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Having read HOC years ago, I was intrigued to read a text by Joan Abela and Theresa Zammit Lupi entitled, “Conservation & restoration: recycled Seas of Parchment. A newly discovered Portolan Chart at the Notarial Archives, Valletta, Malta.” It was a full explanation of the discovery, restoration and attribution of the chart fragment to Domenico Vigliarolo. The work was carried out by a team of 4 conservationists, but the restoration I could see was very slightly awry due to the precarious state of the fragment and I wrote to the authors informing them that there was a simple tool taken from Portolan Charts (commencing with Petrus Vesconte, 1318) of the ratio for the wind rose graticule of 35/30/20/7 units per quadrant. As the graticule was easily set out over the fragment then the slight twist could in fact be rectified if it was thought necessary. I did not think that it was necessary.

The chart fragment is as the diagram ChDV/1/D01 sent to me from Malta, and
this started correspondence which led to the comparison to other Portolan Charts drawn by Domenico Vigliarolo. I obtained a copy of 6 of the charts and 3 pages of the Atlas, but was unable to obtain a copy of the chart held in Madrid, dated 1589. Nobody in the departments I contacted answered my email requests and I decided as it was a late chart it would not impinge upon the results.

Before any comparisons were carried out, an attempt had to be made to understand the time line of Vigliarolo and thus all texts I could find regarding his life and works were searched for. I re-read HOC/3/1/7 and /40 to ensure I had the full storyline as known by the authors.


There are two papers by Roberto Almagia dated 1942 and 1950, (neither of which could I obtain a copy of), and two texts by Giuseppe Fausto Macri, his second being a 223 page book entitled “Mari di carta; la storia di Domenico Vigliarolo. Un cartographo italiano alla corte del re di Spagna”. There is a short review of the book online which when translated from the Italian states clearly that the early research into his life had not been carried out. The original text and my translation follow with comments.

Mari di carta;
Di Domenico Vigliarolo, sacerdote-cartografo di Stilo finora semisconociuto al grande pubblico, ma ben noto al maggiori studiosi del settore, e qui ricostruita la parte biografica di maggior interesse, quella, cioe, relative al period spagnole (1582-1596), durante il quale egli rivesti l’importante incarico di Cosmografo della Casa de Contratacion ( l’istituzione delegate al controllo della via delle Americhe). “Mari di Carta” riunisce per la prima volta tutta la sua produzione cartografica sinora conosciuta e attualmente conservata nelle maggiori istituzioni museali del mondo. Tra I vari documenti compaiono un inedito assoluto, rintracciato dall’autore presso la Biblioteca Reale di Madrid, un esemplara conservato presso la Biblioteca Vaticana sinora erroneamente ritenuto anonimo e un Atlante conservato a New York, compost da nove fogli di cui, sinora, ne era stato pubblicato uno soltanto da Almagia nel 1942. Il testo rimarca il forte legame tra Vigliarolo e la sua Calabria e fornendo tra l’altro, in molte carte (su cui spicca sempre in bella evidenza il toponomi natale di Stilo) preziose indicazioni storico-geografiche sulla Calabria del Seicento.

Mari di Carta; Translation
“Domenico Vigliarolo, Priest-Cartographer of Stilo, so far only semi-known to the general public, but well known to the great scholars of the sector, and here is reconstructed the biographical part of greatest interest that relates to the Spanish Period (1582-1596), during which he held the important post of Cosmographer at the Casa de Contratacion (the institution delegated to the control of the “ways” to America).
“Seas of Maps” brings together for the first time all his cartographic production so far known and currently in the major museums of the world. Among the various documents published and traced by the author are those at the Royal Library of Madrid, a specimen at the Vatican Library, until now mistakenly considered anonymous, and an Atlas preserved in New York composed of 9 folios of which until now only one had been published by Almagia in 1942. The text emphasizes the strong link Vigliarolo and his Calabrian base and provides, among other things, in many maps (on which the native toponyms of Stilo always stand out in clear evidence) precious historical-geographical indications on Calabria of the 17th century”. (end)

Written in a rather nationalistic style it contains many errors. In 1911 E L Stevenson wrote a text, “Portolan Charts—–belonging to the Hispanic Society of America” and included the Atlas mentioned as item 20, Domenicus de Villarroel, c1590, and attributed by the cartographer thus, “Hoc opus D. Dominicus de Villarroel Regis Hispaniarum Cosmography s faciebat”.

Sandra Sider who was the Conservator of Manuscripts of the HAS, 1986 -1994, wrote a catalogue of the Cartography held by the HSA, and includes Atlas K18, page 44.

The documents in the Royal Library are fully noted in HOC/3/1/7 and 40 as well as a copy of one of his charts, and illustrate all was not well at the Casa de Contratacion between the various Cosmographers, and thus Domenico Vigliarolo was only one, and the listings are in HOC/3/1/7.


At this point it was clear to me that I had to start at the very beginning, where and when he was born, (he tells us he is from Stilo Calabria), and endeavour to formulate a time line, thus hopefully discovering where he could have been trained and when. I tried to contact the Archivio Storico of the various Dioceses that I could identify where D Vigliarolo would have visited, Palermo, Messina, Naples and Reggio Calabria, but nobody answered, even to say they cannot help. The authorities at Stilo likewise did not respond to my queries, and thus I was left with my own knowledge and intuition.


Thus the Timeline is a putative study using logically inferred arguments. I considered that the training could have been in Italy but the only other place close enough to be used was Naples. But it appears there were no cartographers in Naples from 1516 to c1563 when Jaume Olives arrived, having been in Marseilles and Messina previously. Thus I determined the following.



The resulting timeline is featured on three sheets and includes the obvious conclusion he was taught in Messina as his first extant chart is dated 1577, and was drawn in Palermo Sicily. I could also include in the time line the cartographers working in Sicily and cover the dates until his departure from Naples to Seville. They are dated 1515 to 1545; 1545 to 1575 and 1575 to 1600 and are Diagrams ChDV/1/ D02; D03 and D04. It was obvious I had to start from the extant work dates and use their attributions where D Vigliarolo was working and thus produce a backbone for the timeline. The charts are as follows, but now in the order I determined from the research.

They are charts, Diagrams ChDV/1/D05, D06, D07, D08, D09, D10, D11, and D12 & D13
1) Malta Fragment, dated by me to 1575 and drawn in Messina/Palermo (D05)


2) Vatican Library (Anon) but dated by me 1576 and is Borg.Carte.naute VI/0001 and is the sister chart to the Malta fragment drawn in Messina/Palermo (D06)


3) Beinecke Library Yale, 1577 drawn in Palermo MS 49.1577 attribution attached as
Donnus Dominicus Vigliarolus Calaber de civitates Stili me fecit in urba felicis Panormi 1577 (D07)


4) Berlin Library 1580, drawn in Naples, Karten F40, attributed on chart (D08)


Presbiter Dominicus Vigliarolus Calaber Stilensis me fecit in civita urbe Neapoli 1580

5) BNF Paris, 1589 drawn in Naples Res Ge B 1149, attributed on chart (D09)


Don Domingo de Villeroel, cosmographo de sa Magestad, me fecit in civitates Neapolis 1589

6) Madrid, 1589, drawn in Naples. Mapas Hist Europa No 297 (unavailable)

7) HAS New York c1590 drawn in Naples, Atlas K18, 7charts of 9 sheets.(D10/D11/D12)

ChDV/1/D10 & D11 & D12

Hoc opus D Domenicus de Villarroel Regis Hispaniarum cosmographus facie (? original)

8) National Library Wales, Hydrograhic Chart Map 01 004 146/4/5. Attributed on chart;
Don Domingo de Villarroel Cosmographo su magestad me hizu en Sevilia 1592. (D13)


Thus we have clear dating from 1577 to 1592 which when combined with the legal texts held in Spain date D Vigliarolo from 1577 to 1596. The text in HOC 3/1/7 and /40 fully explains the reason for the journey to Seville, the change of Venue to Naples, return to Seville and final departure to Bordeaux whence all trace is lost, thus I have no need to discuss it.

The simplest method was to reverse the search by taking as my start point the fact that we know Vigliarolo was in Palermo 1577. If Vigliarolo was in Calabria as a Priest, or anywhere on the mainland, then to arrive in Palermo capable of creating a chart he had to have been trained somewhere. To arrive in Palermo he would pass through Messina where there were many cartographers at work. Cartographic training is accepted as being a 7 year apprenticeship minimum and even though Vigliarolo by then would have had the writing skills, the use of quills and formation of “flowery letters”. However, the construction of the Wind Rose, the drawing of coastlines, in fact learning their form, the vagaries of all coasts in the Mediterranean Sea basin, let alone knowing the toponyms and their place on the coast and drawing vignettes would all have to have been learnt properly.
Thus I assumed he arrived in Palermo fully trained as his 1577 chart clearly shows and had to establish himself, whether as priest or cosmographer. As it is clear he did not have money having had to borrow to finance his journey to Seville He was thus probably a salaried cleric. I therefore allotted a 2 year timescale for that period to find a position after training.

Then reversing the seven years the dates became 1577/1575/1568 for the commencement of training. He had to travel to Messina from, I assumed Stilo or its surroundings where he was a Church Priest and again would have required training for that position. We learn from his ecclesiastical titles, Presbyter and Donnus he had to have been a priest for at least 10 years. He also had to be an adult, thus 21 years old. That then provided dates for his clerical training, a period of at least 5 years and as the age for training was important, 15/16 years old, the birth date of c1536 was assumed.
I then completed the time line from 1575 to 1596 as it was well documented and added to it the cartographers working in Messina at the correct time. They were Jacopo Russo, Joan Martines and Bartolomeo Olives with the charts they had drawn for reference.

It was then a matter of comparing the works of those three cartographers to the work by Vigliarolo to establish the probable teacher and hence from whom Vigliarolo obtained his pattern/template and gazetteer as follows later.

The Vigliarolo charts /atlas have been exhibited in date order to aid the comparisons.
Malta; Vatican; Beinecke; Berlin, BNF Paris; (Madrid); HSA New York; Wales and are diagrams ChDV/1/D05 to ChDV/1/D13. The first comparison is ChDV/1/D14.


The Malta fragment was analysed using the Windrose graticule as a guide which indicated that the fragment had been cut from a full chart along its vertical Windrose centreline and as the fragment was 560 x 400mm it was obviously from a skin that was c560 x c900mm, a normal sized Portolan Chart base. I made a tracing of the Beinecke 1577 chart equalizing the distance measures available from the fragment to the 1577 chart and simply overlaid the tracing on the fragment. It is as good a match as any to portolans by the same cartographer.
As the fragment had already been identified as by Vigliarolo, I was not surprised with the roundel and scale bar design being the same. But, what it showed was the decoration was far from a match, and much simpler and in fact similar to the anonymous Vatican chart. But it also indicated that as the Berlin chart was highly decorated it obviously showed a gradual design change in the decoration from plain to one decorated.


Thus the Vatican chart was compared as illustrated on Diagram ChDV/1/D15 and to all intents and purposes they are identical in setting out and scale as well as in their decoration. The Windrose matches perfectly and the scale bars overlay from one to the other and are in the same position apropos the main setting out of the chart. The coastal profile is a match and with the same décor these are sister charts probably drawn in Messina/Palermo and therefore precede the Beinecke 1577 chart.
That left a comparison for the Berlin chart which is similarly decorated to the Palermo chart and being drawn in Naples dated 1580 it left the year 1581 clear for the development of the Vigliarolo Longitude Clock and his letter to the King of Spain regarding it.


The charts are all examined as per my normal methodology, using the scale bars appended to each. Unfortunately they are quite short in length and do not lend themselves to a really accurate measurement of the parts and may therefore vary slightly from the cartographer’s intent. I can only use that which is available on each chart and call them Scale Bar Units, using the initials SBU’s.


It has all the hallmarks of a standard portolan chart where the latitudes should be 90 miliaria and the longitudes 72 miliaria. Obviously being only half the original chart the latitudinal scale which appears on all his other charts is missing but it appears to be a large well scaled chart. Thus I would expect it to have been very similar to the others in basic layout.



This chart is a full Mediterranean Sea basin and Scandinavian area chart containing a latitudinal scale bar in the west. Each latitude measures 66 2/3rds SBU’s and the longitudes are curiously dimensioned as the diagram illustrates. However, the latitudes do correctly represent the charts geography until the standard latitude measurement changes to twist the chart anti-clockwise as occurs on nearly all portolan charts.


The chart appears to be basically a square chart, with the latitudes and longitudes from 9W to 36E being very similar at 66 2/3rd to 67 1/3rd Sbu’s respectively. Although decorated the same as the Malta fragment it appears that Vigliarolo is following a separate idea for the charts format and one similar to that seen on the “Padron Real” drawn by Diogo Ribeiro, a fully square chart.



This chart has a latitudinal scale of 66 2/3rds Sbu’s but the chart itself is drawn closer to the correct 90/72 miliaria ratio of a standard portolan chart. It is as if Vigliarolo actually does not know the reasoning behind the scale bars as the latitudes are less than the longitudes by Sbu’s. However it has the British Isles omitted even though the space on the chart is available alongside the coast of Europe, which is drawn incorrectly. The residue of the chart is very similar to the Vatican Chart.


Again the latitude scale bar is 66 2/3rds Sbu’s, but, the residue of the chart is obviously a square chart when the latitudes are measured as drawn on the coastal profile. It is a similar chart in content to the Vatican Chart but Vigliarolo has varied his scale bar design to a horizontal alignment set on the north and south of the chart. But, where-as the Vatican Chart latitude lines align to the latitudinal scale bar here they are quite varied in accuracy as is clearly indicated on the diagram.


ChDV/1/D20 & D21

THE BNF PARIS Res Ge B1149 chart, 1589, NAPLES

This chart marks down the knowledge Vigliarolo has obtained in Seville apropos the Cosmographical Wheels which are normally found on an Atlas page, but again can be found on the “Padron Real” of Diogo Ribeiro’s charts. There are both horizontal and vertical scale bars which differ in size having 90 Sbu’s /degree latitude and 72Sbu’s/degree longitude. Thus although different they portray the correct ratio of latitude to longitude of 90/72 miliaria. To illustrate the differences I have indicated them in the measurements along the 36East longitude. It would appear that Vigliarolo has at last learnt the correct measurements for a portolan chart and one wonders how he managed to obtain the paid position of Cosmographer at the Casa de la Contratacion?


There are two latitudinal scale bars, one in the West and the second named “Linea Meridionalis” just to the west of the Canary Isles, or as Claudius Ptolemy named them “the Fortunate Isles” and made them his Zero longitude which this scale bar represents. The latitudes measure 66 2/3rds Sbu’s per degree which may indicate the Atlas is actually prior to the Paris Chart where the measures are correct. The 66 2/3rds is a retrograde step. However longitudinally there is no possibility of considering a scale of distance measures as the chart is so clearly totally awry in the positioning of N America.
It would appear this is the first opportunity for Vigliarolo to draw Terra Nova and it is possible he is using a copy of the Verrazzano Letter circulating at that period, to build a picture of the coastline of N America, Newfoundland/Labrador, but also he shows Greenland and Iceland which are not in that letter but with the drawing of the Island of Frisland it could possibly come from the Zeno Chart?, or from the Corte-Real/Cabot explorations.


ChDV/1/D23 & D24


The chart has at some time in the past been in a fire and obviously then reduced on its edges for safety and to remove any charring. It shows the west of the British Isles, part of France and Iberia and then the West coast of Africa from the Mediterranean to the Equator. There is a latitudinal scale bar in the same position as on the HAS Atlas folio 6, and then there are four short horizontal scale bars. A second Latitudinal scale bar follows the wind rose centre line and there is a partial Latitudinal Scale bar set west of Cuba between there and the Yucatan Peninsula. North America, The West Indies and South America are drawn from approximately 8S to 55N but the profile does not reflect the HAS form for the Northern lands. However they are far better placed longitudinally for the geography to work. This chart is shown on 4 A3 sheets. Diagrams D23 and D24 are the basic plot and features on the chart. Then Diagrams D25 and D26 indicate the putative geographical graticule with distance measures given as Sbu’s. However it is obviously a square chart in basic format of 90 miliaria per degree.

This chart is further discussed in the Appendix as it is the subject of a curious text.

ChDV/1/D25 & D26


The second timeline chart (ChDV/1/D03) has there-on a list of the extant charts and atlases which could indicate who the teacher was. It is hard to be precise concerning those actually between 1568 and 1575 as so many are undated, such that Jacopo Russo has only one chart, reference UKL24 dated 1574; Joan Martines has 2 charts and 4 atlases and Bartolomeo has 1 atlas and 1 chart. They are as follows;
1) Chart Ukl24 by Jacopoo Russo is BL Eg 2799 dated 1570 , not available
1a) Jacopo Russo, 1565 chart, Biblioteca Reale, Turin, O. XVI, 4 used as alternative.
2) Chart ItFi15 by Joan Martines is in Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence; Acq e Doni 183 dated 1568
3) Atlas UKL23 by Joan Martines, BL Add.MS. 15714 dated 1568
4) Chart AW5 by Joan Martines is Osterreichische National Bibliothek Cod.365 dated 1570
5) Chart UKO2 by Bartolomeo Olives is Bodleian library Oxford, MS C2:7(23) dated 1575


The first investigation chosen for no particular reason and to be a random test is between the Vigliarolo 1577 chart and the Bartolomeo Olives 1575 chart. I have produced an overlay format of the two charts and it indicates that the latitudinal centreline is the same but the latitudinal scales vary in their accuracy, but are too similar to consider that a problem. It does however show that had the British Isles have been drawn on the 1577 chart it would have burst into the very ornate bordure that Vigliarolo has included. It also suggests that the planning of the layout was compromised by the necessity to have such a bordure which is probably a fancy dressing to sell the chart.



The 1567 Atlas is held in the British Library as ADD MS 15714 and Folio 8 is a Portolan chart of the Mediterranean Sea basin and northwards from the Canary Isles to the Baltic Sea, as Diagram ChDV/1/D28 illustrates. It has a latitudinal scale bar which measures 62 ½ sbu’s per degree, but obviously as can be readily seen the chart is drawn to a different scale, which is probably meant to be the standard Portolan Chart ratio of 90/72 miliaria.
The comparison is shown on Diagram ChDV/1/D29 and indicates that the two are not compatible and thus drawn from a different set of pattern/templates. It is not surprising to find this difference as there is a 10 year gap between the two and as Joan Martines was concentrating on drawing Atlases they would have been quite small pattern/templates and thus Vigliarolo would have chosen a full size Portolan chart to copy. However we do see that the latitudinal centre line of the wind rose is quite consistent in its placement and hence it may well be a common denominator for Messina Charts.




It is worth noting that the 1567 Atlas has at folio2 a complete world chart formed in two hemispheres as Diagram ChDV/D30 illustrates. Thus in Messina circa 1560/1570 there was a corpus of geographical knowledge which may have been the inspiration for Vigliarolo to study there. Similar charts were published from 1550 to 1579 with varying degrees of geographical accuracy by some great cartographers such as Sebastian Munster, Giacomo Gastaldi and Abraham Ortelius, all of which were widely circulated in printed format and would no doubt have been seen by Vigliarolo on his travels.
Secondly, the Atlas page folio 8 has a scale bar for latitudes at 62.5 Sbu’s and that is of course the Ptolemaic translation of his 500 stades to Roman Miles.



ChDV/1/D31 & D32

As practically all portolan charts have evolved from a single master chart as my text ChGEN/1 clearly shows, when comparing charts in this manner it must be expected that a large amount of the coastlines will be similarly drawn.
However, the Joan Martines chart has a latitudinal scale of 68 Sbu’s per degree and the Vigliarolo chart is 66 2/3rds Sbu’s per degree, with only the 36N latitude aligning at the Strait of Gibraltar. The difference between the two charts is further marked by the fact that the Iberian Peninsula, 37N to 43N is drawn at 66 2/3rds/degree on the Vigliarolo chart and 80 Sbu’s on the Martines chart. Thus the alignment of the Mediterranean Sea from Cape St Vincent to the Gulf of Issus longitudinally provides for a similarity but further north and south the two charts diverge by virtue of the differing Sbu’s.
Thus the cartographers working in Messina certainly produce geographically similar charts but their pattern/templates have drifted away from the norm by continuous copying no doubt as they deteriorated.


ChDV/1/D33 & D34

Having made the point vis a vis Portolan Charts evolution from a single master chart, this comparison clearly indicates that the basic pattern/template which covers the Mediterranean Sea/Black Sea areas and generally Iberia and the W African coast south to the Canary Isles is or was available to be used in Messina and apparently used by the cartographers there.
What clearly differ are the extremes to the original portolan chart; France, the British Isles and Europe’s coastline to the Baltic Sea. The actual scale bars have the same measurements per unit, but the latitudinal scales are slightly different and vary over their latitudinal length.
If Domenico Vigliarolo had seen this 1565 chart with its wealth of decoration I think he would have taken note and instead of waiting until the 1577 chart drawn in Palermo to try minor decoration he would have realised that it is decoration that sells charts to clients who are not mariners as they have a different use.
The Jacobus Russus chart has the British Isles and Baltic Sea drawn to a vastly different scale to the body of the chart, where-as the Vigliarolo chart is closer to the geographical profile which indicates a separate pattern/template, was in use.


ChDV/1/D35 & D36

Firstly we must bear in mind that Joan Martines was still in Messina and Domenico Vigliarolo had moved to Naples and then produced this chart. Thus as these two charts are perhaps the closest to being contenders for the basic pattern/template used by Domenico Vigliarolo we should also consider the fact that this 1570 chart, if my putative time-line is accepted was produced in the middle of the Domenico Vigliarolo apprenticeship. Being a simple chart of only the Mediterranean Sea basin it is or was possibly ideal for Vigliarolo to use and commence his own style and thus improve on it. The J Martines charts of 1567 and 1568 are far more expansive in their portrayal of Europe, but as Vigliarolo only started training in c1568, this could well be the first chart he saw J Martines draw.


Domenico Vigliarolo is a hard person to track down from his birth to his sudden appearance as a cartographer in Palermo, 1577. This narrative was therefore based upon a putative time scale up to 1577 from whence we have quite good evidence of his life until 1596 when he disappears again from the records.
The crucial point for my narrative was to identify where and by whom he was trained. It was obvious he was already a priest as he styled himself Presbyter and Donnus, and gave us his place of birth, Stilo Calabria. Hence it was logical to assume he passed through Messina on his way to Palermo and his 1577 chart.
Messina was a well known cartographic centre for not only the Olives Family, but for Joan Martines a very prolific Atlas cartographer and for Jacobus Russus who was probably the earliest. These three were all working in Messina when my putative dates for Domenico Vigliarolo to be trained are noted.
The problem I foresaw was that the Mediterranean Sea basin had been drawn on Portolan Charts for at least 250 years by the time Domenico Vigliarolo trained and the pattern/template was well established and used by all the major cartographical centres around the basin. Identifying the teacher I was convinced would therefore not be straight forward given the undoubted similarities on these charts.
That proved to be correct, but it did allow me to dismiss many charts of the period 1568/75 as being the single chart which provided Domenico Vigliarolo with a pattern/template for his future works.
Purely by chance as I did not set down an order for comparison thinking the randomness would be a better guide and happened to leave the Joan Martines 1570 chart to the last. I believe it is possibly the origin of Domenico Vigliarolo as a cartographer. He was training, if my dates are accepted when this simple 1570 chart was drawn and it is a reasonable match and thus I propose to state that in all probability Joan Martines trained Domenico Vigliarolo in Messina c1568-1575. But as there were three cartographers working in Messina I would not rule out cross fertilisation.

Michael J Ferrar, September/October 2021


Whilst researching Vigliarolo I came across a paper entitled, (pdf) 1592, Domenico Vigliarolo chart, at ,
I read the paper and was frankly non-plussed as it relied heavily on the belief that under the toponym “R: de Buena M{ }RE ( the original authors reading) is supposedly a rectangular feature against the shoreline. But the ‘’R” is for Rio, that is River and not a Bay.
I had obtained a copy of the chart from the National Library of Wales which was taken on a Hasselblad CF-39MS camera and was an excellent reproduction as illustrated. I have included the originals from the above text and copied the photo/data sheets and the two sheets which purport to show the rectangular feature.
The Newport Tower is situate at 41° 29’ 09” N and 710 18’ 36” West and is on Rhode Island and known as the Old Stone Mill. It is noted as being 28 feet high and the remains of a windmill. Archaeologically it is dated to the mid 17th century, some 50 years after the NL Wales chart of 1592 was drawn. But given the Stone construction and its foundations it could hide an original timber pit hole structure which preceded the Stone Tower. But no evidence was found archaeologically of anything earlier than the stone tower.
This tower? (or more likely a predecessor) has featured in stories from the Vikings to the first settlers, but it is worth noting that in the 1632 Plowden Petition, it refers to a round stone tower, but it is on Long Island instead!

ChDV/1/D37 & D38

In fact, if the text of G de Verrazzano is studied there is a paragraph describing the “harbour mouth”, called “Refugio” and then a description of the bay behind, now Narragansett Bay which at the “harbour mouth” has the island of Aquidneck, one of the largest in the Bay.
The text is as follows; “This country is situated on a parallel with Rome at 40 2/3rds degrees, but is somewhat colder, by chance and not by nature, as I shall explain to Your Majesty at another point; I will now describe the position of the aforementioned port. The coast of this land runs from west to east. The harbour mouth (GV footnote: which we called “refugio” because of its beauty) faces south, and is half a league wide; from its entrance it extends for 12 leagues in a north easterly direction, and then widens out to form a large bay of about 20 leagues in circumference. In this bay are five small islands, very fertile and beautiful, full of tall spreading trees, and any large fleet could ride safely among them without fear of tempest or other dangers. Then, going southward to the entrance of the harbour, there are very pleasant hills on either side, with many streams of clear water flowing from the high land into the sea. In the middle of this estuary there is a rock of “viva pietra” (a non porous rock) formed by nature, which is suitable for building any kind of machine or bulwark for the defence of the harbour. (GV footnote; which we called “La Petra Viva,” on account of both the nature of the stone and the family of a gentlewoman; on the right side of the harbour mouth there is a promontory which we call “Jovius promontory)

Nota; Verrazzano states he is at 41° 29’ 17” N and 71° 18’ 45” W and the Newport Tower would not be at 41.48° which is 41° 28’ 5” N and obviously would be above ‘Jovius promontory” and in the “Refugio”. Therefore it would appear the wrong toponym has been chosen, basically because it is a River name and the mark referred to is probably no more than an ink mark overspill as can be seen elsewhere.


The correct site is named in Red Ink and has the first letters’ ba-:’signifying Baia, then ‘des’ and then’ io’ with dots over signifying extra words. The last letters are hard to determine and a curious combination but afford two solutions; first “Bay of John the Baptist”, and second “Baia de S. Ioanis”, that is bay of St John. This should not be confused with St John, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy, even though Esteban Gomez sailed the area in 1524, and the name does come from St John (24th June) it is a river name and not a bay and was named in 1604. The city is basically 18th century and now a very large port.


If the Newport Tower was shown it should be above the letters “ba-” that is east of the harbour mouth, but west of the toponym and thus opposite the purported Tower position. But the Vigliarolo Chart fairly indicates that it is not influenced by the Verrazzano text or later 1529 chart. The toponyms have no similarity at all as can be seen on the two diagrams which clearly suggest that the Vigliarolo chart is based upon other explorations. It is pertinent to quote from “Atlas of World Exploration” as follows; “The Spanish were also preoccupied by the search for a sea-passage to the Orient. In March 1524, Esteban Gomez, a Portuguese-born pilot, was commissioned by Charles 5th of Spain to ‘go and explore eastern Cathay…. As far as our island of Maluco (the spice islands). According to the chronicler Peter Martyr, Gomez returned after a ten month voyage during which he traced the Atlantic Coast in the opposite direction to that sailed by Verrazzano.’


Thus Vigliarolo was luckily in Seville and able to use these explorations to formulate his chart. But Gomez did not explore Newfoundland or Labrador, that information comes from the Corte Reals and John Cabot in c1500. Hence the disparity in the chart plots.

Michael J Ferrar, September/October 2021