Online Catalogue of Portolan Charts

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Online Catalogue of Portolan Charts

The Hispanic Society of America

Portolan charts, manuscript sailing charts illustrating the harbors and trade routes of the Mediterranean, were an early cartographic form which emerged from Spain and Italy in the thirteenth century. The Hispanic Society’s collection of over forty portolan charts and atlases, dating from the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries, is one of the finest in the Americas. The earliest portolan chart in the collection, drawn by Jacobus de Giroldis in 1447 at Venice, typifies late medieval cartography in its delineation of the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Other fifteenth-century portolans of the Mediterranean include Petrus Roselli’s chart dated 1468 at Majorca and Nicolaus de Nicolo’s map of 1470 of the eastern Mediterranean, the sole extant work by this cartographer.  The most famous charts in the collection date from the Age of Exploration, such as the renowned map of the world created by in Seville in 1526 by Juan Vespucci, nephew of Amerigo. Important charts of the New World also are found in an 1550 atlas by Battista Agnese; an 1567 atlas signed by Hieronymus Girava, the only known cartographic manuscript by this native of Tarragona; and an atlas circa 1585 which includes one of the earliest depictions of the silver mines of Potosí. Later works include two atlases of coastal charts of Brazil, dated 1670 and 1675, by João Teixeira Albernaz II. The Hispanic Society’s collection also includes a map of northern New Spain (modern-day northern Mexico and the United States west of the Mississippi), drawn by Francisco Alvarez Barreiro in 1728.

The online catalogue will include a full description of each chart, accompanied by color images. This will enable users to compare the Society’s holdings with similar collections held by, for example, the Library of Congress, the Newberry Library, and the Beinecke Library.

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