TITLE: Chart for the navigation of the islands lately
discovered in the parts of India, known as the Cantino World Map
DESCRIPTION: As the Juan de La Cosa map (Slide
#308) graphically dramatizes the impact of Columbus on Renaissance Europe,
the Cantino planisphere glorifies the achievements of the great Portuguese
navigators of the same period, including Vasco da Gama, Cabral, and the
Corte-Real brothers. This, one of the first sea chart of the era of European
trans-Atlantic discovery that can be precisely dated, is a manuscript born
of controversy and intrigue.
The name of the cartographer remains unknown for interesting reasons. In
the political atmosphere of this period, the need for anonymity was imperative.
Success in the bitter rivalry between Spain and Portugal required that the
new geographical data generated by discoveries in the East and West Indies
be kept secret. Information from returning mariners was assembled by cartographers
to form official charts for kings and their advisors. It may seem strange
that, with so much exploration activity during this period, why no earlier
original Portuguese charts have survived (as far as we know). This is mainly
because of a policy of official secrecy by which the Portuguese authorities
sought to restrict access both to lands discovered by the Portuguese and
to any relevant information which may have been of value to a rival foreign
power. An office known as the Casa da Mina e India was the body responsible
for overseas territories and colonies, and it was this office which produced
and revised charts and maps, issuing them to pilots for use on voyages,
subject to their being handed in again on return to Portugal. The Portuguese
king, João II, had placed an embargo on the provision of charts showing
the new discoveries under penalty of death. Another possible explanation
for the lack of any known charts drawn for Prince Henry or for João
II is that any charts which were made may have been lost during the great
earthquake which destroyed much of Lisbon in 1755.
Nevertheless, there were leaks. An inscription in Latin on the reverse side
of this map relates that Carta de navigar per le Isole nouam tr[ovate]
in le parte de India: dono Alberto Cantino al S. Duca Hercole ["this
sea chart of the islands recently discovered in the regions of the Indies
has been presented to the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d'Este, by Alberto Cantino"].
A Lisbon-based diplomatic agent of the powerful Italian Este family, Alberto
Cantino secretly obtained this important document and smuggled it out of
Portugal. Cantino, who was the envoy (orator) of Hercules d'Este, Duke of
Ferrara, to the Court of Portugal, kept his master apprised of the discoveries
accomplished beyond the seas under the Portuguese and Spanish flags. The
Duke having expressed a desire to obtain a map illustrating those voyages,
Cantino ordered it from a cartographer living in Lisbon, and whom some scholars
suspect to have been an Italian artist. Harrisse's opinion is that there
were then in Portugal several Italian artists who made maps, not as cartographers,
but as copyists and miniaturists (the maps of Nicolas de Canerio and Kunstamann
No. 2, are clearly works of that kind). The latter charged him by contract
twelve gold ducats (approximately $60), and required about ten months, from
December 1501 to October 1502, to execute the work. While yet in Lisbon,
the probability is that Cantino interviewed Americus Vespucci, who had just
returned to that city from his third voyage, and obtained from him supplementary
information, which we assume to be the additional names in a cursive handwriting.
Cantino having occasion to return to Italy, took the map with him, left
it in Genoa to be forwarded to Ferrara; and from Rome, wrote a letter to
his master. The planisphere duly reached its destination and was lodged
in the archives of the House of Este, in Ferrara, where it remained until
1592. In that year the map suffered the fate of the entire ducal library
and collections, and was transferred to Modena when Pope Clement VIII despoiled
Cesare d'Este of his duchy.
The last possessor of this most valuable document put it to a very singular
use. Wishing to cover a common screen, he had the map pasted on its folds,
after cutting off and throwing away the top margin, which doubtless contained
a title engrossed in large gothic letters, the tail end of one of which
is still visible.
During the popular outbreak of 1859, the palace was invaded by a mob and
the map stolen. A few years afterwards, the librarian of the Biblioteca
Estense, the Signor Boni, happening to pass in the Via Farini, noticed in
the shop of a pork butcher, called Giusti, the Cantino chart still put to
such ignominious use. He bought the map, removed the vellum from the screen,
and presented that all-important geographical monument to the Este Library
where it is now preserved.
The map, a planisphere on vellum, coloured and gilt, measuring 218 x 102
cm., and bearing, in a different handwriting, the following inscription:
Carta da navigar per le Isole nouam tr [ovate] in le parte de l'India:
dono Alberto Cantino al S. Duca Hercole: [Nautical chart for the islands
newly found in the region of India. Gift from Alberto Cantino to His Lordship
the Duke Hercules.]
It presents no border or margin of any kind. It is not likely that such
an elaborate planisphere, executed for a prince, should have been left without
some ornamented frame. There is, besides, a long easel stroke near the northern
extremity of the line of demarcation, which has the appearance of the lower
end of an ornate capital letter, which may have belonged to a running title.
This, together with the act that the map, when rescued from the butcher's
shop, was pasted on a screen after it had been stolen from the palace of
the Dukes of Ferrara, indicate that the map may have suffered, on the part
of its last owner, an excision all around the border. If so, there was probably
a scale of latitude. Nor is it impossible that it should have also exhibited
in the supposed cut-off part, a prolongation of the coast southward, such
as we see in the map of Nicolay de Canerio.
The continents are shown in a soft green, the islands in rich blues and
reds. Flags in their proper colors mark the different sovereignties, from
that of the Turks at Constantinople to that of the Spaniards near Maracaibo.
The two tropics are in red, the equator in gold and the papal Line of Demarcation
in a brilliant blue. Africa is characterized by a hilly landscape in pale
blues and greens, a castellated Portuguese fortress, native huts, natives
in jet black, birds of various hue and a huge lion-headed figure in brown
and gold. A circular structure call Tower of Babilonja appears in
Egypt, while Russia is marked by a grouping of characteristic architecture
suggestive of Moscow. Newfoundland, placed to the east of the papal meridian
and labeled Terra del Rey de Portugall, is displayed thick with trees
in green and gold. The Brazilian coast is adorned with tall trees in green,
gold and brown, among which are interspersed smaller trees and shrubs in
various shades of blue and three enormous parrots intensely red with white
beaks and claws and divers wing and tail feathers in blue, buff and gold.
The ocean is of an ivory tint, and the lettering, sometimes gothic sometimes
cursive, is in black and red.
From the moment that we admit the existence of a map which exhibited the
northwestern continental region as reaching only to the tropic of Cancer,
we are authorized to presume that there may also have been a map which represented
that land ten degrees shorter still; inasmuch as such is, prima facie at
least, its latitudinal area in the map of Cantino. In the present state
of the enquiry, the critic is bound, therefore, to accept, as being within
the meaning of the original cartographer, the configuration and extent of
that continental land as we find them measured and depicted in the said
As to the nomenclature, in its relatively first stage, the Cantino map contains
the following names, beginning with the most northerly designation inscribed
on that continental land:
(beginning with the most northely name)
Costa del mar vciano Rio de los largartos C: do fim do abrill
Cabo d. Iicõtu Cabo Santo El golfo bavo
Canju . . . Rio de las almadias C: lurcar
Cabo de b . . . a bentura Puta Roixa C: do mortinbo
Costa alta C: del gato G: do lurcor
Lago luncor Rio de do diego C:. arlear
Las cabras Cornejo Rio do corno
Rio de las palmas.
Tamarique Ylha della Rapossa Canjbales
Ilha Rigua I° tres testigos Cabo de Sam jorge (bis)
Arcay Terra de pan° Anaresma
Boacoya Ilha de los canjbales San miguel
Golfo del unficisno Las gayas Rio de Sã francisco
Costa de gente braua La punta de la galera Abaia de todos sanctos
Rio de fonseca Cabo deseado Porto seguro
Montanbis albissimas Rio grande Rio de brasil
Cabo de las perlas Golfo fremosso Cabo de scta Maria
The latest geographical datum in the present map is, at the north, the legend
expressing fears that Gaspar Corte-Real had perished: e crese que he
perdido. This could have been inscribed only several months at least
after the return to Lisbon, in October 1501, of two of his vessels; and
perhaps so late as May 2, 1502, when Miguel Corte Real sailed from Portugal
in search of his brother.
The names north and south of Porto Seguro, on the Atlantic coast,
were inscribed, as already stated, after the map had been delivered to Cantino,
but very soon afterwards, and at Lisbon.
As to the northwestern configuration, Harrisse is loth to believe that it
appeared in Cantino for the first time. He states that it doubtless originated
with other maps, and proceeded from a type on which had been grafted data
borrowed from fragmentary surveys brought by mariners of different nations,
as we suppose, and who must have visited that coast several times in the
course of clandestine expeditions.
Evidence of when an early manuscript was produced is essential in determining
its priority and significance. For example, several key but undated maps
were made in the first years of the sixteenth century, but the primacy of
the 1502 Cantino world map is established on the basis of its date. The
ad quem date is fixed by the letter from Alberto Cantino, then in Rome,
to Ercole d'Este, dated November 19, 1502, saying that the chart made in
Portugal at the Duke's order had been left for him with an agent in Genoa.
Additional evidence comes from the possibility and opportunity that Cantino
may have interviewed Amerigo Vespucci, who had just returned from the New
World, and mave have acquired from him the new place-names that appear in
cursive on the map. Further evidence, again, comes from the geographic information
and a legend expressing fear that Gaspar Corte-Real, the Portuguese explorer,
had perished in the North Atlantic. Because two of Corte-Real's ships returned
to Lisbon and brought this news in October 1501, the map could not have
been completed before then. Therefore, while the maker unfortunately remains
unknown, the date is certain.
This large manuscript world chart was drawn in color on parchment and measures
85.8 x 40.2 inches (218 x 102 cm). It is the earliest surviving Portuguese
map of new discoveries in the East and West and represents the known world
at the exciting moment when Europe was learning of its actual extent. Due
to the size of this chart, the coasts are shown in considerable detail,
and, as shown above, the place-names are numerous. The Equator and tropics
are drawn in, but there is no graduated scale of latitudes. From west to
east it extends 257 degrees from Cuba to the eastern coast of Asia. The
Tordesillas demarcation line between the Spanish and Portuguese spheres
is inserted, and the Portuguese discoveries in the northwest are made to
lie just on the Portuguese side of the line.
The American coastline remains fragmentary, because up to this time probes
had been made only to the West Indies, Nova Scotia-Newfoundland, part of
the South American coast, and possibly Florida. Portions of this explored
area were recorded, but gaps in the coastline were not filled in until further
As in other planispheres of the early 16th century, and in contrast to Juan
de la Cosa's map, the unknown Portuguese cartographer divides North America
into three disconnected landmasses, widely separated from one another:
· Punte de Asia [Greenland ?]
· Terra del Rey de portugall [Newfoundland ?]
· land to the northwest of yssabella [Cuba], which has been
variously interpreted as representing Florida, Yucatan, and unintentional
repetition of Cuba, or a peninsula in East Asia.
In the north Iceland is placed very nearly in its proper location and the
Corte-Real landfalls in Greenland and Labrador (1500-01) are marked by Portuguese
flags and by the legend contain in a banderol (against Greenland): This
land which was discovered by order of . . . Dom Manoel, King of Portugal,
they think is the end of Asia. Only the tip of Greenland is displayed,
but with a fair amount of accuracy.
Farther west, majestic trees on the large island labeled Terra del Rey
de portugall [Land of the King of Portugal] in the North Atlantic recall
the description of the east coast of Newfoundland given by the Corte-Reals
when they returned to Lisbon in October 1501. A year or possibly two years
later there appeared the Nicolo de Caveri world map (Slide
#310), the work of a Genoese cartographer, depending in many, but not
all particulars, upon the Cantino production. One assumes that its maker
had been allowed to study the Cantino map while that document lay in Genoa.
Though upon it is found no statement referring to Corte-Real or the King
of Portugal, in the northern area it bears, as indication of sovereignty,
the Portuguese flag upon the southern tips of Greenland and Newfoundland.
These two maps, the Cantino and the Caveri, both of Portuguese background,
are the basis of the cartographical series, dominant for the next quarter
century, which Harrisse aptly named the Lusitano-Germanique Group
or Type (Ganong refers to this map as a Vespucci Type ). Harrisse
discusses the influence of this Lusitano-Germanic type of map both
on the geography of the New World and map-makers in Central Europe for more
than twenty-five years.
As the name indicates, that series of charts and globes was based upon data
sent from Portugal. That is, the configurations and nomenclatures were derived
from maps constructed by Lusitanian cosmographers, with information furnished
at the close of the fifteenth century by Spanish or Portuguese navigators,
and which soon afterwards found their way into Lorraine and Germany.
The prototypes have long since disappeared. We possess only what may be
called derivatives, more or less direct, some in manuscript others engraved,
the complete filiation of which cannot be established, as we do not know
how many productions of that character have intervened, or when they were
devised, nor precisely in what form originally. Yet the data which those
derivatives set forth are so characteristic that we can almost reconstruct
the "mother-charts" and divide them into cartographical families,
1. The first type omitted altogether the northwestern continental regions.
which were probably yet unknown when that type was created; but it exhibited
the entire group of the West Indies, with Cuba, therein called Terra
de Cuba, although the island was depicted in an insular form and in
its proper place. A striking peculiarity consisted of a wide break on the
north coast of the southern continent, between Brazil and Venezuela. Cast
far away into the sea, to the northeast of the northwest coast, there was
Newfoundland, designated as Terra de Corte-Real; whilst Greenland,
under the name of Terra laboratoris, assumed the shape ofa long and
narrow island, stretching from east to west.
Kunstmann No. 2 is the oldest specimen of that type which we possess.
2. The second type set forth the same South American configurations as the
first, but with the Venezuelan coast unbroken. The West Indian archipelago
was also complete, including Cuba, which is there named Ilha yssabella.
A new and important feature was, west and north of that island, an extensive
continental region running from south to north, bearing no general title,
but dotted with many names of capes, rivers, and landing places; the east
coast bathed by the Oceanus occidentalis. To the northeast of that
land, and at a great distance, lay an insular country ascribed to the Corte-Reals;
and, still more easterly, Greenland, but this time in the form of an extensive
peninsula, trending west from Northern Europe. The Cantino map is the most
ancient specimen known of this second type which has, thus far, reached
3. The third type differed from the Cantino chart with respect to the northwestern
continental region by its extension southward about five degrees, and additional
names inscribed on the northern coast.
We possess no original specimen of this third type. But, notwithstanding
cartographical distortions, due chiefly to the kind of projection adopted
by the maker of the map, the original profiles of that continental land
can be easily recognized in the corresponding region depicted by Johann
Ruysch in his mappamundi (Slide #313).
4. The fourth type differed from the preceding by a more complete or elaborate
delineation of the northeastern continental region, which here extended,
southwardly, about eleven degrees, with insular additions.
This fourth type is represented by the curious planisphere of Nicolay de
Canerio (Slide #310), and, with modifications, in
the Schönerean globes (Slides #323, #337).
5. The fifth type presented the same nomenclature and configurations as
the preceding, but probably with different legends or general titles for
the north and south continental regions. Its material difference from the
three last types above described, consisted in a continuous coastline connecting
the northwestern mainland with the southern continent. Neither do we possess
a direct specimen of this fourth type; but it certainly revives in the mappamundi
of Stobnicza (Slide #316), and in the Tabula Terre
Nove of Waldseemüller.
These five types defined by Harrisse may be said to indicate a geographical
evolution, the phases of which were apparently as follows:
1. A map with Cuba exhibited in an insular form, according to the first
statements of Columbus himself, and without any continental region situate
west of that island.
2. A map with Cuba (called Ilha yssabella) represented together with
a western continent
close to it, but the latter extending southward only to about our 20°
30' north latitude.
3. A map resembling the preceding, but with its northeastern coast prolonged
through a gulf, about five degrees southwardly.
4. A map prolonging that coast still further towards the south by about
5. A map with a continuous coast line, connecting definitely both sections
of the American continent.
This evolution found its last term when the Lusitanian nomenclature, which
is inscribed on that continental region, was blended with configurations
borrowed from the Sevillan Hydrography, upon the latter appearing directly
for the first time in Central Europe.
In the succeeding two years, two of the Portuguese maps in the so-called
Kunstmann Series, one of them by Pedro Reinel show the Newfoundland area
with full indication of Portuguese sovereignty and occupancy.
All of these were manuscript maps of limited circulation, but in 1506 appeared
in Florence, engraved by Francesco Roselli, a world map (Slide
#311) on a conical projection constructed by Giovanni Matteo Contarini.
In this production the Newfoundland-Labrador area is shown with the specific
label: Hanc terram invenere naute Lusitanor[um] Regis.
The maps of the first type have exercised little or no influence on the
contemporary cartographers of Central Europe. What Harrisse calls the Lusitano-Germanic
cartography begins only with the introduction of mappamundi which
belonged to the second type. We possess but one specimen of this type. It
is the planisphere known as the Cantino Chart, and Cantino Planisphere.
Again it is the earliest map known where the northwestern continental land
is depicted; and, as it constitutes the starting-point of Harrisse's comments
on the Lusitano-Germanic cartography, it is necessary at the outset to recall
its georaphical bearing and nomenclature.
Again, the Cantino planisphere exhibits no scale of latitudes. All the other
maps have such a scale; unfortunately, it can be of no service in this analysis.
For instance, in reality the northwestern coast of Cuba is by 23° 11'
north latitude. In Cantino it is by 38° 30'; in King, by 37°; in
Schöner, by 31°; and in Waldseemüller, by 37° 30'. But,
as there can be no doubt as to the intention of the makers of all those
maps to represent Cuba (under the name of Ilha yssabella ), and as
we know the exact latitude of that island, we will adopt its most northern
cape, as fixed in modern charts (23° 11'), for a sort of meridian and
touchstone to establish the relative position of all lands and islands in
that part of the Lusitano-Germanic maps and globes.
By comparing together the configurations of that northwestern continental
land in the maps which represent what we call Types II, III, IV, and V,
the reader will notice and bear in mind that in Cantino (Type II), the said
region ends at the south with a sort of peninsula trending eastward. In
Ruysch (Type III), the peninsula constitutes the northern shore of a semi-circular
gulf, followed by about three degrees of southern coast. In Canerio (Type
IV), that southern coast, after exhibiting likewise the semi-circular gulf,
continues still further, and shows lower down, close to the shore, two large
islands, one lozenge-like, the other somewhat triangular, both of which
are also to be seen at that place in Waldseemüller and Schöner.
In Stobnicza (Type V), the southern coast continues unbroken until it meets
the northern borders of South America. This, however, is only an hypothesis
which other facts tend to repel. For instance, there are, both in Ruysch
and Canerio, geographical representations and names showing that their prototypes
differed in important respects from Cantino. The northwestern continental
land in Ruysch is also far less complete than we find it depicted in Canerio;
and it is certain, from its shape and position, that if Ruysch's prototype
had presented a coast line extending, for instance, so far south as our
10° north latitude, he would not have cut it off ten degrees.
In Wroth's discussion of the northern discoveries as an element in the Verrazzano
story, he states that the Cantino and Caveri maps take a place of great
significance for many reasons, good and bad. One of their common features
is their location of Newfoundland as an island, says Harrisse, "cast
far away into the sea" to the east or northeast of that American continental
landmass which they admirably portrayed. In another discussion of its character
Harrisse affirms his belief, now generally accepted, that Cantino did not
intend to represent this Newfoundland-Labrador landmass as an island, but
as the known eastern extension of a supposed continental land not definitely
located. Not all contemporaries of Cantino interpreted his meaning in this
way. The Newfoundland-Labrador land is shown unmistakably as an island in
the maps of the Lusitano-Germanic Group. It has been generally, though not
universally, agreed that political reasons lay behind the placing of the
island on both the Cantino and Caveri maps in the Portuguese sphere just
beyond, in the eastward sense, the Line of Demarcation established in 1494
by the Treaty of Tordesillas. This eastward location of the island is even
more strongly emphasized, it may be observed, in the celebrated King-Hamy-Huntington
chart, an anonymous Italian production of a date slightly later than that
of the map of Caveri.
A significant point to be kept in mind in the discussion of the maps of
Cantino and Caveri and their chief derivative, the Waldseemüller world
map of 1507 (Slide #312), is that, whether or not
they regarded Newfoundland as an island, they showed Verrazzano and his
contemporaries no connection of solid land between Newfoundland and the
Florida landmass portrayed on them. On the contrary, the maps of this group
display between Florida and Newfoundland a large area of open water, offering
unimpeded passage to an explorer seeking a route to the China coast. The
maps of the Lusitano-Germanic groups of the next twenty years or more, manuscript
and printed, pictured this relationship one to another of the Newfoundland
and Florida areas.
It is to be observed as a matter of special interest that the makers of
both the Cantino and Caveri maps intended to convey the belief that the
two continents of North and South America formed a grand division of the
earth separated from both Europe and Asia and lying between the two. This
belief is graphically portrayed in the Caveri map where open water borders
the western shore of the North American continent. The conclusion in the
case of the Cantino map must be arrived at by consideration of the fact
that it shows only 257° of the 360° of the earth's surface and that
its eastern coast of Asia is shown as bordering on open water. By having
the western coast of his North American continent coincide with the western
edge of the map, he left indefinite the length of its westward extension,
but it seems reasonable to believe that the missing 103° of his design
comprised not only westward-extending land but beyond it water of the same
ocean that washed the eastern shore of Asia.
In the has Antilhas [Antilles], which appear here for the first time
by this name (previously called the Indies, later to be known as the West
Indies), the statement appears that "these are the West Indies of the
King of Castille, discovered by Columbus... Admiral of these islands...
at the command of the most high and mighty King don Fernando...."
Taking, as a model, an outline of this section of the map, that characteristic
configuration, in its earliest known form, is as follows:
· Area A is the continental land which emerges from the northwestern
extremity of the map, and trends eastwards.
· Area B represents its peninsula, with one of the names which serve
to identify the relative positions in Lusitano-Germanic maps and globes.
· Area C is the west end of the island of Cuba, here called, as in
all that class of maps, Ilha yssabella.
If we are seeing Cuba (C) and Florida (B), no one knows from whom this information
came, as Florida was not formally discovered until 1513. There is speculation
that an early Amerigo Vespucci voyage may have been the source, or that
an unknown Portuguese pilot could have unofficially sailed through Spanish
waters before 1500 and coasted Florida. The islands at the southern extremity
strongly indicate a knowledge of the Florida keys and Tortugas; the general
peninsula-like shape of the landmass at the southern extremity of most of
the maps of this type or group and the general northerly direction of the
Atlantic coast (the Florida coast actually trends northwest, not northeast;
Savanah, Georgia is almost a degree west of Miami) support the belief that
the landmass represents the southeast part of the American continent.
Northwest of Ilha yssabella a coastline is laid down marked Parte
de Assia and bearing names from Columbus' first two voyages. This area,
which is incomplete and partially off the map, perhaps is the greatest unsolved
cartographic puzzle of the period. Although yssabella strongly resembles
Cuba, and the peninsula to the northwest could be Florida, there are several
theories to the contrary. One is that the anonymous Portuguese mapmaker
confused Spanish reports of the configuration of the newly discovered islands
and duplicated Cuba; first as the island but also as the incompletely explored
area to the northwest. Another interpretation considers yssabella
to be Cuba but regards the peninsula as the Asian mainland Columbus and
Cabot believed they had reached.
Lawrence Wroth and other historians of New World discoveries believe that
both Cuba and Florida were depicted, and that Cantino's chart was the prototype
for the important maps of the Lusitano-Germanic series. These delineations,
such as the Waldsemüller wall map (Slide
#312), did much to illuminate the New World for Europeans.
The Brazilian coast is decorated with Portuguese flags, beautiful parrots
and trees and announcements of the landing in April 1500 by the Portuguese,
Pedro Alvares Cabral. There is no reference to the arrival on the north
part of the coast in 1499 of Vicente Pinzon, Columbus' early partner. Again,
prominently shown is the Line of Demarcation of the Treaty of Tordesillas,
signed by Spain and Portugal in June 1494. This, and the map of Juan de
la Cosa (Slide #308) , are the oldest surviving maps
to bear this historic line. A meridian was drawn some 960 nautical miles
west of the Cape Verde Islands that divided the entire world in two for
the purpose of European overseas expansion. Spain was given the portion
west of this line in the Atlantic and Portugal the east. Consequently, although
Spain claimed most of America, the Portuguese controlled the East Indies
and Brazil. The chart is clearly the work of a Portuguese cartographer;
at a later period apparently some amendment has been made to the Brazilian
portion, and half a dozen Italianized names written in.
The African continent is shown for the first time with something closely
approaching its correct outline: on the east coast the names of Soffala,
Mozambique, Kilwa, and Melinde occur, and the island of Madagascar
is inserted but not named. This area of the plansphere shows Africa and
the Indian Ocean as known to the Portuguese after the voyages of Vasco da
Gama (1497-99) and Cabral (1500-01) and later discoveries reported in Lisbon
as recently as September 1502. At the extreme left is the fort of São
Jorge da Mina on the African Gold Coast; crosses further south mark padrões
set up by earlier expeditions. Portuguese flages on the east coast of Africa
denote the ports touched at by da Gama and Cabral. Comparisons with the
more Ptolemaic outlines of the Martellus map (Slide
#256) shows a striking improvement in the delineation of Africa and
India. South Africa no longer curves to the east; the peninsular form of
India is now suggested, with Sri Lanka/Ceylon reduced to more true proportions
and relative position. Madagascar, discovered by Western Europe in 1500,
is shown for the first time. Two scales of degrees are given.
The Indian sub-continent is drawn as a sharply tapering triangle, on the
western coast of which are names, (e.g., Cambaya, Calecut ) and legends
detailing the wealth of these parts, which were drawn from accounts of Vasco
da Gama's voyage. These appear to mark the limit of first-hand knowledge;
beyond, the outline must have been inserted largely by second-hand report.
That this was obtained from native seamen is probable from the circumstance
that the term pulgada is used in place of a degree; it equalled about 1°
42' 50". The places whose latitudes are given thus are inserted only
approximately in their correct positions. East of India is a large gulf
and then a southward-stretching peninsula, a relic of the coasts which Ptolemy
believed to enclose the Indian Ocean. Near its extremity occurs the name
Malaqua and off it the large island of Taporbana [Sumatra]. The eastern
coast of Asia runs away to the northeast, almost featureless but with a
number of names, mostly unidentifiable, on the coast and indications of
shoals off shore. Recognizable names are Bar Singapur [Singapore]
and China cochin.
The main feature to be noted with regard to Asia is the almost complete
abandonment of Ptolemy's conception of the southern coasts, and the great
reduction in the longitudinal extent of the continent. The southeastern
coastline of Asia is shown as Iying approximately 160° east of the line
of demarcation, a figure very close to the truth.
The so-called King-Hamy chart, also dated 1502, is interesting as
showing the Ptolemaic conceptions of Asia in the process of being fitted
to the new discoveries in the west. This chart has many features of the
Ptolemy world map in southeast Asia, where Malacha and Cattigara
appear together, but the point of importance is that the longitudinal
extent eastwards from the demarcation line to the southeast Asian coast
is still approximately 220 to 230 degrees.
The Cantino chart, therefore, demonstrates clearly that Portuguese cosmographers
had entirely abandoned the Alexandrian's figures, and were already aware
that the Spanish discoveries in the west, far from neighboring on Cipangu
and the Asian mainland, were separated from them by an interval of almost
half the circumference of the globe. The chart might even be said to predict
the existence of the Pacific Ocean. The fact that the cartographer has a
legend on the discoveries in the northeast American shores stating that
they were thought to be part of Asia does not controvert this. For the Portuguese,
theoretical and practical considerations happily coincided in this instance;
when the question of sovereignty over the Moluccas arose, it was to their
interest to reduce the longitudinal extent of Asia in order to bring the
coveted islands within their sphere.
LOCATION: Biblioteca Estense, Modena, Italy
*Bagrow, Leo,The History of Cartography, p.104.
Cortesão, A., The History of Portuguese Cartography
Crone, G.R., Maps and their Makers, pp. 86-88.
Cumming, W.P., The Southeast in Early Maps, p. 65.
*Fernandez-Armesto, F., Atlas of World Exploration, pp. 49, 77, F, D (color)
Fisk, J., The Discovery of North America, pp. 235-236.
*Goss, J., The Mapmaker's Art, p. 64, Plate 3.8 (color).
*Harrisse, H., The Discovery of North America, pp. 294-297, 422.
*Harrisse, H., Les Carte-Real et leurs voyages au Nouveau Monde, Paris,
*Humble, R., The Explorers, pp. 14-15 (color).
*Nebenzahl, K., Atlas of Columbus, pp. 34-37, Plate 11 (color).
Nordenskiöld, A.E., Periplus, pp. 149-150.
*Skelton, R.A., Explorers' Maps
*Winsor, J., Narrative and Critical; History of America, vol. II, pp. 107-109,
Wroth, L.C., Early Cartography of the Pacific, p. 44.
*Wroth, L.C., The Voyages of Giovanni da Verrazzano, p. 44, no. 2.