Cartography of the New World – Part 2

Share Button

This is part 2 of this interesting 110-year old article.
As the article is very long, we have added some sub-titles (in square brackets) to make it easier to read.
Here you’ll learn about the Caverio map and the Waldseemüller globe “recently” discovered, and much more.
Further reading: Part 1 of “Cartography of the New World”

[Munich-Portuguese Map]

Although the Cantino map seems to indicate a continental region in addition to the islands which had been visited and named by Columbus, it seems very reasonable to assume that the maps of oldest date must have exhibited the lands discovered in the west as a group of islands. In the information furnished by Columbus respecting his expedition, he wrote, “I have found many islands.” Of the islands he was certain; of his having touched the continent of Asia some doubt remained. But of this type of map none is known of earlier date than 1502, which is the date generally accepted for a map which I have called a Munich-Portuguese map, on which sketch, however, there appears neither date nor the name of the cartographer. Like many other maps of that early day it seems, in certain parts, not to be quite up to date, apparently wanting the knowledge which it was generally supposed was possessed at the time when the map was constructed. It exhibits Cuba as an island of great length, extending from southeast to northwest, and the coast of South America with an intentional break of considerable extent in that region where the Amazon flows out into the Atlantic. To the land of Cortereal a peculiar contour is given, with its eastern shore the same as we find it represented in the Cantino and the Caneiro maps. The north continental region is wanting.

[1502 Pilestrina Map]

As a map exhibiting this apparent want of knowledge up to date respecting discoveries in the west we find no better illustration than is furnished by that of Pilestrina, drawn about the year 1502. It is clearly of Portuguese origin, omitting the continental region of the Cantino map, Cuba and Spanish Antilles,

“although these were discovered, drawn, and described a number of years before Cabral or Cortereal ever crossed the Atlantic.”

The Portuguese possessions, however, are presented somewhat in detail as the region entered by the Cortereals in the north, and Brazil the region touched and claimed by Cabral in the south.

[Caverio (here called Canerio) Map]

About twelve years ago, while searching the archives of the Department of Marine in Paris, Gallois discovered a most important marine chart, which is unquestionably of Portuguese origin. It is drawn on parchment, and is the work of a skilled artist. Though undated, it bears the inscription, “Opus Nicolay de Canerio Januensis.” Of Canerio very little is known aside from the information conveyed by his chart. That he was proud of his countryman Columbus appears evident from a legend written over the Antilles designating these as “The Antilles of Castile discovered by Collonbo, a Genoese Admiral.” It exhibits a striking resemblance to the Cantino chart in its presentation of Greenland, here clearly indicated as a peninsula of Europe, in its presentation of Newfoundland, of the continental region in the northwest, of Cuba and the position of the larger islands of the Antilles, of the coast of South America, of the African and of the Asiatic coasts, which, it should be noted, are no longer Ptolemaic. The recently-discovered Waldseemüller map of Canerio or a map of exactly this type. It is a map rich in its nomenclature, more nearly accurate in its details, and in its influence of greater significance than the Cantino.

The geographical nomenclature of the early day exhibits some striking peculiarities, and many of these appear on the Canerio map. “The Cape of the Meeting,” “The Cape fo the Cat,” “Cape of the End of April,” “The Lake of the Thief,” “The Islands of the Giant,” “The Coast of the Courageous Man,” “The Dragon’s Mouth,” “The Bay of All Saints,” with many other names of like character derived from saints’ days, from captains of vessels, names descriptive and names derived from events thought worthy of being thus recorded.

[Discovering Asia]

It is an opinion often expressed in the accounts written concerning the history of discovery in America that the early explorers believed the newly-found regions to be a part of Asia. Columbus is cited as having professed to believe this until the end of his days. But he wrote particularly of islands discovered in his first voyage; in his second he compelled the officers of his vessel to swear, it appears against the convictions of some, that Cuba was a continent; and yet in his third voyage, when he discovered the main land near Paria, and beheld the mouth of the Orinoco, he expressed the conviction that the mighty river came not only from an immense region at the south but one wholly unknown. In his fourth voyage he made search for a strait through which he might pass to the waters of India, but, failing this, his belief concerning the Asiatic connection, it appears, was confirmed.

I think, with Harrisse, we may say that the moment search began for a waterway leading for Oceanus Occidentalis to Oceanus Orientalis, that moment opinion began to become conviction that a new continental region had been found, a new world had been discovered.

In 1497, John Cabot said that the land he had visited and explored was the country of the Great Khan; but in explaining the project to Soncino in December of that year he expressed the belief that Cathay was on the other side of the newly-discovered land.

In 1503, Vespuccius declared that he had been to a new world, and he followed the coast for many leagues in search of a strait through which he might pass to the Old World.

Humboldt observes

“that the more it became gradually recognized that the newly-discovered lands constituted one connected tract, extending from Labrador to the promontory of Paria, the more intense became the desire of finding some passage either in the south or at the north.”

To find this waterway was the fixed purpose of a number of the explorers, and this at an early date.

What they could not find ̶ though many of the map-makers indicated its existence in the region of Central America ̶ it seems that we are now on the eve of discovering.

[John Ruysch Map]

While the peculiar configuration of the Cantino and the Canerio charts has occasioned some doubt as to just the belief entertained concerning an Asiatic connection, there appears in the map by John Ruysch, in a Rome edition of Ptolemy, a configuration which in this particular clearly indicates a compromise. It first attracts by reason of its peculiar projection. It is one well executed, exhibiting in part the Ptolemaic traditions, in part the latest Spanish and Portuguese information concerning the New World, though the evidence is unmistakable that a Portuguese world-map was its real basis.

Greenland appears as a part of Asia, from which region the coastline sweeps southward, passing Baccalaus and Terra Nova ̶ that is, Newfoundland ̶ then extends westward to join the line which is indicated on the Ptolemaic maps. In the sea which washes Asia is inserted an inscription to the effect that Cipango is omitted because it is thought that country is identical with the Spanish Hispaniola.

On the west of the north continental land the legend appears stating that thus far the ships of Ferdinand, King of Spain, have made their way. To the continent of South America the name “Land of the Holy Cross,” or the “New World,” is given, with a statement in an adjoining legend that

“this country is generally considered to be another continent; that because of its magnitude they called it a New World, for, indeed, they have not seen the whole of it nor at this time have they explored beyond this point; therefore this map is left incomplete for the present, since we do not know in which direction it trends.”

Ruysch was a German, who, like many of his fellow-countrymen in those days, found occupation in Italy, and who probably carried with him from his native land knowledge he had there gained concerning the New World. May it not have been true that from the Cosmographiæ of Waldseemüller or from this world-maps he acquired considerable information? We read on the east coast of South America this inscription: “Omnium Sanctorum Abatia” ̶ a name which is considered to be the unmistakable evidence of the influence of the St. Dié School of Cartography.

That the Portuguese influence was greater than that of Spain in determining the general appearance of the newly-discovered lands on the maps which are now known of that early day is quite certain.

[German Cartography]

Why this should be true is not easily ascertained. Perhaps the policy of Portugal was a more liberal one respecting the distribution of knowledge acquired. There are many evidences, at least, to support the belief that a liberal policy was followed. For a number of years, however, following the earliest work of Waldseemüller of St. Dié, it is the German cartography of the New World which is the most important ̶ German cartography influenced by the Portuguese.

After the hardy navigators who so rapidly took possession of the globe those who rendered the greatest service to geography were the astronomers and the mathematicians, for they alone were able to furnish the information necessary to determine the exact position of places on the earth’s surface. It was the good fortune of Germany exactly at this time to be particularly interested in a renaissance of astronomy and mathematics. Here the humanistic movement gave encouragement to a spirit of patriotism, and among other interests to which they directed their talents was that of history of geography. The names and locations of places which they found in the old Ptolemaic maps they soon observed were antiquated and inaccurate; there was need of new maps, and they set themselves to their production. With these modern German cartography had its beginnings.

Not, however, until Duke René of Lorraine became a patron of learning, with a particular interest in cosmography or geography, do we meet with results of far-reaching importance in the cartographical studies of the Germans.

[St. Dié School of Cartography]

Under the encouragement of this enlightened prince the little town of St. Dié became a centre of culture. Here was organized the Vosgian Gymnasium, a society of learned men not unlike the Platonic Academy of Florence or the Danubian Society of Vienna. Of this St. Dié coterie none were more prominent than Basin de Sandacourt, the translator of the “Four Voyages” of Vespuccius from the French into the Latin; Lud, the ducal secretary and author of an important little work of but few pages, which he called “The Speculum”, Waldseemüller, the professor of cosmography, the author of the Cosmographiæ Introductio, and a cartographer of great distinction, who, with Ringmann, planned and carried well on to completion an edition of Ptolemy, which in 1513 was printed in the city of Strassburg. It was probably as early as 1505 that the plan was under consideration for a new translation of Ptolemy from the Greek into the Latin; and that thought, perhaps, had its inspiration in the letters of Vespuccius giving an account of his four voyages, together with some new charts which but recently had fallen into the hands of Ringmann. These charts, says Lud in his Speculum, came from Portugal, which, if true, leads one to the belief that they exhibited genuine Vespuccian data.

Whatever the truth concerning the origin of these maps “that determination has been the starting-point of a most important evolution in the cartographical history of the New World.”

[Waldseemüller Maps and Globe]

“I think you know already,”

wrote Waldseemüller in April, 1507, to his friend Amerbach, in Basel,

“that I am on the point to print in the town of St. Dié the cosmography of Ptolemy, after having added to the same some new maps.”

While great interest centres in these “new maps,” prepared for the proposed edition of Ptolemy, a greater interest now centres in the map or maps to which it is thought Waldseemüller alludes repeatedly in the years from 1507 to 1511, and especially in his Cosmographiæ. In the dedication of this little book to the Emperor Maximilian, he says:

“It thus happened in collecting for my own book, aided by others, the books of Ptolemy and collating them with the Greek texts, and in proposing to add thereto an inquiry into the Four Voyages of Vespuccius, I have prepared for the common use of students, and as a sort of preparatory introduction, a figure of the entire earth, as well in the form of a globe as a representation on a plane surface.”

Conjectures concerning this map on plane surface have been many, since all trace of it had been lost until a short time ago. Some, indeed, were included to doubt that Waldseemüller completed the work to which he here alludes.

Waldseemüller says further in a passage of his Cosmographiæ wherein he gives a description of his new map:

“It is my purpose in this book to write an introduction to the cosmography which we have drawn upon a globe as well as upon a plane surface. In the construction of the globe we have been very restricted as to space. But we have had more room in making our map, on which, in the manner as the country people are accustomed to mark their fields and to define the boundaries thereof, we have been careful to distinguish the principal countries of the earth by means of the standards of the rulers.”

Here follows a somewhat minute description of the way in which he represented the countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Adding,

“finally, in the fourth part of the earth discovered by the illustrious kings of Castile and Portugal, we have placed the standards belonging to their kingdoms. And what is particularly to be noted, we have marked those coasts which are fringed with shoals, and where consequently shipwreck is to be feared, with figures of the cross, which will serve to point them out.”

This is the map now attracting so greatly the attention of students of cartography, and which about two years since was discovered by Professor Fischer of Stella Matutina College, Feldkirch, Austria, in the archives of the Wolfegg Castle.

The size of the map is about eight feet by four feet, which fact suggests that it was intended as a wall map ̶ a form which was little calculated to insure it against destruction. That its twelve parts were bound together probably preserved it. With this 1507 map which Professor Fischer discovered is likewise bound a second one by Waldseemüller, bearing date 1516, and of scarcely less importance. The cover of the collective work exhibits the bookplate of the Nuremberg mathematician, John [Johann] Schöner.

It is not too much to say of this first work of Waldseemüller that it is the most important engraved map of the first 50 years after the discovery of Columbus, if, indeed, it is not the first printed map on which appears the New World, and that it is oldest map to bear the name AMERICA ̶ the “baptismal certificate of the New World,” as Professor Fischer calls it in a letter I have received recently from him. Printed as it was, according to a legend on the 1516 map, in 1,000 copies, it is reasonable to suppose that it found its way into all sections of the country in which an interest was taken in maritime discovery.

He had followed in its preparation, as he tells us, Ptolemy for certain regions; for other regions the charts which had been received but a short time before in St. Dié, unquestionably from Portugal. The entire map, however, exhibits in its peculiar projection, as in other respects, a striking originality.

As inset map in the north polar region there is presented on the left the Old World with the portrait of Ptolemy, and on the right the New World with the portrait of Vespuccius. Quoting the Cosmographiæ again,

“We have divided the matter following Ptolemy in the making of the planisphere, except concerning the new lands, and some few other regions, but on the globe which accompanies the planisphere we have conformed to the description of Vespuccius.”

Can Waldseemüller’s reference here be to the inset maps? I am inclined to think so.

Waldseemüller exhibits in his map, however, an inconsistency, showing in the small inset map of the New World a connection between the land to the north and to the south, and in the large map the Strait which all German maps of early date exhibit, with but one or two exceptions, and the exceptions are Wladseemüller maps.

From what I have stated, it is clear that Waldseemüller, as a cartographer, had great respect of Ptolemy, but he observed that

“these explanations will be sufficient if we add here that we have not exclusively followed Ptolemy in the delineation of our general map of the world; especially as to the new lands, in regard to which we have found the equator to occupy on marine maps a position different from that laid down by Ptolemy.”

How puzzling this matter respecting the location of the equator was to certain early cartographers is well presented in the so-called KING chart of about the year 1502. The Ptolemy maps represented the equator as passing through Western Africa north of the Gulf of Guinea, but Portuguese exploration had shown conclusively that this was incorrect; that the equator passes through the Gulf itself. Our cartographer in the King chart has indicated two equators, one entering Africa on the east and extending westward, another beginning at the east coast and emerging near the proper place on the west. Waldseemüller followed, at least in his maps for the edition of Ptolemy, the construction found in the marine charts.

As we have no earlier suggestion that to the New World should be given the name AMERICA than appears in Waldseemüller’s Cosmographiæ, and as he alludes in that work to his map of the world, we should naturally expect that name to appear somewhere in the western region; and so it does, written across South America, clearly indicating that he intended the name should be applied to the region which Vespuccius had described in his Four Voyages. America did not yet include the land to the north and the neighbouring islands of the West Indies.

It will not be without interest to attempt to trace, particularly through the German world-maps, the influence of Waldseemüller and of the St. Dié School.

In the passage alluding to the map just described, Waldseemüller, as I have stated, refers to a globe which he had constructed; this is, at least, the interpretation of the statement “quam nos tam in solido quam plano depinximus” (which we have depicted both on a globe and on a plane chart), that has found general acceptance, but I feel inclined to doubt the interpretation.

Such a globe bearing the unmistakable mark of Waldseemüller has never been discovered. However, in the collection now belonging to Prince Liechtenstein is a somewhat crudely-executed gore map. As a title to the lithographic reproduction, which I have recently received through the courtesy of the Prince, is the following statement:

“First printed globe. Martin Waldseemüller. Probably belonging to his book GLOBUS MUNDUS, which appeared in 1509.”

But there is very little evidence to show the connection of Waldseemüller with the GLOBUS MUNDUS, or that these gores were constructed for that little work. Between the lands to north and south there is no connection indicated. It is a work, therefore, of the Lusitano-Germanic type, if not a Waldseemüller map. Until the recent discovery of Professor Fischer, to these gores belonged the distinction of being the oldest known printed map on which the name AMERICA appears, if we accept the date 1509.

To a second gore map, for which the claim has been advanced that it is the work of Waldseemüller, or the copy of an original by him, because found in an edition of his Cosmographiæ, reference may here be made. The copy is usually referred to as the Tross Gores or the Boulengier Gores, and is one of the choice treasures of the Lenox Library. It bears no date, but is thought to have appeared some time between 1514 and 1518. It is a copper engraving, well executed, across which appears the legend, “Universalis cosmographie descriptio tam in solido quem plano” ̶ a quotation, with a mistake or two, from Waldseemüller.

The continental land to the north-west is clearly of his type of map, showing a break of considerable width in the continuity of the east coast-line in the region of Central America. Across the southern continent appears the inscription “AMERICA NOVITER REPERTA,” while the north bears only the name “NOVA.”

Share Button
See author Google+ Profile.