Portolan Atlas of the Mediterranean Sea, Western Europe, and the Northwest Coast of Africa


Portolan charts came into use on sailing vessels in the Mediterranean Sea toward the end of the 13th century. Made for and, in many cases, by seamen, these nautical maps were characterized by the system of intersecting loxodromes, or rhumb lines, which crisscross each chart and the ornamented compass rose that usually appears. This atlas of five manuscript charts has been attributed to Juan Oliva, a member of the illustrious Oliva family of Catalan chartmakers who began working in Majorca some time before 1550. The atlas was compiled no earlier than 1590 and perhaps as late as the first few years of the 17th century. The maps in the atlas are: 1. the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, the Aegean islands, Crete, Cyprus, and the Black Sea; 2. the central Mediterranean, including Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Malta; 3. Western Europe and the British Isles, showing the entire coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, the Low Countries, Denmark, the southwest coast of Scandinavia, and the British Isles; 4. northwest Africa, including Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, and part of the Azores; and 5. a world map drawn on an oval projection. In the world map, North America, identified as “terra florida” and “nova francia,” is joined with eastern Asia. Several of the maps include drawings of ships.

Date Created

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Type of Item

Physical Description

1 manuscript atlas ([22] pages) : color illustrations, color maps, vellum ; 29 centimeters


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Last updated: March 4, 2016