View Diagrams  Download Paper  Download Images 


This Portolan Chart was in fact not my chosen research project but the 8 page Atlas held by LUL as reference MS.4.3 which I had noted as missing from the HOC 7.1 appendix list, but the chart, LUL MS.F.4.17 is there-in. After seeking an explanation of its apparent non appearance and being suitably informed, and having firmly established its provenance I turned my attention to the Portolan Chart.

As stated it is only 40 x 25 ½ inches but within that size the miniaturist has been able to draw some 17 figures, 8 animals, and 3 very large plus 27 smaller cityscapes, and of course there are a full set of toponyms around the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea basin as Diagram ChLUL/1/D01 illustrates.. I would add the Italian saying, “Nelle botti piccolo c’e del buon vino” as this chart is a feast for the eyes and no doubt somehow Italian.

The staff at the LUL have been exceptionally courteous and provided the four “NOTES”, all that appears to have been written about the chart as a starting point for the research. They have also now placed the chart and selected views of it online.



The first document is the LUL catalogue entry for the chart and atlas which are both part of a very large bequest given in 1900AD by Thomas Glazebrook Rylands. It was written by John Sampson at LUL in 1900 and in 1930 a private letter exists at LUL where-in he writes; “I remember it distinctly—-It is interestingly crude”

But in 1925 “The Studio” journal published an anon article (anon because the index is missing from the library held copy which is a composite of the first 6 months of 1925). I have contacted the existing publishers of “The Studio” who hold the original monthly prints but due to the circumstances prevailing now in the world they are not in the office. The article is entitled “Pictorial Maps and Prospects” and discusses this chart and includes several insights into charts in general which have been clearly proven (see my texts ChGEN/1 and ChGME/1) as follows; “The portolans, on the other hand, are after a rigid model, almost successive copies of one original, in a strict and very gradually developing convention” and “but having this good deal of blank space which was a pity to waste, the portolan draughtsman ornamented it sumptuously”. The fourth document is by R A Skelton, who in May 1962 commented upon this chart as the diagram indicates. He fluctuates from a title mid XVI century to “Fairly late date in the 3rd (or even 4th) quarter of the XVI Century”. However he does correctly identify the Majorcan basis and the Olives or Prunes families as it is Catalan. I was taken aback by his comment of a “Reindeer in Africa”, which is palpably nonsense as it is drinking from the River Nile and is obviously one of the Deer/Antelopes known as “Pronghorn”.




As per my usual custom I use the scale bar appended to a chart to evaluate its constituent parts. Rather sadly many researchers ignore this vital tool to “guess” at the units used for measurements on the chart and decide some monstrous 1: x, xxx, xxx scale; highly inappropriate for the medieval period.

Firstly the Windrose graticule is measured as diagram ChLUL/1/D03 indicates and provides for an excellent setting out to the “original” chart. Original because it is so easy to notice that it has been reduced on three sides and reshaped at the neck. The proportions of the Windrose follow the standard setting out for one when it is a measurement based graticule and no circle is apparent as the frame. The setting out is from four quadrants of 92 units in the ratio 35/30/20/7 and are thus 1472 scale bar units per quadrant. The over-run to the west, the line of the Latitude Scale is precisely 60 scale bar units as is the first extra division to the east. This then can be seen to be the measurement of the missing sections of the chart on the three sides with a double measurement in the East to allow for fixing to a wooden pole for storage. This fact probably accounts for the missing attribution text possibly set in the east, but more than likely adjacent to the neck which has obviously been reduced to remove some of the latitudinal scale.

Thus both the Windrose and scale bar have been sized to enable a full Mediterranean Sea Basin Portolan Chart to be drawn on the minor sized vellum skin, but perfectly set out nevertheless.

The next diagrams ChLUL/1/D04 and D05 can in fact be joined to form a full chart with measurements for the geographical features appended. It thus appears to be close to a “square” chart with Latitudes and Longitudes when measured overall nearly equal. But in fact there is a wide variation as the chart indicates from 71 ½ to 75 and 85 longitudinally for the distance from Cape St Vincent at 9W to the Gulf of Issus at 36E, actually 45 degrees along the 36N latitude and an average of 78 ½ scale bar units per degree. That expansion/contraction is a normal occurrence on a portolan chart and produces the skewing distortion seen on them to the east.



Latitudinally measured on the Iberian Peninsula each degree is 80 S B U’s and this is a typical misreading of the actual measurement and mix-up of distance measures. The typical chart has 90 S B U’s per degree of Latitude, those being Miliaria of 1.2326Km and then at 36N the longitude measurement is 4/5ths and thus 72 Miliaria. Here the cartographer has used the Spanish measurement of 80 Miles per degree of Latitude and endeavoured to use the standard 72 units for longitude. The excessive measurements for latitude along the 36E longitude of 100 S B U’s for the land mass of Turkey and then the Black Sea assists to enhance the slewing commenced in the Mediterranean Sea and is a typical error.




The Cartographer, can be identified from diagrams ChLUL/1 D06 and D07 as follows; the Windrose drawn under the Virgin and Child in the west has one very tell-tale feature, that of “holes” in the direction vanes. This is a hall-mark of Jaume Olives and can be seen on most of his Atlas and Charts. Diagram ChLUL/1/D07 has the single Atlas Page from 1563 held in Olomouc Czech Republic and a 1566 Chart appended, on each of which it is attested as the work of Jaume Olives. A simple example of many as noted on Diagram ChLUL/1/D08 the attribution list from La Carta Mallorquina written in 1960.


But that list commences with 4 lines of text worth repeating here-in;

“Este mallorquin, orgulloso de serlo, segun, se desprende de la firma de sus obras en Mallorca, Mesina, Napoles y Florencia, parece ser uno de los fundadores de la fecunda dinastia de los Olives”

That text indicates the Author’s thought Jaume Olives was at some time in Florence, but I cannot find a corroboration in their text. However if the list is studied it has four items dated to 1563, all drawn in Naples to which we may add a fifth the Olomouc Atlas found decades later. That is a prodigious amount of work for one year and in fact probably indicates as will be shown later on Diagram ChLUL/1/D21, that after the 1561 Messina Chart was drawn, Jaume Olives left for the short journey by sea to Naples and those five charts/atlases were commenced in 1562 and completed and dated 1563.

Considering Jaume Olives would have required finding a work space, unless he used a Ship as a constant base, highly unlikely, then that is one chart 84 x 60 cms and +20 Atlas pages and more likely to be two years work-load. That chart is thus even smaller than MS.F.4.17 which is c102 x c65 cms.

But on the Olomouc Atlas page from 1563 (D07) not only is there an attribution “Jaume Olives Mallorchi en Napols any 1563” but a second text which reads: “S de cṑn tastin de nicolo de curffo”.

That is unusual, not only because it seems impossible to translate, but to name another scholar on a chart is not the norm unless it is a dual composition.

Nicolo de Curffo is in fact Nikolaos Sophianos and he was born on Corfu c1500 and came immediately to Rome (with a large Greek population then) and was schooled at the Greek Quirinal College. It appears he spent most of his life in Rome and was lauded for a Map of Greece, published in Rome 1540, entitled, “Totus Graeciae Descripto”. This comes just after the first two De’Medici Popes, but in a re-publication of 1544 and 1545, done in Basle Switzerland, surprisingly it is dedicated to Cosimo 1st de’Medici, then Duke of Florence.

Given the life expectancy of the age 65/75 years for a well kept personage, then in 1563 Jaume Olives being in Naples could well have heard of, seen the Map and even met him. But I should add that the Map of Greece is not geographical, but an idealised picture and in fact Jaume Olives MS.F.4.17 chart has a very good profile for Greece and the Aegean Sea. Thus I did wonder if in fact the shortened word “con” was a typical Latin conflation of contra, against, and he was stating disagreement. But the word “tastin” is a step too far for me!

Is this important, the following will indicate probably just how important it is.



The chart has one glaringly obvious pointer to start the investigation, in that the largest Townscapes are Genoa/Florence/Venice, with Florence set between the two great maritime cities of Italy thus giving it equal status . But it also shows the De’Medici coat of arms as the flag for Florence.

The whole chart is orientated to be read from the east; that is all vignettes are to be viewed from the east where-as a normal Portolan chart has the vignettes orientated from the three major sides, North, East and South. The missing section in the east still has Judea, Jerusalem and Mount Sinai, plus an orphan flag below Jerusalem indicating the extension of the chart as promulgated here-in. But Jerusalem has a Flag, a Chalice with a cross and two outers and then north of Jerusalem we see Mount Calvary with the three crosses of the crucifixion as Diagram ChLUL/1/D11 clearly indicates.



This leads to the conclusion that the “client” was a “Christian” claiming Jerusalem even though the towns surrounding it are all Muslim Flagged, and the Levante was lost by 1300 AD. Nikolaos Sophianos could certainly be that person who inspired Jaume Olives to draw a basic chart for a very skilled Italian Miniaturist to decorate the whole as we now see. But there is another candidate in the wings for the client. The vignettes were not drawn by Jaume Olives as a viewing of his charts and atlases proves because on his charts etc they are drawn totally differently and by comparison very poor indeed.
The De’Medici Popes are as follows with the intermediaries;
1513-1521, Pope Leo X, originally Giovanni de’Medici
1522-1523, Pope Adrian Vi, originally Adrian Florenszoon Boeyens
1523-1534, Pope Clement VII, originally Giulio de’Medici
1534-1549, Pope Paul III, originally Alessandro Farnese
1550-1555, Pope Julius III, originally Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte
1555, Pope Marcellus II, originally Marcello Cervini
1555-1559 , Pope Paul IV, originally Gian Pietro Carafa
1559-1565, Pope Pius IV, originally Giovanni Angelo de’Medici
In 1605 we see the last De’Medici Pope, Pope Leo XI, originally Alessandro Ottaviano de’Medici.


As just discussed, the chart LUL MS 4 17 has two features which are not seen ordinarily on Portolan Charts. The first is a rather good depiction of Florence situated between Genoa and Venice with all three having their flags appended as Diagram ChLUL/1/D09 illustrates. Normally Florence is shown by a toponym with a flag (if at all) of a red Fleur de Lys on a silver background. And secondly on this chart, as Diagram ChLUL/1/D10 clearly illustrates the “Arms” of the De’Medici family are used signifying their lordship over the City. Given that the extant charts and atlases by Jaume Olives are from 1550 to 1572 then there can only be one contender for that personage and hence the recipient of the chart, Cosimo 1st, Duke of Florence and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1537 to 1574 when he abdicated in favour of his son Francesco 1st de’Medici.

Is this in fact an acknowledgement of the De’Medici family, not only as equal to the rulers of Genoa and Venice but having so far provided two Popes, Leo X and Clement VII and from those Clement VII may well have known Nikolaos Sophianos. It is thus possible we are seeing a client who could afford such a gift preparing to donate it to a recipient of standing. But the third De’Medici Pope, Pius IV, 1559 to 1565 would be there in Rome with Nikolaos Sophianos and given the decoration on the chart discussed above I would consider the “Client” to have been Pope Pius IV, quite capable of requesting such a luxurious chart and the most likely figure to want Florence to be among the leaders of “Italy” and thus gave it as a gift to Cosimo de’Medici, Duke of Florence. But more importantly he is the one person who would claim Jerusalem for Christendom. Pope Pius IV born 31/3/1499 and died 9/12/1565 thus there is no discrepancy in the dating that disallows this putative theory. It is also pertinent that Pope Pius IV also used as his Papal crest the arms of the De’Medici family adorned with the Papal crown as the diagram indicates.

I would add that if in fact somebody wishes to turn this putative idea on its head then consider this. If it was Duke Cosimo 1st of Florence who was the client to offer it as a gift to the De Medici Pope, then the chart would have been saved inside the Vatican Library and not found in France to be sold. The north of Italy was ravaged by the French, basically from 1796 to the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. The spoils of war it is called!




In Florence itself are many statues and carvings depicting the de’Medici crest and arms which all indicate they are Dukes of Florence by a ducal Crown atop the item.

It should be noted that it was the De’ Medici Popes who created the Dukedom of Florence with Pope Clement VII creating Alessandro de’ Medici the first Duke in 1532.



Drawn in the centre of the wind rose is a plan view of a Ducal Crown, identified by the fact that it is OVOID and not circular, hence formed to fit a human skull. At its centre is drawn a White Hunting Dog in traditional upright pose as seen for Lions etc on many coats of arms in both Spain and Italy. But any such diagrams usually refer to the family of the recipient of the chart, not the cartographer or even the intermediary client, although that remains a possibility.



But trying to locate the family, or part of a family has proven not to be feasible for the de’Medici’s. I can only offer pages 45-59 of “Dialogo dell’Impresse Militari et Amore” by Paolo Giovio dated 1557 and show Diagrams D17 and D18 here with a full 5 pages in the appendix for those who wish to study all possibilities. Thus commensurate with the time span we are discussing to illustrate the “arms” of the various members of the de’Medici family with the first Duke Alessandro who chose as his “”Animal”” a Rhinoceros, as page 55 illustrates and Duke Cosimo chose his birth sign, Capricornus, as pages 57/58 show, or that is what Paolo Giovio would have us believe. I should add that spread throughout the +330 pages of this document are numerous mentions of Popes, but without Regnal Numbers. But, there is no White Hunting Dog to be seen. However to illustrate the possibilities Diagram ChLUL/1/D19 shows a medieval hunting scene and two coats of arms for families in the Naples district taken from “”Insignia Neapolitanorum, Genuesium”” all of which clearly illustrate the possibility stated.



Having already used a page from the Olomouc Atlas of 1563, I have chosen to compare its atlas page for the British Isles with the corresponding section of the MS.F.4.17 chart to gain confirmation of the attribution. Thus in studying the comparison it is quite clear that they are both drawn from the same template and therefore as the Olomouc Atlas is signed we can be certain this chart MS 4 17 is by Jaume Olives.

There is then the opinion of a Catalan Scholar as follows; ”It is a piece produced by a Catalan Cartographer, because its place names are clearly written in Catalan, and because the kind of hand-writing and miniatures that is contains suits also perfectly with a map of the XVI century Catalan cultural production that was very penetrated bt then by Castilian and Portuguese influences”

Thus I can quite clearly state that the chart is by a Catalan cartographer who is Jaume Olives, born in Majorca, but the miniatures are definitely not of his hand but by an Italian Master Miniaturist employed for this specific project to be given by a POPE to perhaps the most celebrated personage of the XVI century Duke Cosimo 1st of Florence.



There remains only one item to determine that of the date of the charts drawing. As shown there are some +20 works by Jaume Olives which are tabulated upon the diagram D21 and it indicates the time scales of his extant production from 1550 to 1572 with major gaps between 1554-1558 and 1567-1570. It shows a work load for 1563 frankly unattainable given the year of production and methodology. In 1564 he was in Naples and then in Marseilles 1566, and thus the available date which fits all the data for the Liverpool University Library Chart is 1565; but was it drawn in Naples, Rome or Florence as that is a very sensible route for travel from Naples to Marseilles 1566.

This dating of course fits quite well with the dates for Pope Pius IV, a de’Medici.

Not proof positive but substantive enough to be acceptable until and if other data should ever be found. Thus LUL MS.F.4.17 is drawn by Jaume Olives, c1565 to be given to Duke Cosimo 1st de’Medici of Florence at the behest of one of his kin Pope Pius IV.



The following five diagrams represent the text which details the De’Medici family within “Dialogo dell’Impresse Militari et Amore” by Paolo Giovio, 1557. As indicated already there are +300 pages and many more references to Popes and each Captain of their Swiss Guards.