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THE CABOT 1544 ENGRAVING; BnF GE AA-582, 220 x 125cms.

This planisphere comprises a central chart which was engraved by a person with little knowledge of the Spanish and carried out possibly in Nuremberg. However this is a copy and the original was no doubt drawn in Seville where Sebastian Cabot held the office of Grand Pilot and is thus prior to 1544. That Cabot was involved is evinced by the data it contains which it is thought only he would know and thus duly informed the cartographer. Cabot left SEVILLE after March 1548 abandoning his post although he was again Pilot Major in March of 1552 but died in England 1557.


The planisphere is covered in texts and has two side panels,( the diagram attached has omitted the Tabula 2 in the east, thus increasing the visual chart area) which are in fact printed sections glued to the charts edges. They are Latin and Spanish with many mistakes which made translation rather an arduous task. Those attached legends comprise 17 in both languages and 5 in Spanish only. Fortunately Dr Charles Deane of Boston made a special study of the chart and had translations made of those legends. They come to us as a special item in the Massachusetts Historical Society Transactions, Second Series, Volume 6 and from the Canadian Archives papers. Unfortunately at this stage in my research I do not have the original paper written by Dr Deane. The Charles Deane Collection is held in the William L Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and I am hopeful that a search by them will find the original text. It is required because there are four cartouche on the chart which have no comments or translations in the two texts available of the work carried out.
Dr Deane prepared an index of the references of the marginal legends to their proper places on the chart as follows;
1) Between the Bermuda Islands and the West Indies
2) north of the Island of Antigua
3) opposite to the west coast of Mexico
4) opposite to the Strait of Magellan
5) at the Molucca Islands
6) opposite to the coast of Peru
7) at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata
8) in Hudson Bay
9) opposite to Iceland
10) in the northern part of Russia
11) in the northeastern part of Asia where the reference is incorrectly given to Table2, No2.
12) in the northern part of Asia
13) in the middle of Africa
14) in Hindustan, without a numerical reference, but it is indicated by the picture of a woman surrounded by flowers.
15) north of Japan ( copy of Marco Polo text)
16) near Sumatra
17) on the eastern side of the map, just south of the Equator
18) north of Europe and Asia
19) in the Indian Ocean, nearly south of Hindustan
20) directly below the preceding reference
21) in the Indian Ocean, northwest from No 19
22) near Ceylon.

We are informed that all of the work was carried out at his own expense and many Professors assisted in this task. Dr Deane also circulated 13 copies of the facsimile of the planisphere, photographed in Paris, to American Societies and Library’s.
I have commented about the fact that there is no commentary about the four cartouche which are obviously quite important and they can be described as follows and their positions.
They are, NW corner, the Virgin Mary etc.; NE corner, the HRE emblem; SW corner, details of the CLIMA and SE corner the daylight hours.
NW corner description.

This is an extravagant drawing of the Virgin Mry and an Archangel with the sun’s rays beaming down on her, Below is a 15 line litany, and invocation used upon special occasions. It is a simple litany and easy to remember and repeat as the diagram illustrates.


NE corner description
The double headed Eagle with shield used as the emblem of the Holy Roman Empire and having two columns adjacent lettered PV, which are the initials of the Latin words PLUS ULTRA. The shield is however poorly drawn but can be identified as the coat of arms of a Germanic Model as it includes Alsace. In Spain, Charles V, HRE, never included it in his heraldry. The fourth quarter shows, Castille, Austria and Alsace. This lends credence to the engraving being in Nuremberg. Below the design are the Spanish words; “solas del solo en elm undo en servicio de las quales muriendo viven leales”. This quotation can be translated in two manners, similar but different;
Alone in the lonely world they live loyal dying in their service,
or In the loneliness of the world when they die in service, they lived loyal.


SW corner description
This is a list of nine CLIMA which can be named as geographical locations from 16 20’ N to 55N as follows tabulated originally with their full latitudinal span from “principium” to “finis” with the median latitudes that are normally used for 1) Meroe; 2) Syene; 3) Alexandria; 4) Rhodes; 5)
Rome: 6) Black Sea; 7) River Borysthenes; 8) Riphaean Mounts; 9) Damas??.

Within paragraph 1 of the text , lines 9 to 16 the above are listed plus the “Anti” Clima lines for “AntiMeroe” and “AntiSyene”. Paragraph 2 contains 15 lines with lines 9 to 15 amplifying the above text. This is basically Claudius Ptolemy’s tabulation, although Rome did not appear and the last “Damas” is unknown, but could be a Russian city.


SE corner description
This is a listing of the lengths of the daylight hours from the Equator at 12 hours, followed by 4 15’N being 12 ¼ hours and 63N being the Island of Thule with a difference to the Equator of 8 hours and hence a day length of 20 hours. The length of Day at 24 hours is given under item 25 and then the various Star Signs are listed. Again a copy of the tabulation to be found in Claudius Ptolemy, “Geographia”.

The chart actually has written along the northern and southern extremities
“Maximus hic dies VI mensium est”; that is,” maximum at this point 6 months of daylight”.



Set in a frame of c1500 x 1250mm, the actual setting out is taken from the internal line of the latitudinal scale which is the forma for the chart, an oblate spheroid. It is no doubt maximized in the latitude to fit the vellum and thus the longitude could be determined by a proportion as required. Converting the size to the original Spanish measurements it is 84 doigts x 64 doigts, 1461.6 x 1113.6mm which gives a ratio of 7:6 and a diagonal angle of 37.3039 degrees. The latitude of Seville where the original was drawn is 37 27’N, 6 00’E.

Thus the proportion of latitude to longitude, 180 x 360 is known. It is however a major error for the charts usefulness. Basically the 360 degree longitude is 360 x 4.06mm and the latitude is 180 x 6.187mm giving a near ratio of 2:3 (1.524) and in the common practice of Portolan Charts is a setting out at 49 Degrees (normally a ratio of 5:4 or 36 degrees, the Mediterranean Sea). At this period most Planispheres are drawn as square charts with equal degrees and it is obvious “Cabot et al” made a huge mistake with the projection. The engraver has done his best with the longitudinal lines which at the extreme East and West are full curves, but a marked change occurs as the diagram clearly indicates. The fact that full curves only occur at the extremities means the engraver has given himself a real headache for setting out as soon the longitudes are split into two curves. The first from the Equator to the Arctic Circle and the second from the Arctic Circle to the North Pole. As the diagrams illustrate that means a multitude of setting out centres to be established and hence I do not think they are radii. I do wonder if they are not “compass” drawn at all but rather a series of curved “forma’s” to mark off the longitudes. In other words a draughtman’s methodology for curves.

ChCB/1/D06 & ChCB/1/D07

The setting out of the planisphere is quite a feat of longitudinal manipulation, in that from the Ptolemaic Zero line ( 2 ½ degrees from Cape St Vincent) the eastern chart edge is set at 155 degrees and the tip of the Malay Peninsula is drawn in the west adding a further 9 degrees and the correct Ptolemaic longitude of 164 E. Thus the whole setting out of the planisphere is based upon the Ptolemaic model of the world as the internal details clearly show.
In the SW quadrant of the chart is a description of the chart as follows; “In this figure, projected on a plane, are contained all the lands, Islands, ports, rivers, waters, bays, which have been discovered to the present day, and their names and who were the discoverers of them, as is made more manifest by the inscriptions(tables) of this said figure, —with all the rest that was known before, and all that has been written by Ptolemy, such as provinces, cities, mountains, rivers, climates, and parallels, according to their degree of longitude and latitude, both of Europe and of Asia and Africa.
And you must note that the land situated according to the variation which the needle of the compass makes with the north star, for the reason of which you may blook in the second table of No 17”.

The 22 numbered texts plus the SW and SE texts are a snapshot of history and exploration with a large dose of fantasy which many charts already portray. However it is surprising that in c1550 so much of Claudius Ptolemy still pervades the charts in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The west coast of Africa is set by the Ptolemaic zero and is remarkably similar to the chart drawn following the translation of the “Geographike Hyphegesis” in 1407, but obviously has the profile well known to Portuguese explorers who travelled and recorded it all from 1434 to 1508. The Indian Ocean and India to the Malay peninsula were explored from 1414 to 1490 and the South China Sea was reached in 1515/16 by Tome Pires. Hence Africa and India plus the Malay Peninsula are able to feature on the “Cabot” chart in a more geographical form where-as the interior of Africa/Asia/India and the Longitudes are Ptolemaic.
The America’s are drawn in the format commenced c1500 on planispheres and are mostly geographical in profile. The Pacific coast of N America, Baja California was explored c1540 and thus this chart is very up to date. S America’s southern limit was discovered by Magellan at 52 ½ south in 1519 as well as part of the East coast (Transmitted to Spain 1522). The west coast followed slowly with Magellan and Loaisa sailing north along the coast of Chile in 1520 and 1526 with Spanish explorers sailing south from Peru. Thus the Planisphere is as up to date as possible for c1540, but its usefulness must be questioned.


It is first necessary to detail just who both S Cabot and S Gutierrez are apropos the possible knowledge of each other’s work. The lists of the Casa de la Contratacion, Seville, provide an insight into the possible interaction.


Pilot Major at the Casa, appointed 5 February 1518. He spent much of 1521 in England and attended the 1524 meetings at Badajoz, both with no known substitute, and left on a voyage of exploration in March 1526
From 1535 to 1536, a chart was made under the supervision of Juan Saurez de Carbajul of the Council of the Indies. Initially, Fernando Colon was asked if he had finished the pattern chart entrusted to him. In his absence, the revision was entrusted to Sebastian Cabot (pilot major), Alonso de Chaves, Francisco Faleiro, Diego Gutierrez. Pedro Mexia and Alonso de Santa Cruz. It was finished in 1536 amid protests from Cabot, Gutierrez and Santa Cruz.
From 1543 to 1544, Sebastain Cabot (pilot Major) revised the pattern chart with the permission of Gregorio Lopez of the Council of the Indies. This was done with the help of Pilots and in the presence of Diego Gutierrez, Pedro Mexia and Alonso Chaves, against the advice of Chaves and Mexia. The chart was completed before August 1544. It was said by Cabot and Gutierrez to have been necessitated by Pilot’s complaints about the previous pattern chart. The chart was part of a general inspection of the Casa by Lopez and was brought into a lawsuit by Chaves and Pedro de Medina about the charts in use and the conduct of Cabot.
In March 1552, Sebastian Cabot is again Pilot Major but left Seville after March 1548, abandoning his post and subsequently died in England in 1557.


Diego Gutierrez, father of Sancho and Diego.
Cosmographer, 21/5/1534 at a salary of 6000 mrs but became substitute Pilot Major 6/3/1548, initially with Hernando Blos, but was stripped of his office 24/9/1552 and died in 1554.
Sancho Gutierrez can be found mentioned in HOC/3/1/Ch40 appendices as follows;
Chartmaker, 12/12/1539, but no salary; could attend exams, 18/7/1544, no salary; cosmographer 18/5/1553, salary 10000 mrs; Professor (interim) 25/5/1569, Salary 30000 mrs; (interim replacement for Diego Ruiz who died before 30/9/1575) Post given to Rodrigo Zamorano 9/12/1575.
Sancho Gutierrez died 13/8/1581.
Diego Gutierrez, chart maker 22/10/1554, salary 6000mrs. Replaced his father, Diego Gutierrez, after the latter’s death; unsuccessfully petitioned to be named cosmographer 30/3/1569 and died by 1574.


1535/36; S Cabot and Diego Gutierrez involved
1543-44; S Cabot and D Gutierrez involved
1549-53; revision probably involved Sancho Gutierrez

Hence we can readily see that the S Cabot and the Gutierrez Family were known to each other and thus the Sancho Gutierrez chart of 1551 drawn in Seville and full of texts as per the “Cabot” planisphere of 1554 clearly indicates they were copying the same original texts and the original “Cabot” chart was in SEVILLE, or a substantive copy was available to be sent to Nuremberg for engraving.


The setting out of the planisphere is indicated by two vertical lines, the western being the Line of Demarcation and the eastern (touching Africa) being labelled as the commencement of the “degrees” to the east and is the Ptolemaic Zero Longitude. It will be obvious that the chart is not in a particularly good condition due to its usage no doubt. The chart is actually a square chart having both latitude and longitudinal degrees the same with a latitudinal spread from c79N to 53S and a longitudinal spread of 365 degrees border to border. In the centre of the chart between the two vertical lines we read in the western section the hours of daylight noted by latitude and the same as the SW cartouche of the “Cabot” chart. The eastern section is the “clima” notation and again the same as on the “Cabot” chart in the SE cartouche.


The wind rose circles are 64 degrees radii and from the east we have, 64;128;192;256;320 degrees marked by them which leaves the western end section of 40 degrees for the whole circle.
There are two areas of actual geographical setting out on the chart.

ChCB/1/D09 & D10

The first is the Mediterranean Sea basin and West Africa which can be shown to follow the slewed profile pattern of Portolan Charts with the 36N centre line of the Mediterranean Sea being set at 8 degrees north of east, and the corresponding longitudinal lines set at 90 degrees.

However between the European sections and the American sections the Atlantic Ocean has been enlarged by 6 degrees longitude. The markers for the Caribbean Sea, Cuba and Hispaniola are drawn correctly apropos the main coastline, but at the 60W longitude the coast of S America is wrongly drawn. Although there are two large estuaries, Amazon and Tocotina they are set on a coastline which is below the Equator and at 47 to 50W. The diagram illustrates those errors and also the fact that if the longitudinal count starts at Cabo de Sao Roque, 35W, 5S, the Caribbean setting out is quite acceptable with the line of demarcation being at 42W and passing through Parnalba Town and the estuary of its river.

The interior of S America is not worth discussing as it is a complete hotch-potch having a necessary revision to the western coastline. At least the Strait of Magellan is correct at 52 ½ South. This clearly indicates a chart which is constantly updated and not by one person.
The Far East is a mixture of the latest Portuguese profiles for the coasts, but the Claudius Ptolemy hinterland complete with mythical figures in the far north is a backward step. It is set out to the Ptolemaic longitudes from the Canary or Fortunate Isles as the diagram clearly indicates.

Diagram ChCB/1/D11

That this chart is set out very similarly to the “Cabot” chart is shown by the fact that the eastern limit is set at 155 degrees longitude and no doubt if the charts condition allowed it would be possible to show the Malay Peninsula at 164E, Ptolemaic.
Curiously in the charts NW corner there is what I can only suppose a poorly drawn Double Headed Eagle which is quartered rather strangely and is hard to determine the “owner”. However, the coat of arms is over-drawn by the Barbed Cross of Burgundy which is the emblem of the Spanish Tercios army regiment. Burgundy being the birthplace of King Philip of Spain , who was Philip of Burgundy and married the daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand, Juana and ascended the throne in 1505 and the barbed cross was adopted by the special regiments of the age.

The diagram ChCB/1/D12 is the Coat of Arms and Barbed Cross, but it is poorly shown on the chart and the background coat of arms is thus hard to identify.

Diagram ChCB/1/D12


Visually they show the same features but cannot be overlaid to equate their profiles as the projections nullify any such attempt. They are not a copy of each other even though they both have the Ptolemaic credentials and the fact that the Gutierrez chart has both the early and later profile for S America indicating a major revision and hence perhaps even a much earlier date for it to have been conceived. Thus we have the possibility of a much earlier date for both charts than given.
The Gutierrez chart has differing scripts indicating many alterations, which is a problem seen on many Portolan Charts. The Cabot chart original is likely to be c1540 and the Gutierrez chart 1545, thus having sufficient time for a copy to be made and reach the publishers and Nuremberg engravers and be engraved. That task alone for such a complicated setting out would be a year’s work.


Would the Casa de la Contratacion accept the oblate spheroid form of the “Cabot “ 1544 engraving as it is not usable by Pilots at sea, it is a Library chart?

Thus it is unlikely that this chart is a revision to the Padron Real and more likely it was prepared for sale via copies of the engraving which was made on metal and hence would last for many copies to be printed and perhaps gain a considerable income for the cartographers.
Thus the Sancho Gutierrez chart is more likely to be based upon the “pattern chart” with wind roses etc., and the possibility of being used at sea as a nautical chart. Of that I am not certain as being totally set out to Ptolemaic longitudes, which are very wrong for the Far East when the Portuguese have completely sailed and recorded the Far East and used up to date longitudes, not relying on Ptolemy. I suggest it is a Library chart, not a nautical chart.

Thus I do not believe either chart is actually a nautical chart but they are typical combination charts for personages to utilize and be able to see the world as 360 degrees and understand the landfalls. Although with the Magellan Voyage ending in 1522 and much information being thus available but not utilized I am somewhat surprised by these two charts.

In fact from 1500 onwards the planispheres were based upon “actual pilots” data and the Claudius Ptolemy world was being left behind. Diego Ribeiro’s work in the 1520’s is a clear indication of the “Pattern Chart” of the Casa de la Contratacion output which neither the “Cabot” or “Gutierrez” planispheres emulate.

Hence they are an anomaly in the cartographic world where the physical world is being portrayed as best possible for the age. However, it is noticeable that the cartographic world was hard put to escape the world of Ptolemy particularly as it is an easy fit for atlases where the cartographer has little knowledge and thus more pages equals greater remuneration.

The history included in the texts hints at their real purpose, to educate and be a guide for those who do not actually know the world but require to know it’s form, such as the Moneymen who underwrite explorations for profit. The nautical facts are for the mariners, not office bound entrepreneur’s.
For a fuller explanation of the “Cabot” chart I suggest the text by Harry Kelsey, “The Planispheres of Sebastian Cabot and Sancho Gutierrez”, will assist understanding the reasoning behind the anomalous choice of format. This text ChCB/1 does not cover the details for obvious reasons and is intended as a text which sets down the cartographers methodology and the curiosities which are not covered in the other texts available.