A Modern and Quite Precise Depiction of America (or the Fourth Part of the World)
In 1554, Diego Gutiérrez was appointed principal cosmographer to the king of Spain in the Casa de la Contratación. The crown commissioned the Casa to produce a large-scale map of the western hemisphere, often called the “fourth part of the world.” The purpose of the map was to assert Spain’s claims to new world territories against the rival claims of Portugal and France. Spain claimed all lands south of the Tropic of Cancer, which is shown prominently. The map was engraved by the famous Antwerp engraver Hieronymus Cock, who added numerous artistic flourishes, including the coats of arms of the three rival powers, a snake-like Amazon River that winds across the northern part of South America, mermaids and mythical monsters at sea, and an elephant, rhinoceros, and lion on the western coast of Africa. The name “California” is inscribed near Baja California, just above the Tropic of Cancer, the first time it appears on any printed map. Only two copies of the map are known to exist: this one from the collections of the Library of Congress, and another in the British Library.
Hieronymus Cock, Antwerp
Title in Original Language
Americae sive Quartae Orbis Partis Nova et Exactissima Descriptio
Type of Item
1 map ; 83 x 86 centimeters, on sheet 100 x 102 centimeters. Originally printed on 6 sheets.
- Scale approximately 1:17,500,000
Last updated: September 18, 2015