Compendium of Cosmography


Pedro de Medina (1493–1567) was a cartographer, author, and a founder of marine science. He lived in Seville, the center of the Spanish ocean-going commerce and the starting point for ships headed to the New World. He worked in an environment shaped by the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade), the Spanish government agency that controlled exploration and colonization, although he was never employed by it. In 1545 Medina published his most important work, El arte de navegar (The art of navigation), an overview of existing knowledge on this subject. The book was internationally disseminated and quickly translated into several European languages. Medina also wrote historical and philosophical books, including Libro de las grandezas y cosas memorables de España (Book of the great and memorable deeds of Spain), Libro de la verdad (Book of truth), and Crónica de los excelentes señores duques de Medina Sidonia (Chronicle of the excellent ducal lords of Medina Sidonia). Suma de Cosmographia (Compendium of cosmography) is considered an extract of El arte de navegar, containing information on astrology and navigation and written for a nonspecialist audience. The folio-size manuscript on parchment includes 11 beautiful astronomical figures with accompanying text. The illustrations are carefully drawn and illuminated in gold and in bright colors, with the initial letters of text pages in highlighted golden insets. A fine mappa mundi on a double-page spread, illuminated in red, blue, green, sienna, and gold, represents the known world and reflects the state of geographic knowledge in Spain and Portugal at that time. Prominently shown on the map is the line of demarcation, established in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, between the domains of Spain and Portugal.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Suma de cosmographia


Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

16 sheets, colophon with illustrations, parchment: 35 x 28 centimeters


  • Five prints of the Sibyls of Lambert Suavius in page 1 verso, page 15 verso, and page 16 recto; superimposed in transparent plates after restoration of the manuscript.

Last updated: May 24, 2017