believe
that Mauro knew anything of Africa south of the equator. How then, says
Kimble, are we to interpret Diab, the hinterland of the Cape described
by the mapmaker as a very fertile region which was recently conquered
by the great King of Abyssinia, ca.1430 ? The only region with which
it is at all comparable, within the limits imposed by Mauro's apparent knowledge
of the interior, is the Somali peninsula. It is significant that in a contemporary
document in the Library of S. Michele at Murano we are told that Diab
is a great province in parts of which there is an abundance of very good
things, its principal town being called Mogadis, which can be none other
than Magadoxo of the Somali coast. Cavo de Diab, in that case,
becomes Cape Guardafui, or Madagascar according to R.A. Skelton.
Consequently, the degree of verisimilitude possessed by the southern portion
of the African coastline is due, in part at least, to the exigencies of
the map's circular form and, in extenuation of this, it may be urged that
Mauro's purpose throughout seems to have been to harmonize conflicting theories,
except of course where they were mutually exclusive. Fra Mauro himself certainly
accepted the possibility of circumnavigating southern Africa. On this and
other evidence, the discriminating cartographer reached an important conclusion:
Some authors state of the Sea of India that it is enclosed like a lake,
and that the ocean sea does not enter it. But Solinus holds that it is the
ocean, and that its southern and southwestern parts are navigable. And I
affirm that some ships have sailed and returned by this route.
The detailed knowledge of the northeast African interior extends as far
as the river Zebe [? Webi Shebeli]. The Nile [Blue Nile] is
shown rising near a lake, undoubtedly Lake Tana, in the Fountain
of Geneth, a name for the source which was still in use in James Bruce's
time, more than three hundred years later. Fra Mauro states that he obtained
this information from natives of the country
. . . who with their own hands had drawn for me all these provinces and
cities, rivers and mountains, with their names all of which I have not been
able to set down in proper order from lack of space.
It has been shown that two main causes of the confused representations of
northeast Africa are the ignorance of the cartographer about the existence
of the eastern Sudan, so that he telescoped Egypt and Abyssinia together,
and the failure to realize that much of the hydrographic detail available
applied to one river only, the Abbai, and not to a number of distinct
The Coptic Church of Abyssinia was in touch with Cairo and Jerusalem, and
it was doubtless from emissaries of this Church that Fra Mauro obtained
some of his information. Near Lake Tana he has the name Ciebel gamar,
literally mountain of the moon. Mr. O.G.S. Crawford suggests that
this was the origin of the legend about the source of the Nile, and that
it was only later that the site was transferred to the Equator.
The suggestion is partly retained of a 'western Nile' flowing from a great
marsh, no doubt Lake Chad; beyond this marsh a river flows westwards to
enter the ocean by two branches to the north of Cape Verde, no doubt the
Senegal and perhaps the Gambia. Fra Mauro tells us that he was supplied
with Portuguese charts and had spoken with those who had navigated in these
The draftsman places the legendary and fabulously wealthy Christian ruler,
Prester John and his kingdom of Abassia at the source of the Nile.
Ethyopia extends to the west and south coasts of the continent. Thus
Mauro weaves Marco Polo's narrative into Arab theory and makes these fit
together with the cartographic notions of Abyssinia which he had obtained
from 'first-hand sources'.
ASIA: Fra Mauro's map was called by Ramusio, who saw the original,
"an improved copy of the one brought from Cathay by Marco Polo".
Indeed, Fra Mauro's representation of the Far East is derived from Marco
Polo. His illuminator has conceived the cities and places of Cathay,
as described by Polo, in the architectural styles of the Venetian Renaissance.
In spaces between rivers and place-names he drew cities with walls and towers,
i.e., Chambalech, the capital city of Cathay. In a footnote
Mauro says that he drew the cities of Asia so large because there was simply
more room on the map there than in Europe. According to some critics, having
enlarged Asia in relation to Europe, our cosmographer has not put the additional
space to very good use. It is, for instance, extremely difficult to comprehend
Mauro's representation of southern Asia. From the Persian Gulf eastwards,
he appears to have taken the Ptolemaic outline, but exaggerated the principal
gulfs and capes, and to this outline he has fitted the contemporary nomenclature.
The great Gulf of Cambay recalls the similar feature of the 14th
century charts, with the addition of the island of Diu, an important trading
center. It is noticeable here that the order of the names from Goga
to Tarna is reversed, probably an error in compilation due to the
unusual orientation of the map. Beyond Tarna, India is broken into
two very stumpy peninsulas, resulting in the confusion of relative positions
in the interior, and in the placing of C. de Eli at the same latitude
as C. Chomari [Cape Comorin]. Saylam [Sri Lanka/Ceylon] appears
more or less correctly related to Chomari, with a note that Ptolemy had
confused this island with Taprobana, and a representation of Adam's
Peak. To the east, there is a more or less recognizable Bay of Bengal,
confined on the further side by the great island of Sumatra. Into this bay
flows in the north a great river here named Indus, the repetition of a mistake
which seems to go back at least as far as the Catalan Atlas of 1375 (Slide #235E). There is nothing corresponding to the
Golden Chersonesus or the Malay Peninsula, but to the east again, rather
surprisingly, is placed the Sinus Gangeticus, with the Ganges entering
on the north: that river is therefore brought into close relationship with
southern China. A conspicuous feature in the Indian Ocean is the Maldive
Islands, shown with their characteristic linear extension. Instead however
of running north and south, they extend approximately from northwest to
southeast, and this direction is emphasized in an inscription. The position
in which the Andaman Islands are shown in relation to Sumatra also suggests
that there is a general tilting of the map in this area of about 45°
west of north.
In the southeast, close to the border of the map, is an island with the
inscription Isola Colombo, which has abundance of gold and much merchandise,
and produces pepper in quantity . . . The people of this island are of diverse
faiths, Jews, Mahomedans and idolaters . . . This refers to the district
of Quilon (the Colombo of the Catalan Atlas) in the
south of the Indian peninsula. Arab topographers were accustomed on occasion
to refer rather loosely to districts approached by sea as 'islands' [gezira]
and this often led to confusion, as in the present instance. This error
suggests that portions of the map were probably based on written descriptions
or sailing directions by Arab merchants or pilots. Fra Mauro, or the draftsman
of his prototype, clearly misunderstood the passage referring to Colombo.
The notes attached to some of the islands, giving their direction in relation
to others, as in the case of the Maldives already quoted, support this probability.
Certainly the whole southern outline of the continent as depicted here could
scarcely have been taken directly from a chart drawn by a practical navigator.
To the east of the Bay of Bengal is a very large island, Sumatra
[Taprobana over Siometra], the first time that name appears unequivocally
on a map. To the north of it, and somewhat squeezed together by the limit
of the map, are many islands. As Fra Mauro states that in this region lack
of space had compelled him to omit many islands, it no doubt also obliged
him to alter their orientation drastically. A long legend here gives some
illuminating details on the traffic in spices and pepper.
Giava minor, a very fertile island, in which there are eight kingdoms, is
surrounded by eight islands in which grows the 'sotil specie'. And in the
said Giava grow ginger and other fine spices in great quantities, and all
the crop from this and the other [islands] is carried to Giava Major, where
it is divided into three parts, one for Zaiton [Changchow] and Cathay, the
other by the sea of India for Ormuz, Jidda, and Mecca, and the third north
wards by the Sea of Cathay. In this island according to the testimony of
those who sail this sea, the Antarctic Pole star is seen elevated at the
height of un brazo [?].
Giava Major is said to be especially associated with Cathay:
Giava Major, a very noble island, placed in the east in the furthest part
of the world in the direction of Cin, belonging to Cathay, and of the gulf
or port of Zaiton, is 3,000 miles in circumference and has 1,111 kingdoms;
the people are idolatrous, sorcerers, and evil. But the island is all delightful
and very fertile, producing many things such as gold in great quantities,
aloes wood, spices, and other marvels. And from the Cavo del ver southwards
there is a port called Randan, fine, large, and safe: in the vicinity is
the very noble city Giava, of which many wonders are told.
The islands south of Giava minor doubtless represent the Moluccas,
as on the 1457 Genoese map (Slide
#248). There is one tantalizing point: just to the north of Giava
Major is a small island labeled isola de Zimpagu. Could this
be Cipangu [Japan] and thus be the first appearance of the name on
a map ? It is certainly far from its correct position, but, as the cartographer
has had to omit many islands for lack of room and doubtless pressed others
together, this name may easily have been misplaced. If Giava Major
is not Java, but another island closer to Zaiton, the possibility
is greater. All of this information on the spice islands and their trade
is taken from both a document by, and conversations with, Niccolo de Conti,
a Venetian merchant who visited the East from 1419 to 1444. Additionally
from Conti there are the cities Mauro places in Burma, i.e.. Perhe [the
correct Burmese form], Pochang [Pagan, the ancient capital] and
Moquan [Mogoung]; and in the upper course of the Irrawaddy there is
a note testifying to knowledge of commercial routes: Here goods are transferred
from river to river, and so go on into Cathay.
For the representation of China, a great deal has been extracted from Marco
Polo's narrative, as for the Catalan Atlas (Slide
#235E). Fra Mauro's delineation, however, differs from that of the latter
in two respects: the coast of China is broken by several long and narrow
gulfs, which upon inspection are seen to be merely over-emphasized estuaries
or important ports such as Zaiton. Of more interest is the improved
hydrographic system. Instead of the rivers radiating from a point near Chambalech,
the two principal rivers are shown with some approach to reality. The upper
course of the Quiam [the Yangtse Kiang], the greatest river in
the world, is brought too far south; but the Hwang ho has its
great upper bend clearly drawn. (There is no question, of course, of these
rivers being drawn 'true to scale'.)
The towns, and the numerous annotations, are taken directly, it would appear,
from Polo's narrative. Most of those, for instance, which occur in his itinerary
from Chambalech to Zaiton, are to be found on the map, though
in no very comprehensible order, often accompanied by a drawing of a feature
mentioned by Polo, or his comments, e.g., on the gold and silk of this city,
or the porcelain of that; the sugar for which this district is noted or
the gigantic reeds which grow in another.
Xandu is Polo's Chandu, the 'city of peace' of Kublai, and
Coleridge's Xanadu. The mythical figures of Gog and Magog
are represented behind Alexander's Wall in northeast Asia and Termes [Sarmatia]
is shown as a town near Bokhara, on the Amu Dorya [Iaxartes].
Mauro displays a critical spirit when he inserts in the northeast of Asia,
near the enclosed tribes I do not think it possible for Alexander to
have reached so far and expresses his doubts about these mountains being
the Caspian range (this piece of Alexandrian romance was a common feature
on many mappamundi from medieval Europe, see Slides
#224, #226 ).
In the western regions, the picture is confused owing again to the inadequate
space allotted to them. Fra Mauro seems to have been interested in Persia
and Mesopotamia and to have drawn maps of these countries before beginning
his world map. This may explain why they figure so conspicuously on the
latter, at the expense of the features of eastern Asia. Thus the location
of L. Insicol [Issik Kul], approximately in its correct relative
position on the Catalan Atlas nearly a century earlier, is shown
almost neighboring on Chambalech; and other places, Armalec
and Hamil, for instance, have been similarly displaced. As on the
Catalan Atlas, the kingdom of Tenduc has been relegated to
the north, in proximity to the 'enclosed tribes'. On the whole, however,
a fair knowledge of China is displayed; the mid-19th century certainly knew
less of the interior of Central Africa than 15th century Europe did of the
interior of China.
EUROPE: Of particular interest here is Mauro's delineation of the
extreme northern regions. A legend on the map refers to the shipwreck of
the Venetian Pietro Querini on the Norwegian coast in 1431, and it has been
suggested that Fra Mauro obtained oral information on Scandinavia from Querini
himself (Querini spent some time in the Scandinavian region and wrote an
account of his travels through this area). Isola Islandia is the
name Mauro uses for the island of Sjaelland, representing Denmark.
But the map cuts off a part of Iceland by its incorrigible terminal circle.
According to authorities such as Leo Bagrow, the over-abundance of detail
in Fra Mauro's map is a blemish, since the important and accurately drawn
geographical features are inextricably mixed with superficial data based
upon hearsay. But if one examines the map closely, disregarding superfluous
details, one cannot but marvel at the extent of Fra Mauro's knowledge as
demonstrated in his long notes describing remote areas and his propensity
for including contemporary information. Fra Mauro's map, along with the
Martin Behaim globe of 1492 (Slide #258), form the
transition in cartography between medieval thought and that of the great
age of discovery. Some authorities believe that access to this map, plus
the reports of the explorer Diaz, provided the prototype for the last world
map before the discovery of the New World - the Martellus map of 1490
LOCATION: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice.
*Bagrow, L., The History of Cartography, pp. 71 -73, 105.
*Bricker, C., Landmarks in Mapmaking, pp. 52, 115.
Crone, G.R., Maps and their Makers, pp. 54-64.
*Davies, A., "Behaim, Martellus and Columbus", The Geographical
Journal, pp. 450-459.
*Destombes, M., Mappemonde, A.D. 1200-1500, #52.14.
*Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume I, p. 315, plate 18 (color).
*Kimble, G.H.T., Geography of the Middle Ages, pp. 117-119, 196-204.
*Landström, B., Bold Voyages and Great Explorers, pp. 186-189.
*Nebenzahl, K., Atlas of Columbus, pp. 12-14, plate 4 (color).
Nordenskiöld, A.E. Facsimile Atlas, pp. 52, 64.
*Skelton, R.A., Explorers' Maps, nos. 5, 6, 14.
*Winsor, J., Narrative and Critical History of America, vol. 1, pp. 117,