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The world as viewed by cartography after the voyage of circumnavigation

Royal Geographical Society

The voyage of circumnavigation around the world by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano was a new feat sponsored by the Spanish crown that would make it possible to gain a more extensive knowledge of the Earth. With this, it is confirmed that the Earth is round, something which the first globes had begun to reflect (Martín Behaimi 1492 and the Nüremberg school). Other measurements madeare those related to the unexplored Pacific Ocean. Some later maps indicate that they have been updated with a drawing of the ships symbolising the voyage of circumnavigation, such as Abraham Ortelius’s Maris Pacifici, 1589. Additionally, new place names are added to the maps. ‘From the year 1522, and after Elcano’s return, the only signed map left to us is by García de Toreno, dated in Valladolid. It is the first Spanish map which shows the Philippine Islands and there has been a great deal of debate as to whether it is complete or not, because it lacks any representation of the New Continent’ (A. Palladini Cuadrado).ii It incorporates all known information about Southeast Asia, following the return of Elcano.

‘Of the king’s senior cosmographers, who produced their work in proximity to the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) in Seville … in addition to the abovementioned Nuño García de Toreno, also noteworthy is Diego Ribera, Portuguese, who in 1529 produced the Carta Universal, the first map to show the entire world which Juan Sebastián Elcano had circled (including the Strait of Magellan and the correct location of America), a work of completely modern appearance (which is considered an accurate reflection of the original Padrón Real (master map), with great detail along the coasts, in the style of a portolan chart). Diego Gutiérrez produced a notable map of the Atlantic (including an allegory of the ship Victoria). Alonso de Santa Cruz, of whom two maps have been preserved down to today, especially an islario, a geographic work with all the islands in the world, including an illustrated atlas’ (F. Vázquez Maure).iii It is made up of 111 maps of islands and is done on paper, rather than parchment, and focuses more on geography than inconsequential matters, as previous maps had done. On it the entire American coast of the Pacific now appears represented, from the Strait of Magellan to the peninsula of California, whose southern end is shown as an island.He begins it during the reign of Charles V, and completes it during theage of Philip II, to whom he dedicates it (between approximately 1539and 1560). Part of his knowledges comes from his involvement in the expedition of Sebastian Cabot (1526–1530), who upon his return, also published a mappa mundi (1544).

Few Padrones Reales (master maps) have been preserved. Noteworthy among them are the planispheres of Castiglioni and Salvati, which were imperial gifts to the person whose name the planisphere has taken. ‘The main quality of these maps is that they owe nothing to the imagination of their creators, as nothing was represented on them but the coasts for which there existed directly surveyed nautical charts, while the outlines not yet surveyed are left blank. This accuracy can be seen in the correct latitude location of theAntilles, in the proper notation of the outline of the Indochinese Peninsula and the Greater Sunda Islands. Comparing these maps with earlier planispheres, such as the Martellus or the Waldseemüller, the vast differences separating them are patently obvious’ (op. cit. A. Palladini Cuadrado).

‘The main concern of the cartographers was the problem of finding a route that maintains the same course. The Portuguese Pedro Nunes adopted a sensible solution in 1534, when he found the natural spiral of the curve of a bearing, which was later called a rhumb line or loxodrome,iv in the form of a straight line, with which theorists such as Pedro de Medina and Martín Cortés were concerned, and which gave Alonso de Santa Cruz the idea of maps in the shape of a spindle,which were virtually useless. It was necessary to wait until Mercator published his ingenious map in 1569’ (F. Vázquez Maure).v ‘Pedro Medina and Martín Cortés were highly renowned cosmographers. The first left us the work Compendio de Cosmografía, and the second, Breue compendio de la sphera y de la arte de nauegar con nueuos instrumentos y reglas : exemplificado con muy subtiles demonstraciones …England and France were inspired by these works’(A. Sánchez Martínez).vi

Other cartographic works that reflect the outcome of the first documented circumnavigation of the Earth are the oval-shaped map 10, attributed to Battista Agnese (1514–1564), incorporated into the portolan chart and containing a line marking the route of the circumnavigation; and the mappa mundi (1523) produced by Americo Vespucci within the framework of Casa de Contratación (House of
Trade) in Seville, in which the Strait of Magellan now appears mapped,although the name is not specified.

i There is a free app that makes it possible to navigate the globe. Available at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.kde.marble.behaim
ii Cf. p. 87, Ángel Palladini Cuadrado (1992), La Cartografía de los Descubrimientos, Boletín de la Real Sociedad Geográfica CXXVIII, pp.61–92.
iii Cf. p. 145, Francisco Vázquez Maure (1982), Cartografía española del s. XVI, VII Conferencia Internacional de Cartografía 1977. Boletín de la Real Sociedad Geográfica CXVIII, pp.141–149.
iv Loxodromes, or rhumb lines, are lines that cross all meridians following a constant angle.
v Cf. p. 143, Francisco Vázquez Maure (1982), Cartografía española del s. XVI, VII Conferencia Internacional de Cartografía 1977. Boletín de la Real Sociedad Geográfica CXVIII, pp.141–149.
vi Cf. pp. 171 and 184, Antonio Sánchez Martínez (2010), Cartografía en lengua romance: Las cartas de marear en los regimientos y manuales españoles sobre el arte y la ciencia de navegar, Boletín de la Real Sociedad Geográfica CXLVI, pp. 161–187.