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The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
P.O. Box 863,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP6 9HD,
Tel: +44 (0) 1494 76 33 13
Email: enquiries@caburden.com


Peruvia id est, Novi Orbis pars Meridionalis

405 x 605 mm., manuscript on recycled vellum in brown ink and gouache, with small repair on lower left corner, some folding on right edge, and two small holes original to vellum, some ink faded.
This hitherto unknown map is a completely unique sketch or draft map of South America as of its date, 1549. Although its purpose remains a subject for further research, the land-based content focuses most precisely on the Spanish possessions of the western portion of South America. There is no comparable map in manuscript or print that is currently known, making this a remarkable find.

The title “Peru that is the south part of the New World” informs the viewer that the focus of the present map is the region of Peru. In 1542, the Vice-royalty of Peru was created, establishing control over much of Spanish-ruled South America – i.e. all but Portuguese-controlled Brazil. Whereas the regions to the north, such as the West Indies, are primitive in detail, the content for Mexico, Central America, and South America from a variety of expeditionary sources is quite up-to-date – giving a clue to the likely origin of this map. The general outline of the South American continent is remarkably accurate for the period, and it includes the dates from several expeditions in the region up to the mid-1540s. These include the Gulf Coast of North America, Mexico, Peru, Chile (one of the earliest references to ‘Chile’ on a map), and the Amazon River.

The map extends from the south coast of North America, taking in Florida, the Gulf Coast of the present United States, most of Mexico, all of the West Indies, Central America and South America, along with a portion of the great southern continent.

In the lower left corner, the Pacific Ocean bears a fine image of a galleon, indicating that the Straits of Magellan had been passed. The use of ships to decorate the oceans is a feature seen amongst other mapmakers of the period, such as Diego Ribero and Giovanni Vespucci. The title above is in an oblong vignette with an ornamented frame. Although uncommon it is not unknown for the period. Indeed, almost this exact pattern has been identified in the map of Holland by Cornelis de Hooghe (after Jacob van Deventer, Antwerp, 1565).

The longitude scale at the equator extends to 370o, the Prime Meridian (360o) being correctly depicted for the time as being the westernmost point of the Canary Islands. The so-called Ferro Meridian had been used since the time of Ptolemy. It was at the time the furthest point west in the known world and all known lands were therefore given a positive longitude.

The manuscript’s focus seems to be on the Spanish holdings of South America, and the latest information on the map appears to be that relating to Chile – indeed, this is one of the very earliest references to ‘Chile’ on a map. The famous silver mine at Potosi, which had only begun in 1545, is already noted. Although there are references to Portuguese voyages, they [are] sparse and incomplete. The following are worth noting by region:

Gulf Coast – North America: ‘S. helena’ – marks the c. 1520 attempted settlement of the Carolina coast by Lucas Vaìsquez Aylloìn on the island which still bears the same name. ‘Cigatoo’ – Eleuthera in the Bahamas. ‘Ganima’ – possibly ‘Guanahani’ or present-day San Salvador in the Bahamas. ‘Majagana’ – Mayaguana in the Bahamas. ‘Ganabami’ – unidentified. ‘Scipuli Martires’ – . ‘Apalaco’ – Paìnfilo de Narvaìez landed in Florida in 1528 and heard of a province called Apalachen in which there was plenty of gold. Hernando De Soto wintered at Apalachen near the present city of Tallahassee in 1540/41. ‘Chilaga’ – most likely Chicaҫa where De Soto had fought with natives. ‘Guigata’ – appears on the Ortelius-Chaves map of 1584, most likely from the De Soto expedition. ‘Astalan’ – Astatlan as it appears in the records of NunÞo de Guzman’s expedition in 1530 ‘Escondido rio’ – The Rio Grande which is now the border between Texas and Mexico ‘Cevola’ – Cibola, one of the great cities for which early explorers searched. Quiveca – Quivera, another one of the great cities for which early explorers searched. ‘Suala mons’ – undoubtedly refer to the mountains of Arizona.

Mexico and Central America: ‘Villa rica’ – Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz was the original name of Vera Cruz, the landing point of Corteìs. ‘Iucatan’ – correctly depicted as a peninsula unlike Gastaldi in 1548. ‘Guadalaiara’ – the first location for Guadalajara was founded in 1532 by Christoìbal de OnÞate. ‘Sacatula’ – Zacatula, founded by the Spanish and a centre for the search for gold. ‘Clima’ – Colima, founded by the Spanish and a centre for the search for gold. ‘Compostella’ – founded during the NunÞo de Guzman expedition of 1529-1531. ‘Villa Michelis’ – appears in the accounts of Marcos de Niza in 1539. Californian peninsula – although unnamed it was first discovered by Fortun Ximenez BertandonÞa in 1534, followed by Corteìs himself in 1535. Wagner records that the map and documents were not filed in Madrid until 1541. ‘Leon’ – founded by Hernaìndez de Coìrdoba in 1524. ‘Granada’ – founded by Hernaìndez de Coìrdoba in 1524. ‘Nombre de Dios’ – founded in 1510, it became the port through which Peruvian silver flowed to Europe.

West Indies: ‘Aity sive Spaniola’ – Haiti or Hispaniola. ‘Sevilla’ – on Jamaica, founded in 1509 by Juan de Esquivel, it was the first capital of Jamaica. ‘Orista’ – Oristan, Jamaica, founded by the Spanish in 1519, now Bluefields, Jamaica on the south west coast. ‘S. Joannis’ – San Juan, Puerto Rico, it was founded in 1509 by Juan Ponce de Leoìn. There are many other immediately recognisable places, like Virgines, Crux (Saint Croix), Anguilla, S. Christopho, Nives, Montserrata, Guadelupa, Dominica, Martinina.

Atlantic Coast – South America: ‘Dogota’ – undoubtably Bogota, founded in 1538 by Gonzalo Jimeìnez de Quesada. ‘Darien’ – founded by Vasco NuìnÞez de Balboa in 1510. ‘Tunza’ – the city of Tunja was founded in 1539 by Gonzalo Suaìrez Rendoìn. ‘Oregliano flum’ – the Amazon River, once named after its explorer Francisco de Orellana during his epic voyage of its entire length 1541-1542. ‘Amazona’ – so named by Orellana, named Amazon on the map. ‘Parnanbuco’ – Pernambuco, one of the more important Hereditary Captaincies created by King John III of Portugal and granted to Duarte Coelho in 1535.

La Plata: ‘Titicaca lacus’ – Lake Titicaca discovered by Aleixo Garcia in 1525. ‘P. S. Juliano’ – records the winter encampment of Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. ‘Isla dascension’ – it is hard to see how these islands could represent anything other than the Falkland Islands. It might be considered curious that Buenos Aires is omitted, as it was founded by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536. However, it struggled at the beginning and was in fact abandoned by 1542 and not resettled until 1580.

Peru: ‘Quito’ – the indigenous town of Quito is now the capital of Ecuador. ‘Lima’ – founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro. ‘Potosi’ – the famous silver mine founded in 1545.

Chile: ‘Chili’ – named by Diego de Almagro when he returned 1536 from the first Spanish expedition to the region. ‘Fretum Magellanicü’ – recording Magellan’s voyage through the Straits in 1520.

The map itself lacks the overall decoration and quality common in portolans of the period. However, this is no portolan or sea chart. The expert Philip Burden describes it as a working document, one of many that were prepared and produced at the time. Its use of rhumb lines is not given real priority in construction, most easily seen in the fact that they do not line up with each other. Thus indicating that this is not a sea chart and is not intended to be used as such.

One significant clue to the map is the wording of the title itself, translated as “Peru that is the south part of the New World”, indicating that the focus of the map is the region of Peru. In 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was created, establishing control over much of Spanish-ruled South America outside of Portuguese control. Clearly this is the area of the map’s focus. The regions to the north, such as the West Indies, lack detail, whereas Mexico, Central America, and South America offer a great deal of up-to-date content from a variety of expeditionary sources. This is the biggest clue to the origin of this map.

In conclusion, this manuscript map is drawn by an, as yet, unidentified hand. Recent Spanish knowledge is included on the map and the general outline of the South American continent is remarkably accurate for the period, including the data from several expeditions in the region up to the mid-1540s. These include those in south-west North America, Peru, Chile, and the Amazon River. A remarkable find.

Historical context
Following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America in 1492, the Spanish and Portuguese argued over the possession of the newly-discovered lands. The 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas divided the world’s non-Christian territories between them. A line was drawn along the meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. Everything to the east became Portuguese, and to the west was Spanish. This led to present-day Brazil speaking Portuguese and everything westward, Spanish. The Portuguese were slow to develop Brazil, largely because of the huge profits being made in the East Indies spice trade at the time. The Rio de la Plata was first discovered by JoaÞo de Lisboa and EstevaÞ de Froìis in 1512. Aleixo Garcia explored the Rio de La Plata for Spain in 1525, believing that Lisboa and Froìis had discovered a passage to the west. He travelled upriver and even managed to cross the Chaco region to reach the Incan Empire at the foothills of the Andes. While returning with a quantity of silver, he was killed by natives.

Meanwhile, the Spanish began to explore further afield after settling in the West Indies. Juan de Grijalva led an expedition which landed in Yucatan in 1517. It was, however, the expedition by Hernaìn Corteìs in 1519 that was to have the greatest impact: by 1521, the Aztec Empire had been conquered. The Aztec capital Tenochtitlan became known as Mexico and from here the Spanish expanded across the continent.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa had been the first to see the ‘Great South Sea’ after crossing the Panama Isthmus, claiming the Pacific Ocean in the name of the King of Spain on 25 September 1513. Further expeditions would continue up and down the Pacific coastline. In 1531, the Spanish reached Peru and the Inca Empire, which extended over a huge area. The following year, Francisco Pizarro arrived. The Empire had already been weakened by the arrival of smallpox, introduced in Panama. By 1534, the Incan city of Cuzco had been named as the new Spanish capital. In 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was created. Potosi was originally a small Incan outpost and in 1545 it was made a mining town to support the removal of vast amounts of silver from its mountain, becoming legendary. At an altitude of 4,000 metres, it would become the fourth largest city in the Christian world (pop. 200,000) within a short period of time. The economic effects of the silver supply were felt around the world.

Chile was first visited by Ferdinand Magellan when passing through the Straits bearing his name in 1520. However, it is usually Diego de Almagro who is credited with first visiting the region in 1537. He found nothing to compare to the riches of the north and returned. It was Pedro de Valdivia who, with Pizarro’s permission, invaded the country and recognised its agricultural potential. In 1541, he founded Santiago de Chile. In 1550, he would find the city of Concepcion north of the Bio Bio River. By 1549, the date of this map, much of the initial European expansion had occurred. With one of the earliest references to Chile on the map at hand, this is clearly an important witness to a world that was changing very rapidly.

Provenance: France, private collection, from Entre-deux Mers near Bordeaux, and handed down over three generations. Adonias, Isa. A Cartografia Região Amazônica. Catálogo Descritivo (1500-1961). Rio de Janeiro 1963; Buisseret, David. “Spanish Colonial Cartography, 1450-1700.” In The History of Cartography, 6 vols. Ed. by J.B. Harley and David Woodward. Chicago 2007, vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 1143-71; Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America. Rickmansworth 1996-2007; Cumming, William P., Raleigh A. Skelton, and David B. Quinn. The Discovery of North America. New York 1971; Cumming, William P., and Louis de Vorsey. The Southeast in Early Maps. Chapel Hill 1998; Dym, Jordana, and Karl Offen. Mapping Latin America. A Cartographic Reader. Chicago 2011; Harrisse, Henry. The Discovery of North America. London 1892; Jackson, Jack. Flags along the Coast. Charting the Gulf of Mexico, 1519-1759: A Reappraisal. Austin 1995; Karrow, Robert W. Mapmakers of the Sixteenth Century and Their Maps. Bio-Bibliographies of the Cartographers of Abraham Ortelius, 1570. Chicago 1993; Latorre, Octavio. Los Mapas del Amazonas y el Desarrollo de la Cartografia Ecuatoriana en el Siglo XVIII. Guayaquil 1988; Martínez, Ricardo Cerezo. La Cartografía Náutica Española en los Siglos XIV, XV y XVI. Madrid 1994; Martinic, Mateo. Cartografia Magallanica 1523-1945. Punta Arenas 1999; Mollat du Jourdin, Michel, and Monique de la Roncière. Sea Charts of the Early Explorers: 13th to 17th Century. New York 1984; Nebenzahl, Kenneth. Maps from the Age of Discovery Columbus to Mercator. London 1990; Pastoureau, Mireille. Voies océanes de l’ancien aux nouveaux mondes. Paris 1990; Pflederer, Richard. Finding Their Way at Sea. The Story of Portolan Charts, the Cartographers who Drew Them and the Mariners who Sailed by Them. Houten 2012; Pulido Rubio, Joseì. El piloto mayor de la Casa de la Contratacioìn de Sevilla: Pilotos mayores, catedraìticos de cosmografía y cosmógrafos. Sevilla 1950; Sandman, Alison. “Spanish Nautical Cartography in the Renaissance.” In The History of Cartography, 6 vols. Ed. by J.B. Harley and David Woodward. Chicago 2007, vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 1095-1142; Schwartz, Seymour I., and Ralph E. Ehrenberg. The Mapping of America. New York 1980; Shirley, Rodney. The Mapping of the World. Early Printed World Maps 1472-1700. London 1993; Vairo, Carlos Pedro. Terra Australis. Historia de la cartografía de. History of the Cartography of Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia & Antartida. Ushuaia 2011; Wagner, Henry Raup. The Spanish Southwest, 1542-1794. Staten Island 1924; Wagner, Henry Raup. Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast of America in the Sixteenth Century. San Francisco 1929; Wagner, Henry Raup. The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800. Berkeley 1937; Wheat, Carl I. Mapping the Transmississippi West. 1540-1861. San Francisco 1957.
Stock number: 9702


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