"Portolan charts," so called from the Italian adjective portolano, meaning "related to ports or harbours," were born during the 12th century in the maritime community. These charts, drawn on parchment and crisscrossed with lines referring to the compass directions, indicated the succession of ports and anchorages along the shores, and were used by European sailors exploring the world up until the 18th century.
Not only used as navigational instruments on boats, they were also produced for wealthy sponsors in the form of illuminated images of the world, to illustrate the economic and political interests of the major European sea powers.
This book takes stock of the state of knowledge on these maps, bringing together contributions from a dozen European specialists, who trace the history and diversity of styles and places of production of these charts.
This type of mapping is approached from three angles. The first part, "The Mediterranean," refers to the manufacture and use of the first charts, centered on the Mediterranean, and the persistence of this tradition in the Mediterranean basin until the 18th century.
The second part, "The Open Sea," shows how these regional charts have evolved from a technical and iconographical point of view at the time of the great European voyages, in order to include the oceans and new worlds.
The third part, "The Indian Ocean," shows how these charts, in a maritime area where ancient civilizations coexisted, were dependent on other cartographic traditions (ancient, Arab, Asian) before joining the information reported by Portuguese sailors and European trading companies in the modern era.
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Catherine Hoffman, a paleographic archivist, is chief curator in the Department of Maps and Plans of the National Library of France. She is a board member of the journal Imago Mundi, and has published fifteen articles on the history of cartography in the modern era.
Hélène Richard, a paleographic archivist, is a former director of the Department of Maps and Plans at the National Library of France. In addition to her research on the history of books and libraries, she has published works on the history of maritime exploration in the 18th and 19th centuries and the associated nautical science.
Emmanuelle Vagnon holds a PhD in history, specializing in maps of the Middle Ages. She is senior researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the University of Paris.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Of the maritime maps produced in the West, the sumptuous rare charts of the Mediterranean region -- which first appeared in the 13th century, with new abundance of gold, decorations and ornamentation -- have undoubtedly inspired the most interest, since their original design and construction are still shrouded in mystery. The National Library of France (NLF), which has holdings of some 500 of these maps, mainly in the Maps and Plans Department, can boast of having a collection of exceptional quality, covering nearly all of the world and representing all the schools of cartography up to the 18th century. The library is undertaking a full census of these maps as well as taking stock of all rare maps in national public collections in France, so as to establish the value of this incalculable heritage, which is still largely unknown. Initial results are already available through its online library, Gallica, which shows all the holdings of the NLF, as well as those of the Historical Service of Defense. The NLF also wanted to open for public viewing a large exhibit of the most exceptional originals and the most representative examples of such documents. These were produced after the big discoveries by European navigators, and they provided Westerners the first glimpses of faraway lands and their people. These documents also underscored the dreams that fueled those extraordinary enterprises.
In this book, the library also offers a synthesis, in high-color resolution, of the accumulated knowledge -- thoroughly updated over the last 20 years -- of a cartography that was imbued with vitality and exceptional longevity. Originating in the ports of Majorca, Genoa or Venice, this cartography was embraced by Portuguese mariners who faced the challenges of transoceanic crossings. This also proved to be a valuable navigational tool for the European maritime powers of the time and was used until the end of the 18th century. The basis of the present work, a collaboration of about 15 European experts, was enriched by the results of research undertaken by the Mediterranean societies and of the Indian Ocean (MeDIan), financed by the National Research Agency and supported by the Department of Maps and Plans of the National Library of France. The program focuses on the exchange of knowledge between civilizations, and it has allowed us to showcase the role of these exchanges in the design and construction of a cartographic image of the Indian Ocean, from antiquity until the 18th century. Benefitting these blended approaches, The Golden Age of Maritime Maps provides a broad look at these rare maps and, through them, at the voyages, ideas and knowledge that led to a common view of the image of the modern world.
President of the National Library of France
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Buchbeschreibung Im Italien des 13. Jahrhunderts tauchten erstmals sogenannte »Portolanos« auf, Land- und Seekarten aus Pergament, die bei Seeleuten als Navigationshilfen sehr begehrt waren und Entdecker auf den Plan riefen. Präsentiert werden in dem vorliegenden Band mehr als 200 Karten, die teils doppelseitig in Farbe abgebildet sind. Sie können selbst als Kunstwerke gelten und zeigen die Anfänge der Vermessung der Welt. Doch auch fantasievolle Darstellungen sind Bestandteil der Karten, so entdeckt man pygmäenartige Menschen, die gegen riesige Kraniche kämpfen müssen. In Essays wird nachgezeichnet, wie Portolankarten verwendet wurden, um das Mittelmeer, den Atlantik und den Indischen Ozean zu bereisen, wobei die Europäer teils auch auf arabische oder asiatische Karten zurückgreifen mussten. (Text engl.) 30 x 27 cm, 256 S., über 200 farb. Abb., geb. Artikel-Nr. 764027