TITLE: Martellus' World Maps
AUTHOR: Henricus Martellus [Germanus]
DESCRIPTION: Henricus Martellus was the one mapmaker who linked the
late medieval cartography, just emerging from social, religious, academic
and technological constraints, to mapping that reflected the Renaissance
and the new discoveries. Little is known of this important German cartographer,
probably from Nuremberg, who worked in Italy from 1480 to 1496 and produced
a number of important manuscript maps. Martellus's world delineation, drawn
in Florence and circulated by an engraved version prepared by Francesco
Rosselli, helped to change the face of the world. It is believed that one
copy of a Martellus map found its way to Nuremberg and inspired Martin Behaim
to make his famous globe of 1492 (Slide #258). Another
copy may have reached Christopher Columbus in Spain. These maps depicted
graphically the theory that Cipangu [Japan] was but 3,500 miles (5,635
kilometers) westward, and only 1,500 miles (2,415 kilometers) further lay
the shores of Cathay [China]. Columbus thus had documentary support
for his beliefs about oceanic distances from his readings of earlier cosmographers,
Cardinal D'Ailly (Slide #238) and Paolo Toscanelli
(Slide #252). This provided him with the 'ammunition'
to further promote his plan to sail west to reach the Indies."
The map was constructed on the projection of Claudius Ptolemy, the 2nd century
A.D. classical Greek scholar. Ptolemy's geographical writings, largely disregarded
during the Christian Middle Ages in Europe, became the basis for the Renaissance
in geography. The Martellus delineation included some Ptolemaic dogma in
its continental contours and projection but significantly modified and improved
upon the ancient model with regards to its contents. Apparently Martellus
was the first person to employ Ptolemy's procedures for constructing a his
"second projection" (a.k.a. a modified spherical, homeoteric,
pseudo-cordiform projection) which used curved meridians and parallels.
Ptolemy's Geography (Slide #119) was first
translated into Latin and became widely distributed throughout Europe beginning
in the early 15th century. The splendid manuscript of Martellus preserved
in the National Library at Florence contains thirteen tabulæ modernæ,
but is probably later than the earliest printed editions of Ptolemy's Geography.
However, Martellus revised the Ptolemaic world map based on Marco Polo's
information on Asia, and he incorporated the recent Portuguese voyages to
Africa. His is the earliest map to show the African continent as described
by Bartholomew Diaz who rounded the Cape of Good Hope on his voyage of 1487-88.
In the example of Martellus from the British Library the Mediterranean,
western Europe and the west cost of Africa all derive from portolan
[nautical] charts, extended to take in the recent discoveries. This map
also expanded Ptolemy with some additions to the outline of Scandinavia.
No one at that time had any knowledge of the true position and outlines
of East Asia, yet the representation of East Asia is identical on both Martellus'
map and Behaim's globe. One was obviously copied from the other for in each
the coasts were hypothetical (i.e., invented), unless they had both copied
from a common prototype which first revealed such hypothetical coasts. There
are, however, important differences between these two cartographic works.
The medieval scholar G.H.T. Kimble demonstrated that, as far as 13°
south, the nomenclature of West African coasts is 80% identical in the two
maps but bears no relation to the nomenclature of any other map of the period.
South of that limit, however, the Martellus map gives the outlines and nomenclature
of the voyage of Bartholomew Diaz in 1487-88, while the Behaim globe
has invented nomenclature corresponding to nothing in Portuguese cartography.
The correspondence between the Behaim globe and the 1489 Martellus
map consequently ended in 1485, when Diego Cão had returned from
his first voyage after reaching 13° south (Cape Santa Maria in
the Congo, 1482-1484). This was the time when Behaim, as a member of the
King John's mathematical junta, was able to study the map and proposals
of Columbus. On the 1489 Martellus map there is an inscription next
to the Congo that mentions the commemorative stone (Padrão)
that Cão erected at Cape Negro during his second voyage (1485-87)
when he reached as far as Cape Cross.
The 1489 Martellus map extends from the Canaries to the east coast
of China. No meridians, parallels or scales of longitude are given, but
estimates based on measurements of the map indicate about 230° from
Lisbon to the coast of China, or 240° from the Canaries. These agree
with the distances on the Behaim globe. The coast of Cathay
is approximately 130° west of Lisbon on the Martellus map, on
the Behaim globe and in the Columbus-Toscanelli concept. The minor
differences in location between these three must be seen against the enormous
exaggeration of the extent of Eurasia which they exhibit in comparison with
all previous estimates. The Catalan Atlas of 1375 (Slide
#235) made it 116° east from the Canaries to the coast of China;
the Genoese map of 1457 (Slide #248) made it 136°; and
the Fra Mauro map of 1459 (Slide #249), about
125°. It is actually 141° from the Canaries to Shanghai.
Who had most to gain from such a reckless exaggeration of the extent of
Eurasia and who was the first to do so? Columbus, surely. His entire hopes
of gaining support from King John in 1485 for such an enterprise as sailing
westward to Cathay rested on his argument that it lay only 130 to
140 degrees to the west. The Behaim globe and the Martellus map
seem designed to plead the same cause. But Martellus had no such ambition
or motive. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he copied a map
which was originally designed to support the ideas of Columbus. Yet that
map could not have been completed until early in 1489 for it had complete
details of the discoveries of Bartholomew Diaz in his voyage of 1487-88,
when he circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope (capo d' esperanza)
and reached the Indian Ocean. He returned from this voyage in December 1488
and, within a year, full details, including rich nomenclature, had appeared
on the map of Martellus made in Italy; this despite the utmost secrecy on
the part of King John of Portugal. The furthest point reached by Diaz, the
Rio de Infante [the great Fish River], is duly recorded (ilha
de fonti). Even today, the best source for information on the voyage
of Diaz is the Martellus map of 1489. The policy of secrecy of King
John was shattered in one great leakage by someone in a unique position
to know all the details.
Other features of the Martellus map indicate an origin in Lisbon. The representation
of East Asia, from the Arctic to 35° south of the equator is new; it
extends far to the east of the Ptolemaic limit of 180°; its nomenclature
is completely new and based on Marco Polo. A manuscript copy of Polo and
his travels was given by the Doge of Venice to Prince Pedro in 1427 and
was thereafter in the King's Treasury in Lisbon. Copious marginal notes,
in the handwriting of Bartholomew and his older brother Christopher, are
found in the Admiral's copy of the printed book of Marco Polo published
at Louvain between 1485 and 1490.
The Arctic coasts on the Martellus map and those of north and northwest
Europe resemble those of the Fra Mauro planisphere of 1457-9 (Slide #249) rather than those of the Ulm Ptolemy
(Slide #119I) of 1482. From Normandy to Sierra Leone the coasts seem
to be based on Portuguese discoveries. In the Martellus map the influence
the Fra Mauro map is pronounced. The coasts charted by Diaz have been fitted
into the circular outline of the world of the Fra Mauro hemisphere,
representing such a marked trend to the southeast that the Cape of Good
Hope seems to be due south of the Persian Gulf, whereas it is due south
of the Adriatic. The Indian Ocean is open to the south, as in the Fra
Mauro planisphere. Due south of the Malay peninsula, at 28° south,
there appears an enormous peninsula which widens and turns north to join
China again with the largely circular concept of the Fra Mauro map. It does
not exist in fact, and seems to be a repeat of the Donus Nicolaus map of
the world in the Ulm Ptolemy, cut away by the circular outline of
Fra Mauro. The Fra Mauro map was made at Murano, near Venice. It
was commissioned for King Alfonso V of Portugal and was in Lisbon from 1459
on. Someone with access to it and to the reports of Bartholomew Diaz, drew
the prototype of the Martellus map. Two peculiar features in the region
of South Africa suggest that Bartholomew Columbus wa the someone.
First, by 1486 the mathematical junta had solved the problem of establishing
latitude by measuring the height of the mid-day sun. The actual latitude
of the Cape of Good Hope is 34° 22' south based on land measurements
by Diaz, who landed three times on the south coast. Measurements of altitudinal
height of the sun by astrolabe or quadrant were accurate on land but could
be 2° or more out on the rolling deck of a ship. Yet the Martellus
map shows South Africa extending across the frame of the map to 45°
south. The only other claim that the Cape was at 45 degrees south is in
the hand of Bartholomew Columbus.
In the volume of Imago Mundi, found amongst the possessions of Christopher
Columbus after his death, there are numerous notes or postils written in
the margins or below the printed matter. No. 23 is in the handwriting of
Bartholomew, and was identified as his by Bishop Bartolomeo de Las Casas,
who knew him well. Arthur Davies has made a long study of the writing of
the Columbus brothers and states, without a shadow of doubt, that it is
in the hand of Bartholomew. It reads, in translation:
'Note that in the year '88 in the month of December arrived in Lisbon Bartholomew
Diaz, Captain of three caravels which the Most Serene King of Portugal had
sent to try out the land in Guinea. He reported to the same Most Serene
King that he had sailed beyond Yan 600 leagues, namely 450 to the south
and 250 to the north, up to a promontory which he called Cabo de Boa Esperanza
[Cape of Good Hope] which we believe to be in Abyssinia. He says that in
this place he found by the astrolabe that he was 45° below the equator
and that this place is 3,100 leagues distant from Lisbon [19,850 km]. He
has described this voyage and plotted it league by league on a marine chart
in order to place it under the eyes of the Most Serene King himself. I was
present in all of this.
Bartholomew was present when Diaz reported to King John. It indicates that
he was high in the confidence of the King as an expert cartographer, otherwise
he would not have been present at such a secret occasion. It shows that
he had the task of adding new discoveries to a Portuguese world map. He
alone maintained that Africa reached to 45 degrees south, as on the Martellus
Secondly, no one in Lisbon knew of this 45° assertion. It was done probably
in Seville after he joined his brother, entering the postil in Imago
Mundi and altering his prototype map at the same time. Two unusual features
of the Martellus map reveal this late alteration:
(a) Africa has been extended to 45° south only by showing it as breaking
through the frame of the map. It seems that the prototype originally showed
the Cape at 35° south, well clear of the frame at about 41° south,
as one would expect of a competent cartographer.
(b) The second peculiarity is a legend off the east coast of Africa which
reads: ultima navigatio Portug. A.D. 1489. This dates the legend
as 1489, probably in January of that year, just before Bartholomew went
to Seville. This legend has baffled scholars. On the face of it, seeing
it on the Martellus map, it asserts that Diaz had proceeded north along
the cast coast of South Africa to beyond Natal. His furthest point,
in fact, was the Rio de Infante [Great Fish River] on the south coast,
at 34° south. The legend is also at 33° to 34° south. It appears
to be north of Natal only because Africa is shown as extending to
45° south. According to Davies, this is conclusive evidence that the
prototype originally terminated at 35°, with the legend correctly placed
near it. When Bartholomew altered the prototype map to 45° south, he
was unable to remove the legend.
What purpose was served by extending Africa to 45° south? It was not
to influence King John, who knew that the Cape was at 34.5° south. It
was to influence the Catholic Sovereigns who were in the dark owing to the
intense secrecy by Portugal regarding discovery. This suggests that the
alteration was made in Seville. It suited Columbus admirably and it is likely
that Bartholomew made the change at his direction. Columbus hoped Spain
would support a voyage westward to Cipangu, 85° away, and to Cathay
130° to the west. At that latitude one degree was thought to be
50 miles (80 km), according to the Toscanelli letter, so that Japan was
only 4,250 miles (7,200 km) west. To reach India around Africa would involve
sailing north-to-south for 39+45=84 degrees, each of 67 miles (108 km);
then north to India, another 45+15 degrees; together with 83° of eastering
(Lisbon to Mangalore). All told such a voyage to India would total 227 degrees
or 15,000 miles (24,000 km). The extra ten degrees in shifting the Cape
to 45° south meant more than twenty degrees extra distance in a voyage
to India. Moreover, and perhaps this was the decisive factor, it would take
Portuguese ships to nearly 50° south to round Africa, into what Diaz
had already found to be the roughest seas encountered anywhere in the world.
Bartholomew, in 1512, gave evidence in the Pleitos (the great lawsuit of
the Columbus family versus the Crown of Spain) and declared that he had
gone about with his brother in Spain helping to gain support for his enterprise.
His prototype map would have been a powerful argument.
Another peculiar feature of the Martellus map is the enormous peninsula
commencing due south of Aureus Chersonesus [the Malay peninsula]
at 28 degrees south, thereafter widening to reach China. It is a relic of
the continuous coastline that linked southeast Asia to South Africa in Ptolemaic
world maps, and it needs a name to identify it in argument. It bears a rough
resemblance to the hind leg and huge paw of a tiger which is facing west.
Davies, in his discussion of this map refers to it as the Tiger-leg peninsula;
in others it is referred to as Catigara. It did not exist in fact
but, on the prototype map of Bartholomew and on the Martellus map, it served
an important purpose. It seems to render impossible voyages of Arab ships
or Chinese junks between Ceylon and China. Although the Columbus brothers
knew that Marco Polo had returned from China by this sea route, they inserted
this great obstruction of Tiger-leg by 1485. It would show King John
that even if the Portuguese reached India they could not reach the Spice
Islands (which were on the equator east of Tiger-leg ) without
having to make long voyages into the southern stormy seas. For King John
and for the Catholic Sovereigns it showed that Spain could easily reach
Cathay and then the Spice Islands, secure from all interference
from Arabs or Portuguese in the Indian Ocean. Columbus may deceived himself
regarding the existence of Tiger-leg but, since it suited his plans so admirably,
one suspects that he asserted its existence just as he later made the Cape
of Good Hope to be at 45 degrees south.
Tiger-leg must have formed part of the map and the proposals which
Columbus made to King John of Portugal in 1485, for it was embodied in Portuguese
cartography thereafter for half a century. It was in the prototype drawn
by Bartholomew, copied by Martellus in 1489. The Behaim globe has
placed it 30° south. The Laon globe, made in France about 1493
(probably by Bartholomew Columbus when he served Anne, Regent of France)
has Tiger-leg to 40° south. It is shown to more than 25°
south in the Cantino map of 1502 (Slide # 309),Canerio
map of 1504, the Waldseemüller maps of 1507, 1513 (Slide #312) and many others. It was one of the boldest and
cleverest concepts of the Admiral.
This world map is utterly without the amount of adornment typical of earlier
maps of this period, i.e., princes, castles, animals, etc. (the only remanents
are some castellated towns in Asia). The mountains are shown using a standardized
symbol colored in brown, the oceans and rivers are painted blue, the forests
of Scandinavia are singled out with symbolic tress in green and there is
very little labeling of land areas except along the northern and western
coast of Africa where there is an inordinate number of places identified
compared to the remainder of the world's land areas.
In 1963, Alexander 0. Vietor, then Map Curator of Yale University, reported
a gift by an anonymous donor 'in the form of a magnificent painted world
map signed by Henricus Martellus, approximately six feet by four feet (180
x 120 cm). Signora Carla Marzoli of Milan, in a private communication, stated
that this large map 'had left Italy into the possession of family centuries
ago and had been lodged in a Swiss bank for safety, for a long time.' In
1959, through trade channels, she learned that this map was for sale. She
examined it and saw its connection with the Martellus map in the
British Museum and with the conceptions of Columbus. At her request, Roberto
Almagia and Raleigh Skelton examined it and pronounced it authentic. She
bought it and sold it to the donor, who gave it to Yale. Scholars all over
the world owe her and the donor a great debt of gratitude. The fact that
the map had been put away in a Swiss bank for perhaps 60 years explains
why it went unobserved. Vietor, who described it as extraordinary for size
and precision of execution, went on to state:
'It is painted in what seems to be tempera over a base of paper in sheets
of different sizes, the whole backed up with a large framed canvas, much
in the manner of a painting, and drawn, as the illustration shows, in the
Waldseemüller world map of 1507. It has graduations of latitude and
of longitude in the margins, the first instance of longitudes being shown
on a map . . . On this map Cipangu is placed 90 degrees from the Canaries.'
The east-west extent from the Canaries to the coast of China is about 235°,
which agrees with the Toscanelli-Columbus concept and with the 1489 Martellus
map now in the British Museum. The two maps are nearly identical but there
are two major differences. The 'Yale' map has Cipangu in the
ocean 30° east of Cathay. It extends from 7° north to 31°
north of the equator. Its shape, outline and position are identical with
the representation of Cipangu on the Behaim globe (Slide #258). The Martellus map in the British Museum
is less than 20 inches (50 cm) from west to east, and is on a scale one-quarter
that of the Yale map. Its size was governed by the two folios of the codex
[or collection] on which it is drawn. To have included Cipangu would
have required a scale reduced one-sixth, too small to permit of legible
nomenclature. The second major difference is that, while the coasts from
Normandy to Sierra Leone, on the Yale map, are based on the world
map of Donus Nicolaus of 1482, the corresponding coasts on the British Museum
Martellus uses a Portuguese map for them. Nevertheless, the Cape of Good
Hope is at 45° south on the Yale map, Tiger-leg extends to 33°
south, and Africa breaks through the frame of the map in both. One map has
been copied from the other, at one-quarter the scale. The Yale map
was the original, or prototype, and was the joint product, according to
Davies, of the Columbus brothers. As such, it is of enormous value, academic
The sheets of paper on which the Yale map is drawn are of different sizes,
which excluded the possibility that they were printed map sheets, for they
would then have had to be the same size to fit within the map portfolio.
In a private communication of June 1972, Vietor stated that X-ray examination
had revealed no evidence of printing on the paper sheets and that was hand-drawn,
Iettered and colored. He added: 'unfortunately the physical state of the
map makes reading the legends almost impossible.' The few names which are
legible, mainly in the Indian Ocean, are in formal capitals, beautifully
executed, as are two lengthy legends in the lower corners of the map. Fortunately,
Martellus copied most of the nomenclature and legends on to the smaller
map, now in the British Museum, so the 'Yale' Martellus can recover
them without difficulty.
Little is known of Henricus Martellus Germanus. In 1489 he produced a codex
with maps and text, which he called Insularium Illustration. This
is a series of handsomely drawn and painted islands, with accompanying descriptive
text in Latin, all done on parchment folios bound in leather-covered boards.
It is listed in the British Museum as Additional Manuscript 15760. It survives
in almost perfect condition for it has been so little used in 500 years
that its colors, features and lettering, preserved from light, dust and
the chemical impurities in air, seem as fresh as when Martellus made it
in 1489. Folio 1 commences with an inscription in Latin giving the title
Illustrated Islands by Henrici Martelli Germani and stating that it
will present 'all of the islands of our Mediterranean Seas'. Martellus was
commissioned to do his codex because he was versed in the new and beautiful
humanist script of Italy, used throughout in the text, and for his talents
as a painter and decorator of maps. Mountains are in brown and gold, rivers
in light blue, while forests have tree symbols in green. In every case,
the island is set in a dark blue sea which extends to the rectangular margin
of the picture. Each island-picture is surrounded by a frame, drawn and
painted in ivory to give the impression of a carved wood frame, suggesting
a picture hanging on a wall. Such picture-islands occupy nearly all the
folios, making an Atlas of Islands, and are then followed by a superb picture-map
of Italy, taken from the 1482 world map of Donus Nicolaus. The islands in
this codex were copies from the Ulm Ptolemy, from the Isolario
of Bartolomeo de li Sonetti printed in Venice in 1485, and from other
Then comes the most original and remarkable world map of the century. It
was not foretold on Folio 1 and is clearly an unexpected addition to the
codex of picture-islands. It uses the homeopathic (heart-shaped) projection,
as far as can be judged, for it lacks meridians and parallels and scales.
Next come three regional maps, striking because of the enormous nomenclature
on the coasts. The first is of western Europe and Morocco, cut off in the
east through the center of France; the second starts from this line and
extends east as far as Naples and Tunis. These two maps, it is evident,
were copied from one original. The third map is of the Black Sea region.
Martellus had been required by his patron to include in the codex a world
map and regional maps which had just come into his possession in 1489. His
great talent for such an exacting task was his skill as a draughtsman-cartographer
experienced in altering the scale of maps of islands that he was copying.
He did this to fit the folios of the codex.
Almagia (1940) stated that he had identified no less than three manuscript
maps of the world signed by Martellus, all virtually identical with that
in the codex in the British Museum. He dated them to 1490. They all omitted
Cipangu but he found a separate map of Cipangu in a codex which
had the same outlines as those in the Behaim globe of 1492 . The
three manuscript maps were larger in scale and showed more detail than the
codex world map. According to Davies, the sequence now becomes clear. The
sheets of the 'Yale' Martellus, together with certain regional maps,
were acquired by the patron. Martellus assembled the paper sheets, stuck
them on a canvas backing, made his characteristic rectangular picture frame
for it and colored the seas in dark blue. Then he signed it. He then made
a copy on a quarter of the scale, covering two parchment folios of the codex,
to be included in it. He copied the regional maps and included them. Lastly
he made three manuscript maps from the codex world map, larger in scale.
When Columbus left Lisbon in 1485 for Spain, Bartholomew, with his highly
trained skills as a cartographer in the Genoese style, stayed on in the
map workshop of King John II. He was engaged in building up a large map
of the world based on Donus Nicolaus and on Portuguese charts. It was, like
all important maps at that time, drawn on sheets of parchment which could
be joined together almost invisibly, and mounted on linen. This large map,
180 cm by 120 cm, formed a standard Portuguese world map, continually added
to by new discoveries, including those of Cão and Diaz. By the beginning
of 1489, Columbus faced poverty and failure in Spain; his pension had been
ended in 1488 and he no longer had free board and lodging from Medina-Celi
or the Marquess de Moya. Bartholomew prepared to join him in Spain and help
his project. They needed money and, in particular, the vital and continued
support of the Bank of St George in Genoa. They got both. Money could be
obtained from the sale of maps kept secret in Portugal. Before leaving Lisbon,
Bartholomew copied maps of convenient size. The large standard world map
he had to copy in some secrecy and, because of its size, he needed 11 sheets
of paper, cheaper, and thinner and quieter than parchment. These sheets
of the 'Yale' Martellus were tracings in the hand of Bartholomew.
Early in 1489 he left Lisbon. He went first to Seville to help his brother
and there altered the Yale map by substituting another sheet of paper
which showed Africa to 45° south. Then he visited Italy to sell maps
and to gain the support of the Bank of St. George. Antonio Gallo, Chancellor
of the Bank of St. George, was also official chronicler of Genoa. After
Columbus returned from discovering Asia, as was claimed by him at the time,
his name rang through Europe. Yet Gallo took the occasion to record his
knowledge (in his chronicles) of the Columbus brothers. What is astonishing
is that he gave all the credit for conceiving the enterprise to Bartholomew,
who first thought it out and entrusted it to his older brother, who was
more used to the sea. This account of Gallo was copied, almost verbatim
by Serenega in 1499 and by Giustiniani in 1516. Bartholomew left Genoa as
a youth in 1479 and officially made only one further visit to Italy, in
1506. Gallo could have acquired knowledge of the role of Bartholomew only
from his own lips, in 1489. Thereafter the Bank supported Columbus from
time to time with credits.
Behaim copied from the map submitted to King John in 1485 by the Columbus
brothers. On his globe (Slide #258), South
Africa, between 23 and 28° south, extends a horn of land for hundreds
of miles due eastward into the Indian Ocean. It is a relic of the Fra
Mauro map, which had Africa extending eastward to this extent, but in
a great curve from the equator. It indicates that, in 1485, Columbus used
Fra Mauro for Africa south of the equator in the map he submitted to
the Portuguese monarch. The Martellus maps of 1489 show that Columbus
and his brother Bartholomew relied on authority in their 1485 map, on Donus
Nicolaus and Fra Mauro. But they altered authority in three ways even at
that stage. First, by extending Asia eastwards to 240° from the Canaries.
Second, by inventing the great obstruction of Tiger-leg. Third, by
placing Cipangu as only 90° west of Lisbon. In 1489, they extended
Africa to 45° south. Such alterations were all to the advantage of Columbus,
unscrupulous no doubt, but they earn our admiration for the sheer audacity
of the great discoverer.
These two world maps by Martellus represent, along with Martin Behaim's
famous globe of 1492, the last view of the old pre-Columbian world as perceived
by western Europe before the great expansion of the world picture during
the subsequent twenty years. The huge Martellus manuscript world
map at Yale University is supremely important because it shows the division
of latitude and longitude into degrees. This enables scholars to trace Columbus's
thinking with some measure of certainty; he used this map to confirm his
idea that Japan was only 90° west of Lisbon, when it was actually more
than twice that far. The Yale map by Martellus does not show the
western ocean as did Toscanelli (Slide #252), being
bounded in the east by Cipangu [Japan] and in the west by the Canary Islands;
but its graduation in longitude admits an interval of 90° between the
Canaries and Cipangu (Toscanelli allowed 85°; and the corresponding
figure on the Behaim globe is 110°). Cipangu is only shown
on the Martellus map at Yale.
The Yale example shows more of the Ocean Sea in the Far East than
does the British Library manuscript. Among the thousands of islands Marco
Polo reported off the coast of Asia, an enormous Sumatra and Java are found
in the south, while to the northeast is the huge island of Cipangu [Japan].
In the Indian Ocean, the islands of Madagascar and Zanzibar, rather poorly
drawn, add an intriguing aspect. Some historians claim that their presence
indicates the map cannot be dated before 1498, when Vasco da Gama returned
with news of his voyage to India. Others, pointing out how crudely these
islands are portrayed, assert that since this represents more Marco Polo
information there is no conflict with the map s accepted date.
Martellus' shape of the world represents the most complete knowledge of
the day. The map is remarkable for its exciting new information, although
being imperfect because of its acceptance of classical and medieval antecedents.
It was the most accurate delineation available to Martin Behaim when he
constructed his globe exhibiting the pre-Columbian world. Columbus himself
could find no better map to show him the way to Asia. These two are the
only two extant non-Ptolemaic world maps of the 15th century to be graduated
in latitude and longitude and so to convey a precise estimate of the width
of the ocean between westernmost Europe and easternmost Asia. In its general
geographical design the more famous Behaim globe derives from a map
of Martellus type, if not by him.
Francesco Rosselli was one of the earliest known map stockists and map sellers;
in addition he was an important map-maker whose cartographic output spans
the decades of the great discoveries. He worked in Florence prior to 1480,
then was away from Italy for about two years before returning to his home
town where he was active until his death some time after 1513. Many of the
maps sold by him (as evidenced by an inventory taken after his son's death
in 1527) have perished but the following world maps are attributed to his
1. 1482, copperplate, for Berlinghieri's version of Ptolemy. (Conjectural)
2. 1492-93, copperplate.
3. ca.1500, copperplate, one sheet of multi-sheet world map. (Conjectural)
4. 1506, copperplate, the Contarini-Rosselli world map.
5. ca.1508, oval copperplate, later woodcut version with added text in 1532.
6. ca.1508, rectangular copperplate.
Rosselli's copper-engraved, printed world map of 1492-93 measuring 375 x
525 mm. was discovered in Florence in company with four other regional maps
and, it is surmised, they were intended as part of a new edition of Ptolemy.
It is a cleanly-engraved copperplate, with finely-stippled sea and six characteristic
loose-haired windheads grouped round the border of the map. Like its model,
the projection is the barrel-shaped (homeoteric, or modified spherical)
'second projection' of Ptolemy.
The map's most prominent feature is, like the Martellus model, the new outline
of Africa, now quite separate from Asia, and reflecting the rounding of
the Cape by Bartolomeu Diaz in 1487. The British Isles and Scandinavia are
also shown more correctly for the first time. A legend at the bottom referring
to the date 1498 is clearly an error for 1489, and has been copied as such
from the 1489 Martellus manuscript world map with obviously similar geographic
content to that of Rosselli. The 1490 map by Martellus was also almost certainly
known to Rosselli. This map is significant because of its large size (108
x 190 cm), and because it is on the same pseudo-cordiform projection later
adopted by Waldseemüller for his wall map of 1507. When originally
described by Vietor, Martellus' map was also thought to be a printed map,
but subsequent examination has shown that it is a heavily-illuminated drawing
on a large scale.
LOCATION: British Library, Additional MS. 15760, ff.68v-69, London,
Yale University Beinecke Library, New Haven, Connecticut
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence; BL Add. MS. 15760.f.69
*Bagrow, L., History of Cartography, p. 106, Fig. 26.
*Crone, G.R., Maps and their Makers, pp. 71, 80-81.
*Davies, A., "Behaim, Martellus and Columbus", The Geographical
Journal, pp. 450-459.
*Destombes, M., Mappemondes, A.D. 1200-1500, pp. 229-233, #52.17.
Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume I, pp. 187, 316.
*Harvey, P.D.A., Medieval Maps, pp. 52, 55, 69, Plate 39 (color).
*Humble, R., The Explorers, p. 10 (color).
*Levenson, J.A., Circa 1492, p. 230 (color).
*Nebenzahl, K., Atlas of Columbus, pp. 15-17, Plates 5a/5b (color).
*Ravenstein, E.G., Martin Behaim, pp. 66-67.
*Shirley, R.W., The Mapping of the World, pp. 16-17, XXIII, plate 4 (color),
Skelton, R.A., The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, p. 155.
*Winsor, J., Narrative and Critical History of America, p. 122