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Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

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Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution

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The end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of European expansion beyond the confines of the continent were processes based on the vast knowledge accumulated since Antiquity. Part of the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman knowledge was lost at the beginning of the Middle Ages, but cosmography was partially preserved both in the monasteries and by the Islamic civilization. In fact, it also united the East with the West and made its own contributions to geography and, above all, astronomy. The role of Al-Andalus and its heir states, both Muslim and Christian, was decisive. The translation activity in the different Christian Iberian kingdoms, in which the so-called Schools of Translators of Toledo in the Castile of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries stood out, was extraordinarily active. It was heir to a rich intellectual life and the result of both local and European administrative needs. The Alfonsine Tables, which provided ephemerides for different celestial events, were key in European astronomy and, despite the accumulation of errors over time, were not surpassed until the Contemporary Age. The European expansion towards new geographical horizons began in the fourteenth century, with the discoveries led by Portuguese sailors in the Atlantic islands, seconded by those of other Iberian kingdoms, the French and several city states of the Italian peninsula. Castile disputed with Portugal for supremacy until the signing of several treaties that resulted in the division of the world, including the unknown seas and lands. Ptolemy’s Geography, reintroduced in the West during this competition, was used as a model to incorporate the new discoveries. The southward expansion also propelled the incorporation of the new southern constellations to the celestial globes.

Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana

Por mares nunca de antes navegados

Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,

“That from the Western Lusitanian beachThrough seas never before sailedPassed even beyond the Taprobana”.Luis Vaz de Camões, Os Lusiadas.

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  1. 1.

    Cosmas Indicopleustes, meaning “Indian traveller”, was a Greek seafarer who would have reached India and Ceylon in the sixth century CE.

  2. 2.

    “The natives of India steer their vessels for the most part by the stars of the southern hemisphere, as they rarely see those of the north. They are not acquainted with the use of the compass, but measure their courses and the distances of places by the elevation and depression of the pole.” (Winter Jones et al. (eds.) 1963, p. 31; Lester 2009, pp. 198–201).

  3. 3.

    Ailly, Ymago Mundi, Edmond Buron (ed.), Maisonneuve Fréres, Paris,1930, I.196, quoted in Lester (2009, pp. 174–176).

  4. 4.

    The first part of verse 795 and the second part of verse 796 are missing. The text refers to the invisible stars from the boreal hemisphere and the band of the tropics (Lester 2009, p. 113).

  5. 5.

    An interesting analysis of the knowledge of the oceanic islands, in particular the Canary Islands, can be found in García García (2007, pp. 19–41), in particular note 14.

  6. 6.

    The compass may have been invented independently in Europe and China (Lester 2009, p. 92).

  7. 7.

    Rogers (1955, pp. 31–45). In clear contradiction with this account is the statement made by the poet Francesco Petrarca, in his work De vita solitaria, when he states that his parents had a memory of the arrival in the Fortunate Islands of an armada of Genoese, which could well be that of the Vivaldi (book II, trat. 6, chap. 3).

  8. 8.

    According to Mederos Martín and Escribano Cobo (2002, p. 59), to the south of Cape Juby, the lack of SW winds that allowed the ships to return northwards would justify the fact that the Vivaldi brothers’ expedition, once they had passed this cape, could not return.

  9. 9.

    The treaties of Ayllón in 1411, Alcáçovas in 1479, Tordesillas in 1494 and Saragossa in 1529.

  10. 10.

    The exact date of the arrival of Malocello to the easternmost of the Canary Islands is unknown (Tejera Gaspar 2012, pp. 7–8).

  11. 11.

    According to Rosselló i Verger (2001, pp. 61–62), not Dulcert or Dalorto.

  12. 12.

    This bull authorized the capture of Muslims and pagans for sale as slaves, as well as the destruction of paganism, which would later be used as justification in subsequent conquests.

  13. 13.

    Libro del conosçimiento de todos los reynos et tierras et señoríos que son por el mundo et de las señales et armas que han cada tierra et señorío por sí y de os reyes et señores que los proueen, written by a Spanish Franciscan in the middle of the fourteenth century. Facsimile edition of manuscript Z (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. hisp.150), under the care of María Jesús Lacarra, Lacarra Ducay and Montaner, 1999. Spanish translated version in Jiménez de la Espada (ed.), 1877.

  14. 14.

    Bartolomeu Perestrelo, Christopher Columbus’ father-in-law, received a donation in Porto Santo in 1446. It was therefore one of the admiral’s many Atlantic connections (Russell 2000, pp. 85, 88, 89 and 96). Incidentally, the colonizing process caused some ecological disaster (neither the first nor the last), due to the release of rabbits in Porto Santo, which, not having natural predators on the island, devastated it. A classic on the interaction between expansion policies and ecology is the text by J. Diamond (1999).

  15. 15.

    Henrique in Portuguese, which is the spelling that will be followed. In any case, the oceanic navigation of the Polynesians, who expanded over a large part of the Pacific Ocean, can be catalogued as even more extraordinary, since both vessels and techniques were much simpler, and the crossings between islands much longer.

  16. 16.

    The North African city of Ceuta, in the hands of the Sultanate of Fez, under the dynasty of the Benimerines or Marinids (1244–1465), successors of the Almohad Empire, was an important port of departure of African gold produced in the mines of equatorial Africa, whose true location was unknown. Gold was necessary to pay the imports of products brought by the Genoese from the East. In fact, approximately two thirds of the gold imported each year by Europe came from Africa and arrived via the trans-Saharan caravans (Russell 2000, pp. 37 and 118).

  17. 17.

    Gaudeamus et exultamos”, formulated by Benedict XII in 1341; “Dudum cum ad nos” and “Rex Regnum”, both published by Eugene IV in 1436; “Dum diversas” and “Romanus Pontifex”, of 1452 and 1455, sanctioned by Nicholas V. Opposed to them are “Creator Omnium” and “Sicut Dudum”, of 1434 and 1435, by Eugene IV.

  18. 18.

    In fact, Lester (2009, p. 194) concludes that the Portuguese push southwards was animated by the need to find lands in which to enslave new victims, as different populations became more suspicious.

  19. 19.

    In the works Asinaria and Leviathan, respectively.

  20. 20.

    However, Luis de Albuquerque (1983, cited in Garnier Morga 2018, p. 73, note 196) and even Russell (2000, p. 7) define it as fiction.

  21. 21.

    Diogo Gomes visited Guinea and used a marine quadrant, described for the first time in Reportório dos Tempos, translated and published by the printer Valentim Fernandes de Moravia, in Lisbon in 1518, although the oldest printed navigational work is the Regimiento do astrolabio o do quadrante, anonymous (Garnier Morga 2018, p. 80; Selles 1994, p. 75).

  22. 22.

    Crone (ed. and trans., 1937, p. 101); quoted in Lester (2009, pp. 243–247, 253). Christopher Columbus would later write that Dias had used an astrolabe to determine that the Cape of Good Hope was at a latitude of 45 degrees south (the same value used by Henricus Martellus in his maps).

  23. 23.

    They appeared in Portugal and were characterized by a single deck and by their lateen sails. At the end of the century they began to build round caravels, with square sails, to optimize the constant winds. These are Castilian, with a forecastle (Russell 2000, pp. 61, 227, 229).

  24. 24.

    Gomes Eannes de Azurara (1841, p. 51). However, there is evidence that already in 1402 there were routine raids on those coasts (Lester 2009, pp. 186–188).

  25. 25.

    Cadamosto, Navegazioni, 1937, 61, n. I. Quoted in Russell (2000, pp. 110, 125, 127, 201, 235, 295).

  26. 26.

    Reis, “Gago Coutinho (1869–1959)”, Centro Virtual, <>, [accessed: 26 June 2021].

  27. 27.

    On July 8, 1497 Vasco da Gama set sail for India, circumnavigating Africa. He arrived in Calcutta, the port where Pero da Covilhá had been a decade earlier (Lester 2009, p. 296; Carabias Torres 2012, p. 101).

  28. 28.

    Martellus also drew a wall map (ca. 1491–1492), now at Yale University, with information updated to that time and covering 270 degrees. In it, Eurasia occupies 230 degrees, instead of the actual 130 degrees (Lester 2009, pp. 222, 229).

  29. 29.

    With this agreement, the expansion of Andalusian fishing boats towards the Guinean fishing grounds came to an end, but the way to other waters remained open (Gil Fernández 2013, pp. 37–53).

  30. 30.

    The first sighting was made during the second Portuguese expedition to India. Cabral named the newly discovered land as Ilha de Vera Cruz. The news of the discovery and the taking of possession in the name of the king of Portugal, being convinced of being on the east side of the demarcation line, was carried by Gaspar de Lemos or André Gonçalves in a provisioning ship (Bueno 1998).

  31. 31.

    According to Bartolomé de la Casas, there was an exchange of correspondence between Columbus and Toscanelli, but possibly it was not real and Columbus himself would forge the missives to give credibility to his trip, although it is likely that Columbus saw the original letter from Toscanelli to Martins, which would include the famous map made by the former, since a copy of it with Columbus’ handwriting has survived (Vignaud 1902).

  32. 32.

    Both the Kangnido map, a fifteenth century copy of a Chinese original from 1402, and that of Albertino de Virga (ca. 1411–1415) make it clear that part of the African profile was known before the Portuguese explorations, possibly incorporating information provided by Chinese and Muslim traders (Lester 2009, pp. 207, 226–227).

  33. 33.

    In the specific case of the evolution of thought, see the classic text of Duhem (1913–1959). Also Artz (1980, p. 269); Bala (2006); Fletcher (1992, p. 153); Haskins (1957, p. 302); Cloud (2007, pp. 337–342).

  34. 34.

    Pasnau (1997); Arnold and Guillaume (eds.) (1931); Dawson (1937); Cobb (1963); Cloud (2007, p. 301).

  35. 35.

    Biblioteque Nationale, Département de Chartes et plans, manuscript B 1131.

  36. 36.

    Also Mestres de mapamundis (Rosselló and Vergel 2011, p. 57).

  37. 37.

    A consecrated humanist and active participant in the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence (1431–1445) for the union of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini was elected Pope under the name of Pius II and his pontificate lasted from 1458 to 1464. He wrote his own biography during his reign and copious erotic poetry before being elevated to the papal dignity. He also wrote a novel on the same theme, Historia de duobus amantibus (A Tale of Two Lovers), which is still widely read today. Before the papacy he was prince-bishop of Emerland/Warmia (1457–1458), in the Baltic. As a curiosity, Lucas Watzenrode, uncle and protector of Nicolaus Copernicus and who financed his studies in Italian universities, held the same position between 1489 and 1512.

  38. 38.

    Vignaud (1902); Lester (2009, p. 241).

  39. 39.

    However, despite both residing in Portugal, according to Porro Gutiérrez (2004b, p. 97), neither Columbus nor Behaim would have been aware of the other’s plans. Although this ignorance is possible, it seems implausible, given that Columbus resided for a good number of years in Portugal and his project was discussed in several European courts.

  40. 40.

    Quoted in Gil Fernández (2013, pp. 37–53).

  41. 41.

    Martín Alonso Pinzón returned with the Pinta without Columbus’ permission to Europe and arrived at the end of February in Bayona, Galicia. Columbus suffered several storms, was detained in the Azores, arrived in Lisbon in March, where he reported his discoveries to King João II, and finally reached the court of the Spanish queen and king in Barcelona in April 1493.

  42. 42.

    In fact, by the end of 1494 there were already official journeys commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs to investigate the situation in the new colony of Hispaniola (Lester 2009, p. 290).

  43. 43.

    In 1937 Roberto Ridolfi discovered a fragment of a letter of Vespucci, written in Tuscan dialect and perhaps addressed to his uncle Giorgio Antonio or to the geographer Zenobio Acciaiuli. It states that he was 150 degrees east of Alexandria and that he made three voyages: two to the west (in the Caribbean?) and one to the South Atlantic. In this fragment Vespucci makes a defense of the discoveries made on his first three voyages. Although it is not dated, it would be therefore later than 1502. It contains some contradictions with the letter of 1500.

  44. 44.

    Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi. Published in English in 1916 as Letter to Piero Soderini, gonfaloniere. The year 1504. Piero Soderini reached the highest dignity in Florence until the return from exile of the Medici family, expelled from the city during the revolution of Girolamo Savonarola, which would have such disastrous consequences for the cultural heritage of the city and therefore of humanity.

  45. 45.

    Despite this, Vespucci sold cartographic secrets until he was discovered in 1510, although he was not punished for it (Lester 2009, p. 349).

  46. 46.

    The papal bulls defined a limit of 100 leagues, a value that could have been proposed by Christopher Columbus, when he understood that the conditions beyond were very different: milder climate, the algae of the Sargasso Sea, the differences in the magnetic declination (Lester 2009, p. 281). During the negotiation between Portugal and Castille in 1493, the importance of the nautical charts became clear, since the Spanish kings asked for a map showing the location of their discoveries on the first voyage. Although it has not come down to us, the description of it is found in a chart of 1494. It specifies the equivalence between the degree and the distance, 56 miles and 2/3 (Griffin (ed. and translation) 1999; cited in Lester 2009, pp. 282–283).

  47. 47.

  48. 48.

    After more than 500 years, the demarcation line between Portugal and Spain is still valid. It is the separation between the Australian states of Western and South Australia (Collingridge 1906).

  49. 49.

    Pigafetta, Primo viaggio intorno al Globo, 1524. Quoted in Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw, (2013, pp. 125–187). The voyage of Magellan-Elcano is very well documented through original sources, since there are six chronicles written by crew members, as well as notarial texts and Iberian treatises of the time.

  50. 50.

    The expression was coined by the historian Pierre Chaunu (1960, 301 pp).

  51. 51.

    O’Connor and Robertson, “Oronce Fine”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015].

  52. 52.

    Whose latinized name was Petrus Nonius. In Spain and in numerous editions of his books he appears as Pedro Núñez.

  53. 53.

    Formal recognition of Portugal’s independence only came in 1668, with the Peace of Lisbon.

  54. 54.

    However, it must be borne in mind that it is more than likely that numerous voyages were made prior to 1530 that were not approved by the crown and that have left no records, since before this date it seems that the east and west coasts had already been mapped. See Collingridge (1906).

  55. 55.

    A summary can be found in Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw (2013, pp. 125–187).

  56. 56.

    The difficulties of navigation in the Pacific were quickly revealed. It was not only the extraordinary distances to be covered or the problem of longitude (the inability to know the position in the east-west direction). The wind regime in the vicinity of the equator in a band between 500 and 1000 kilometres gives rise to prolonged calms and light winds due to minimum atmospheric pressures. These are the areas called doldrums. A similar area is found in the middle latitudes, under the cover of subtropical anticyclones, such as the Azores, where an area of these characteristics is known as “horse latitudes” because the sailing ships, at the time of the discoveries, were practically stopped in these areas and the sailors had to lighten the load of the ship to continue sailing, and therefore threw the horses they were carrying overboard. However, the seasonality of the trade winds, once their regularity was recognized, helped the Manila Galleon’s transit on its voyage from Acapulco. The voyage only became possible after the discovery of the northeasterly Kuro-Shivo current, much further north, which also takes advantage of the prevailing westerly winds (Bernabéu Albert 2013, pp. 23–33; de Grijs 2017).

  57. 57.

    The rescue mission sent from New Spain was triggered by the arrival of a small ship from Loaysa’s fleet, which, having lost its way, sailed along the west coast of the continent until it reached the eastern coasts of Mexico for the first time. The vessel, a small patache, was under the command of Santiago de Guevara, and was the first to pass the Peruvian coast, a few years before Francisco de Pizarro’s conquest (Collingridge 1906).

  58. 58.

    Discovered by the Portuguese Jorge de Meneses in 1526 (Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw 2013).

  59. 59.

    Also written as Yñigo Ortiz de Retez.

  60. 60.

    The presence of Japanese and Chinese traders in the Philippine archipelago became so important that it created law and order problems. In any case, cultural exchange was facilitated and the first Chinese book was translated into a Western language. It is Beng Sim Po Cam, a collection of sentences from Chinese classics (Folch Fornesa 2013, pp. 191–241).

  61. 61.

    After this voyage he was ordered to hunt down the English sailor Francis Drake, who was on the western coasts of South America (depending on the point of view, committing outrages as a pirate or on a heroic mission). He was ennobled by Queen Elizabeth I after sailing around the world between 1577 and 1580, a voyage in which he captured a huge amount of gold and silver. Sarmiento became cosmographer of Peru and explored the region of the Strait of Magellan, whose longitude he determined with an instrument of his invention.

  62. 62.

    In chronological order: Magellan-Elcano (1519–1522), Garcia Jofre de Loaysa –the return by Andrés de Urdaneta– (1525–1536), Francis Drake (1577–1580), Thomas Cavendish (1586–1588), Simon de Cordes (1598–1601), Oliver Van Noort (1598–1601), George Spilberg (1614–1617), James LeMaire and William Cornelius Schouten (1615–1617), Jacob L’Hermite and John Hugo Schapenham (1623–1626), Henry Brouwer (1641–1643), Cowley (1683–1686), William Dampier (1679–1691), Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Carreri (1693–1698), Beauchesne Gouin (1699?), William Dampier (1703–1707), Woodes Rogers (1708–1711), Gentil de la Barbinais (1714 –??), Clipperton and Shelvocke (1719–1721), Roggewein (1721–1723), George Anson (1740–1744), John Byron (1764–1766), Samuel Wallis and Philip Carteret (1766–1768), Louis de Bougainville (1766–1769). Clearly, Cook had many antecedents. Although numerous sailors from the Spanish expeditions described above, in many cases anonymous, completed the circumnavigation of the world, aboard different ships, before Drake.

  63. 63.

    It represents a very clear exposition against Caesaropapism. The missive reads as follows: “There are, indeed, most august emperor, two powers by which this world is particularly governed: the sacred authority of the popes and the royal power. Of these, the priestly power is all the more important because it has to give an account of the very kings of men before the divine tribunal. For you must know, most gracious son, that, although you have the first place in dignity over the human race, yet you must faithfully submit yourself to those who have charge of divine things, and look to them for the means of your salvation. You know that it is your duty, in what pertains to the reception and reverent administration of the sacraments, to obey ecclesiastical authority rather than to dominate it. In such matters, therefore, you must depend on ecclesiastical judgment rather than try to bend it to your own will. For if in matters touching the administration of public discipline, the bishops of the church, knowing that the empire has been given to you by divine disposition, obey your laws so that there may not appear to be contrary opinions in purely material matters, with what diligence, I ask, should you obey those who have received the office of administering the divine mysteries? Just as there is great danger to popes when they do not say what is necessary in that which touches divine honor, so there is no small danger to those who obstinately resist (God forbid) when they have to obey. And if the hearts of the faithful ought generally to submit to all priests, who administer holy things, in an upright manner, how much more ought they to give assent to him who presides over that see, whom the Supreme Divinity himself wished to have supremacy over all priests, and whom the pious judgment of the whole Church has since honored?” Letter of Pope Gelasius I to the Emperor Anastasius I, written in 494 CE. The text comes from Lo Grasso (1952, p. 50).

  64. 64.

    The text reads: “a capitibus de Bojador et de Nam usque per totam Guineam et ultra versus illam meridionalem plagam usque ad Indos” (“From Cape Bojador and Cape Nam to all of Guinea and beyond along the entire southern coast as far as India”). Although it probably refers to the supposed access to Ethiopia that the Portuguese navigators were possibly seeking to gain access to the kingdom of Preste John.

  65. 65.

    Breve Inter caetera”, “Eximiae devotionis”, “Inter caetera II” and “Dudum siquidem”, the first two dated 3rd May, the third the following day and the last on 26 September 1493. Thus, they conceded to Castile “the islands and discovered and undiscovered firm lands to the west and south, which were not constitutionally under the present temporal dominion of Christian lords”.

  66. 66.

    O’Connors and Robertson, “Claudius Ptolemy”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015].

  67. 67.

    Casiodoro, Institutiones Saecularium Litterarum. Las Siete Artes Liberales, 2009, p. 97.

  68. 68.

    The record in the Vatican Library indicates that the manuscript is from the eleventh century:

  69. 69.

    Copyists used to omit figures and maps from manuscripts, not understanding their content (Grant 2006, p. 288).

  70. 70.

    Mintz, “Manuscript Tradition in Ptolemy’s Geography”, 2007, [online], <>, [accessed: 31 August 2017].

  71. 71.

    A facsimile edition of one of the manuscripts of Geographia was published in 1874 by K. F. August. Another facsimile edition, also facsimile, relatively more recent, corresponds to the manuscript Urbinas graecus 82, has been published by J. Fischer and includes 83 maps from different manuscripts. See Fisher (1932), quoted in Heawood (1933). A generic perspective, from which the Agathodemus quotation comes, appears in Nordensjiöld, 1889 [1970], pp. 12–16, quoted in Lisi (1994, pp. 371–377).

  72. 72.

    Bodleian Library, MSS. Arch. Selden. B., [online], <>, [accessed: 31 August 2017].

  73. 73.

  74. 74.

    Van Deukeren, “Ptolemy’s World: index map”, [online], <>, [accessed: 31 August 2017].

  75. 75.

    Justinian I and his generals Flavius Belisarius and Narses carried out a policy of expansion and reoccupation of part of the Western Empire, conquering parts of the Italic peninsula, southwest Iberia and North Africa. However, this conflict, which raged on the Italic peninsula for decades, may have been the real source of the economic ruin and the process of return to a more rural ecconomy. Thus, the war between Byzantines and Ostrogoths destroyed the economy of the peninsula and plunged it into the true Middle Ages. In Byzantium it forced a disastrous increase in taxes. The Lombard invasion of the north of the peninsula ended what the Byzantine-Ostrogoth conflict began: effective de-Romanization by eliminating the Roman administrative and legal system (Cantor 1994, pp. 128–130).

  76. 76.

    “[…] quemuc ad hoc nostrum desiderandum opus supernum quoddam presagium futuri iam iam imperij tui impulit, ut plane hinc cognosceres quam amplissimam potestatem totius orbis mox esses adeptunis, ueniam dabis, pontifex máxime, […]” (Hankins 2003, p. 459). See also Hankins (1992, p. 459); quoted in Lester (2009, p. 156).

  77. 77.

    <> [accessed: 11 November 2018].

  78. 78.

    Nordensjiöld (1889 [1970], pp. 12–16), quoted in Lisi (1994, pp. 371–377). Also in Lester (2009, pp. 343–348). A detailed list can be found in the catalogue started by Henry N. Stevens (1908).

  79. 79.

    Das Narrenschiff, by Sebastian Brant, taken from Crane (2003, p. 10).

  80. 80.

    Pigafetta would partially publish his relation in 1525, in Paris. However, the complete printing of Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo would not take place until 1800.

  81. 81.

    Lester (2009, pp. 307–308). A first description of the map can be found in Vascano (1892).

  82. 82.

  83. 83.

    Giovanni Matteo Contarini published another world map in 1506, in Venice, the first one that went through the printing press with the new discoveries. It was engraved by Francesco Rosselli. The first map of the coasts of the new continent, by Juan de la Cosa, was only kept in its manuscript version and was never made public. In any case, the dissemination of Portuguese cartography was punishable by death, according to the Venetian ambassador in Lisbon in 1501 (Lester 2009, p. 330).

  84. 84.

  85. 85.

    The text could have been written by a Florentine to glorify the supposed deeds of Vespucci and minimize the role of Columbus, possibly of Genoese origin. It describes four hypothetical voyages, of which only two would be real. Although Vespucci was not the author of it, he did not deny it either, despite its public content (Lester 2009, pp. 254–257).

  86. 86.

    Cosmographiae introductio: cum quibusdam geometriae ac astronomiae principiis ad eam rem necessariis: insuper quattuor Americi Vespucij nauigationes: vniuersalis cosmographiae descriptio tam in solido q[uam] plano, eis etiam insertis quae Ptholom[a]eo ignota a nuperis reperta sunt (Introduction to cosmography with some necessary principles of geometry and astronomy. To which are added the four navigations of Amerigo Vespucci. A representation of the whole world, both in solid and in plan, including the lands which were unknown to Ptolemy and have been recently discovered), [online], <>, [accessed: 12 October 2018]. The map, whose full title is Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes (A map of the whole world according to the traditional method of Ptolemy, and corrected with other lands by Americius Vespucius), can be found at: <> or <>, [accessed: 12 October 2018].

  87. 87.

    The mathematician and geographer Johannes Schöner bound together the maps of Waldseemüller and Ptolemy in 1515, with an inscription: “Posterity, Schöner gives you this”. This is the only copy of Waldseemüller’s 1507 map to have survived of the 1000 printed, found in 1901 by Joseph Fischer. Purchased by the US Library of Congress for ten million dollars, in 2007 it was transferred to the USA in an official ceremony attended by Angela Merkel (Lester 2009, pp. 13, 18–19). It is therefore a contemporary example of how cosmography and its representation continue to have a geopolitical component. A more recent example can be found in the visit of Korean President Moon Jae-in to Spain in June 2021, when he was shown an eighteenth century map (by Bourguignon d’Anville) clearly showing sovereignty over the Dokdo islets. The map can be found at:

  88. 88.

    Lester (2009, pp. 367–368); Van Duzer (2012, pp. 8–20). On the other hand, regarding Ptolemy’s Geographia, there is a letter from Waldseemüller to Johann Amerbach, dated 1507, informing him that he knew of the existence of a Greek manuscript of Ptolemy in Basel, in the library of the Dominicans. Waldseemüller would end up obtaining a copy of it, and published his edition in 1513 (Crane 2003, p. 207; Lester 2009, p. 380).

  89. 89.

    Engel (1985, pp. 298–311) criticizes all the determinations of the equivalence and establishes that it is necessary to use the Attic stadium, equivalent to 184.98 m, compared to other estimates, which implies a diameter 16% higher than the real one, but in any case, much more adjusted than other estimates made before the Modern Age.

  90. 90.

    Cited in Levinas and Vida 2016, or Varela, Amerigo Mateo Vespucci, [online], <>. [accessed: 7 October 2018].

  91. 91.

    The hiatus in the new lands shows that Waldseemüller was not aware of the explorations that Juan de la Cosa would have carried out in 1504 in the gulfs of Darién and Uraba (Sarcina 2017).

  92. 92.

    Claudii Ptolemei viri Alexandrini mathematice discipline philosophi doctissimi Geographie opus nouissima traductione e Grecorum archetypis castigatissime pressum, ceteris ante lucubratorum multo prestantius, 1513, [online], <>, [accessed: 12 October 2018]. Waldseemüller, Carta marina navigatoria Portvgallen navigationes, atqve tocius cogniti orbis terre marisqve formam natvram sitvs et terminos nostris temporibvs recognitos et ab antiqvorum traditione differentes, eciam qvor vetvsti non meminervnt avtores, hec generaliter indicat. 1516, [online], <>, [accessed: 7 October 2018].

  93. 93.

    Apianus’ planisphere was included in a version of Polyhistor (De mirabilibus mundi) of the classic by Gaius Julius Solinus, fourth century CE scholar), published in 1520 in Vienna. In 1523 he published Isagoge in Typum Cosmographicum seu Mappam Mundi.

  94. 94.

  95. 95.

    “This new part of the world is found to be surrounded on all sides by the ocean” (Fischer and Ritter von Wieser 1907). Original in Latin on p. xxx; English version on p. 70; quoted in Lester (2009, p. 9).

  96. 96.

  97. 97.

    Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Med.Palat.249. See

  98. 98.

  99. 99.

    O’Connor and Robertson, “Gerardus Mercator”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015].

  100. 100.

  101. 101.

    Orontius Finaeus, in 1531, had made a reduction from 62 to 56 degrees on his globe. Mercator may not have dared to go that far. In any case, Maslama al-Majriti (in Cordoba, ninth century CE) carried out a first reduction of the longitude of the Mediterranean, an estimate that did not find an echo in Christian Europe, but did in Islamic cartography.

  102. 102.

    Atlas, king of Iberia and later tutor of Janus, son of his brother Hesperus, in Etruria. Hesperia is one of the mythological names used for both the Iberian and Italic peninsula.

  103. 103.

    On the web there are numerous collections of representations of maps and celestial globes. Among others, you can visit: Atlas Coelestis, compiled by Felice Stoppa, [online], <>, and the large collection of maps and celestial globes of the Warburg Institute Library, [online], <>

  104. 104.

    There are many manuscripts, many of them coming from Arabic culture, which include some kind of cartographic representation of the celestial sphere, mainly based on the stellar catalogue of Claudius Ptolemy. In any case, they suffer from great inaccuracy regarding the positions. On the other hand, there was an independent tradition in the heir kingdoms of the Western Roman Empire. One of the most outstanding examples for its quality and aesthetic beauty is the manuscript called Voss. lat. Q 79 or Aratea of Leiden, now at the University of Leiden, based on Germanicus’ Latin translation of the Phainomena of Aratus of Solos. The Leiden Aratea was created about 816 CE in Lotaringia during the Carolingian Empire, perhaps under the patronage of Louis “the Pious” and was copied around 1000 in northern France, perhaps at the abbey of St. Bertin, belonging to the Benedictines, founded in the seventh century CE.

  105. 105.

    There are translations from Latin made in 1469 and the first printing in Greek was made in Venice in 1516.

  106. 106.

    Incidentally he was to play a certain role in the publication of Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus by providing him with new measurements of the positions of Mercury and by insisting that Georg Joachim Rheticus visit him. Rheticus eventually persuaded him to lend him a manuscript copy and arranged for its publication in 1543.

  107. 107.

    An astronomical ring is a measuring instrument consisting of three hollow sphere-shaped circles, which mark degrees, hours, months and weeks, tangents and zodiac signs.

  108. 108.

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Barrado Navascués, D. (2023). Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography. In: Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution. Historical & Cultural Astronomy. Springer, Cham.

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