[Portolan chart of the Mediterranean and Black Seas with the west coast of Spain and Portugal] /
- Upscale 2x6472x4798
Portolan chart with seaport names given for all coastlines.
Title devised by cataloguer.
Fragmentary signature on upper right portion leading into neck reads "Io Placid...".
Oriented with north to the right (indicated by fleurs-de-lys).
Contains 10 small and 4 large compass roses centered on Sicily.
LC Nautical charts on vellum, 14.
Pen-and-ink and goauche, with traces of gilding.
Includes 2 scale bars (unidentified units), fragment of an illustration on the neck, and many illustrations throughout.
Available also through the Library of Congress Web site as a raster image.
The Mediterranean Sea was the hub of transport, trade and cultural links between three continents: Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. The history of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean region is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic cultures. The Italian "Repubbliche Marinare" (Maritime Republics) of Venice, Genoa, Amalfi and Pisa developed their own "empires" in the Mediterranean shores. The Islamic states had never been major naval powers, and trade from the east to Europe was soon in the hands of Italian traders, especially the Genoese and the Venetians, who profited immensely from it. The Republic of Pisa and later the Republic of Ragusa used diplomacy to further trade and maintained a libertarian approach in civil matters to further sentiment in its inhabitants. The republic of Venice got to dominate the eastern Mediterranean shores after the Fourth Crusade. In 1347 the Black Death spread from Constantinople across the mediterranean basin. In 1453, the Byzantine Empire was extinguished with the fall of Constantinople.
The word portolan comes from the Italian adjective portolano, meaning "related to ports or harbors", or "a collection of sailing directions". Portolan charts are maps based on compass directions and estimated distances observed by the pilots at sea. They were first made in the 13th century in Italy, and later in Spain and Portugal where they considered to be state secrets. The English and Dutch found the description of Atlantic and Indian coastlines extremely valuable for their raiding, and later trading, ships. The oldest survived portolan is the Carta Pisana, dating from approximately 1296 and the oldest preserved Majorcan Portolan chart is the one made by Angelino Dulcert who produced a portolan in 1339.
Pre - 1600s maps, atlases and manuscripts
Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie, or Dutch West India Company, was a chartered company (known as the "WIC") of Dutch merchants. Among its founding fathers was Willem Usselincx (1567–1647). On June 3, 1621, it was granted a trade monopoly in the West Indies (meaning the Caribbean) by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and given jurisdiction over the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. The intended purpose of the charter was to eliminate competition, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, between the various trading posts established by the merchants. The company became instrumental in the Dutch colonization of the Americas. Some historians date the origins of the firm to the 1500s with arrivals of colonial settlers in what is now called New York long before the English at Jamestown, Virginia. The WIC was organized similarly to the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, abbreviated as VOC). Like the VOC, the WIC company had five offices, called chambers (kamers), in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hoorn, Middelburg and Groningen, of which the chambers in Amsterdam and Middelburg contributed most to the company. The board consisted of 19 members, known as the Heeren XIX (the Lords Nineteen). The company was initially relatively successful; in the 1620s and 1630s, many trade posts and colonies were established. The largest success for the WIC in its history was the seizure of the Spanish silver fleet, which carried silver from Spanish colonies to Spain, by Piet Heyn in 1628; privateering was at first the most profitable activity. In 1629 the WIC gave permission to a number of investors in New Netherlands, which included New Amsterdam, covered parts of present-day New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Jersey. The settlers had little success with populating the colony of New Netherland, and to defend themselves against local Indians. The main focus of the WIC now went to Brazil and in 1630 the West India Company conquered a part of Brazil. Due to the Peace of Westphalia the hijacking of Spanish ships was no longer allowed. Merchants from Amsterdam and Zeeland decided to work with marine and merchants from Hamburg, Glückstadt (then Danish), England and other countries. In 1663 and 1664 the WIC sold more enslaved Africans than the Portuguese and English together. The first West India Company suffered a long agony and ended in 1674. The Collection includes Dutch maritime prints of the time period.
Ancient Maps from the Library of Congress. 13th -18th Century Maps.
The geography discoveries and the new printing techniques resulted in maps that can be cheaply produced. Since a globe remains the only accurate way of representing the spherical earth, and any flat representation resulted in distorted projection. In 1569, Mercator published a map of the world specifically intended as an aid to navigation. It used a projection now known by Mercator's name, though it has been used by few others before him, based on a system of latitude and longitude that dated back to Hipparchus. Mercator's projection greatly enlarged territories as they recede from the equator. The distortion of Mercator's projection is a benefit to navigators since Mercator achieves a matching scale for longitude and latitude in every section of the map. A compass course can be plotted at the same angle on any part of Mercator's map. As a result marine charts still use this projection. By the time of his death in 1595, Mercator has either published or prepared large engraved maps, designed for binding into volume form, of France, Germany, Italy, the Balkans, and the British Isles. Mercator's son issues the entire series under the title "Atlas": "Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes." The name becomes the word for a volume of maps.
The Medieval Mediterranean
Antique Nautical Charts and EphemeraPortolan nautical charts
Ancient Maps, pre- 1600Ancient Maps from Library of Congress Collections
Dutch West India CompanyGeoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie
Ancient Maps, Library of CongressAncient Maps from the Library of Congress. 13th -18th Century Maps.
Maps XVI Century16th Century Maps from various collections