A BASIC DESCRIPTION
The World Chart is unusual in that it is drawn on a rectangular parchment, 99 x 110.5 cms, and close examination indicates it has been deliberately formed to that size by an additional section along the southern bordure of c230mm. Thus it is open to consider that the original parchment was 760 x 1105mm, more normal proportions for a vellum/parchment skin and increased by 30% to represent a particular format as will be discussed later.
The chart has drawn there-on; in the west Cuba/Hispaniola and the corresponding coast of South America, but they are obviously drawn or positioned to fit the parchment by being angled at 45 to 60 degrees at variance to their geographical layout which is basically east/west. The east coast of South America from Cape San Roque southwards is drawn in a relatively correct position apropos Africa, although several degrees north. I question the small bulge below the toponym for Cape San Roque, named Cap de Santa Crucis and suggest the cartographer has mis-named it and it should actually be Cape San Roque, with Santa Crucis further south. The two sections of the South American coastline are not continuous with the coast from the Orinoco River passing the Amazon mouths to Cape San Roque omitted. This portrayal indicates the knowledge of C1500/1502/1504 as is illustrated later by the King-Hamy chart of c1502. The world Chart appears to rely heavily on the 1501/1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci as is discussed later, although that information probably only arrived in Italy 1503 via a letter and a Portuguese chart.
To the north above South America is an interpretation of the coast of North America and Labrador and is noted as having been discovered by the Corte-Real brothers. In the North Atlantic, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Isles are drawn, whilst further south are the Cape Verde Isles positioned relatively correctly apropos the west coast of Africa.
Europe, the Mediterranean Sea basin, Africa, the Middle East and in the Far East India is drawn. Commencing with “Insula de Ureslant” north of Scotland and “Terra Dauens”, Greenland, the British Isles are shown with a disjointed Britannia. To the east is, Norwege with an east/west Baltic Sea drawn, but it includes a very curious Jutland Peninsula, drawn to a format not seen previously as it is in the shape of a “hammer head” as opposed to a vertical peninsula.
East of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea is the Caspian Sea, drawn in an approximate geographical form, although tilted slightly to the west rather than the Ptolemaic form used by others to correspond with the Persian Gulf which is of the Ptolemaic form?
Africa is reasonably correct and follows the norm from Portuguese charts with a much extended longitudinal spread from Cape Verde to Cape Guardafini/Ras Asir at 51E/12N.
India is drawn as a minor Peninsula with a SW bent which is reminiscent of previous charts of the era indicating the lack of detailed knowledge, although the words “Sumatra uf Taproban” are to the south east of the tip of India indicating they were known of but not the format. The Vasco da Gama expedition up to 1499 and the Cabral 1500/1501 expeditions are probably the source for Calicut and Cochin being named, although Niccolo Conti c1414/1437 covered all of this area.
The fact that Madagascar is not shown probably indicates that the voyage of 1500/1501 by Diogo Dias which discovered the island and sailed into the Gulf of Aden had not reached this cartographer and thus the piecemeal transfer of geographical data is shown.
The three texts appended to the chart are discussed later.
THE CURIOUS JUXTAPOSTION OF TWO WIND ROSE GRATICULES
Drawn on the parchment readily visible are three horizontal gold lines and a standard graticule oriented NSEW. But the first graticule drawn and subsequently erased is set at 35/42.5 degrees and is capable of being analysed as the erasure is quite distinct. If this graticule is measured it is a standard 35/30/27 proportional grid, which because of the two angles it is drawn at cannot be resolved into a basic graticule.
However if the three gold lines are drawn as well as this grid the raison d’être becomes very clear. The northern gold line is in fact drawn as the Ptolemaic Tropic of Cancer positioned by the Persian Gulf of Ptolemy and then the lower two lines are set to produce a 6 degree and a 12 degree angle based upon the charts width to the bordure. The fact the Gold Lines are set at putative 36 degrees apart ensures that this width produces those two angles.
Included are two basic diagrams, D03 and D04 taken from the text Ch120/1 which explained how the basic portolan chart became slanted 120 by the astrological plot and the obliquity of the ecliptic. Thus the 120 slope indicated is the cartographer’s explanation of the ecliptic/Ptolemaic layout and the wind rose graticule.
The standard graticule diagram is included for comparison. It fills the parchment and interacts with the original graticule only marginally with alignments. However, the two graticules are identical in measurement of the basic 35/30/27 sides of the graticules and thus the original setting out was possibly drawn for another reason and why it was drawn as such is completely unknown. It is possible that in section two of this text an answer may appear.
AN EXAMINATION OF THE LATITUDINAL/LONGITUDINAL LAYOUT
An assessment of the latitudes was made from the positioning of the Iberian Peninsula, 37°/43° North and the 5° north alignment in Africa, Gulf of Guinea. This enabled the Equator and Tropics to be positioned as now drawn on the chart, but, it also indicated that there were three distinct scales used to plot the chart. The main latitudinal scale could not be measured from the appended scale bar as this part (along with others) of the chart is degraded. But from 43°N southwards to the Equator the putative scale proved an excellent comparison to the geographical which by c1500 should have been expected, especially for Africa. However from the Equator southerly it appears that Africa has been shrunk by c5° which produced the first alternative scale. When the latitudes from 43°N were expanded to the north to encompass France, and the British Isles a third scale was encountered.
In the east the Caspian Sea is drawn with a westerly tilt and as stated the Persian Gulf is Ptolemaic in shape but the latitudes from 23°N to 31°N accord with both Ptolemy and geography. The position of East Africa is determined by the 50°E longitude and thus also India. The cartographer has endeavoured to ensure alignments are correct even though Africa is wildly oversized longitudinally.
THE WEST INDIES AND SOUTH AMERICA
It is patently obvious that the West Indies have been twisted clockwise to ensure that they are capable of being drawn upon the parchment and that begs the question that if India was necessarily to be included, did the cartographer realise the scale of the West Indies would not fit when in fact the eastern portion of India is at c90° east geographically and the western end of Cuba c85° west. The charts centre line is c100 east and thus to India it is geographically 800 and to Cuba it is 95°. However if the three closest wind rose circles are studied, the northern most set above the “Four Fingers” is oriented NSEW with 8 major points but the lower two have 16 points and are without an actual alignment and thus guessing their origin is null and void.
The second diagram D08 is an attempt to understand what the cartographer had as data to draw the chart. Undoubtedly the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola are drawn to emulate “Geography” and the north coast of South America is plausibly correct, but the juxtaposition of both islands to that coast is totally awry. However on Diagram D06 the geographical position of the East coast of South America determined by Cape San Roque at 350 W and 50 south is positioned, if we take the toponyms position, c4 degrees north. This eastern coast is charted from Cape San Roque to Rio de Cananor (Rio Cananea) with a further un-named section to the south. The area was investigated by Amerigo Vespucci in 1501-1502 and Rio de Janeiro (Guanabara Bay) was sighted on the 1st January, hence the name. In a text written in 1503, “Mundus Novus” by Amerigo Vespucci to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, there are places on this coast noted and the most southerly point some 17 ½ degrees north of the Antarctic Circle (c49S). The letter though is more a tract on the people discovered in S America than the landscape. The voyage returned to Portugal on 22/07/1502, which rather seems to indicate this chart is at the earliest late 1503 and probably 1504 as it is Italian.
A COMPARISON OF CHARTS
There are several charts drawn in the period 1500 – 1506 which may be used to compare data and draughtsmanship on Cod. Icon. 133, to find a predecessor. However only one appears to be actually comparable, that held in the Huntington Library as HM 45; it is 585 x 942 (530 x 772) mm in size and normally known as The KING-HAMY chart.
Firstly, the latitudinal scales (one putative) are very similar when the Iberian Peninsula is utilised to align the charts. The similarity is striking between the two and as they are both ANON charts they may originate from the same studio. Both charts have a split Britannia and position Labrador and N America similarly, although drawn wrongly latitudinally as previously discussed.
One solitary but striking feature between the two is that both charts have 8 pointed stars appended. HM45 has two stars set one west and one east, where-as the Cod, Icon. 133 has a single star in the north, but they are the same size. On the HM45 chart as Diagram 9 (ChKHMW/1/D14) illustrates they play an important part in the charts construction.
An examination of the single star indicates it may have been positioned by 45° and 30° alignments from the extremities of the upper and lower gold lines. On the diagram D11 the star has been co-joined to the three gold lines to illustrate what could be the locator for the star given that the northern gold line is the Ptolemaic Tropic of Cancer. But, if in fact the centre line is meant to represent the Ptolemaic Equator then the star is set at c90° north. Thus the lower line being (?) equally spaced it would represent the Ptolemaic Tropic of Capricorn, although of course Ptolemy never indicates it as his world stops at c16° south.
THREE TEXTS APPENDED TO THE CHART
The three texts are set in cartouche and a vignette adjacent plays a part in their text.
Those three texts are situate as follows:
1) Northwest between Cuba and “four fingers, referring to Cuba
2) Southwest in what may be considered the body of South America
3) South Atlantic off the southwest coast of Africa with the vignette aligned in the body of Africa, but referring to Ghana. (They are written and translated on the diagrams).
The first two are quite hard to read given the deleterious state of preservation of the chart, but they are quite usual in their content given the norms of the day. The first, Cuba, confirms that Columbus discovered it all and the fact that he found snakes and gold. The second, S America discusses the fact that it is the land of “The Cross” and the text is confirmed by the vignette of one man roasting another on a spit. The third text is juxtaposed to the vignette which being an extra-ordinary drawing is entitled “Paradisus Terrestris” as Diagram ChKU/1/D13 illustrates.
Read the translation of the third text and the positioning of the text is totally awry, and given the content “roots of herbs” rather curiously placed. It should have been placed south of Guinea in the Gulf of Guinea as the castle can only be the castle of Elmina on the south coast of Ghana founded by the Portuguese in 1482. It was originally for the trade in Gold and much later became a slave trading hub. However the local tribes and Arabs certainly took slaves to work the gold fields, but that fact does not really appear in the extant texts of the day, c1502, nor the information regarding Damnati, there must have been good authority for an Italian to include it.
The Cantino Planisphere (see text ChCAN/1) and its corresponding texts is included as Diagrams ChKU/1/D14 and D15 solely because it is a 1502 World Chart and is the first to be completely covered in cartouche containing texts regarding the various places there-on. It is worth comparing them as it is a Portuguese Chart, much more complete than the Chart we are studying and probably 2 years earlier in its draughtsmanship.
SECTION TWO OF THE TEXT; THE VELLUM/PARCHMENT
BSB MUNICH; Cod. icon. 133: THIS WORLD CHART IS A PALIMPSEST
When investigating a map or chart, particularly to read toponyms, I usually open the scanned chart (having requested a copy direct from the holder at the largest pixel size available) with Picture Manager which enables the enlargement and roaming on the chart.
When I carried out this exercise on the Munich chart, using the 18503 x 16651 pixel download I was astounded to see several “Faces” in a much washed out condition on the plain area of the chart. Thus I started a search of the chart open areas which are basically the oceans at maximum enlargement my computer would handle and enable the roaming facility still to work. Lo and behold I found I was looking at a washed out ink drawing which from the various oceans appears to cover the whole chart. Thus this 900 x 1105mm sheet was probably originally a cartoon and the size of the sheet manipulated by the additional section to produce a proportional drawing for a much larger copy on a wall or ceiling in a Palazzo or similar. That was my first thought and became my working hypothesis for my research.
I had only come across one other chart as a palimpsest in my researches and that was the “Carta Pisana” held by the BNF Paris and the subject of my text ChCPS/1. To illustrate my findings there, I attach two pages from that text as Diagram ChKU/1/D16 which describe the findings and possible raison d’être.
My investigation of the Munich chart was carried out as follows; I enlarged it as best possible and fitted to my computer screen, which is 365 x 215mm, very fine tracing paper and using a 10x magnification lens traced off any item I could see, be it lines or parts of figures ensuring as I moved the chart there was an overlap which enabled me to place these tracings together and endeavour to understand what I was looking at. To put it plainly I was left flummoxed by the Indian Ocean tracing which had pairs of lines, curved lines and at least 6 “Faces” I found hard to link. The washing off of the ink drawing was so very successful in places that evaluating it was a nightmare. The diagram ChKU/1/D17 is a collage of my freehand tracing of the Southern Indian Ocean, below the wind rose roundel and a copy of a scan I obtained from a CAD Machine of the same area. The CAD machine was used as it has a far greater computing power than my laptop. The “Faces” I could see are above this scan and I could only prevail on the operator for one major scan. On diagram ChKU/1/D18 I have indicated the simple items I believe anybody could see if the enlarge the chart and use a magnifying lens. It may have been possible to see more by Ultra Violet light as the British Library did to spot a Palimpsest, but one was not available to me, and of course it would require to be the original chart, not a copy.
I contacted BSB Munich regarding certain lines on the chart readily visible on the enlarged copy (not these) but BSB do not offer a service to identify the ink. At this stage I freely admit I did not inform BSB of my findings as I thought I could not provide adequate proofs as my tracings were not in a fit state to copy ( as you can readily see) and I could not state categorically what it represented. My immediate reaction then was to ask a specialist company if the “Scanning macro-x-ray fluorescence technique” used on paintings was capable of evaluating this washed out ink drawing, but with no reply offered.
I decided to enquire for the following reasons; the chart is dated c1502/1504 which means the original drawing would be dated in the 1400’s. Then, in Italy, there was a plethora of artistes working and to discover the original would probably require an expert in the field and thus the whole vellum/parchment required to be evaluated I thought that perhaps also the chart’s two sections could be Carbon 14 dated to assist in placing it within the century as there was no reason to think it was contiguous with the charts drawing date of c1502/1504.
Finally I re-iterate that I have included a copy of the chart with notes as to what I think I have so far seen thus enabling any other researcher to study the chart and confirm/deny my findings. It is ChKU/1/D18 and I suggest the 18500 x 16600 pixel scan is utilised which can be downloaded from BSB Munich.
2) LATIN PALEOGRAPHY
Latin_Paleography Users Manual; 5th edition 02/01/2017
Juan-Jose Marcos, Professor of Classics. Plasencia (Caceres) Spain
3) MUNDUS NOVUS LETTER TO LORENZO DI MEDICI
Vespucci Reprints, texts and studies. V
The Mundus Novus in Translation by George Tyler Northup
Princeton University Press, 1916.
ALBERICUS VESPUCIUS OFFERS HIS BEST COMPLIMENTS TO LORENZO PIETRO DI MEDICI.
“On a former occasion I wrote to you at some length concerning my return from the regions which we found and explored with the fleet at the cost and by the command of this Most Serene King of Portugal”. (Departed 14th May 1501).
Text page 5 is paraphrased on the Cantino Planisphere of October 1502
Text page 6 “a man is reputed to have eaten more than 300 humans”
Page 11. Confirmation that Lisbon is at 39 ½ degrees north and they sailed to 50S and that the corresponding angular alignment from one to the other is 5 degrees west.