WWW-Virtual Library: History
Map History / History of Cartography: THE Gateway to the Subject

WWW-VL Main Catalogue WWW-VL History Central Catalogue
HOME
(main menu)
TONY
CAMPBELL

articles
INDEX
complete
SITEMAP
What the
site is
ABOUT
WHAT'S
NEW
Map History


A Critical Re-examination of Portolan Charts
with a Reassessment of Their
Replication and Seaboard Function

comprising more than 30 separate web publications and over 120 tables and graphs:
 

by Tony Campbell


Copyright © 2011-2021

 

The purpose of this site and its findings

These pages of essays, notes, tabulated data and analysis (equivalent to more than one medium-sized monograph) cover a wide range of issues relating to the portolan charts of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, with the adjacent Atlantic coasts.

The concentration is on the charts' development and the reasons for their continuation, broadly unchanged over four centuries. This does not necessarily, or indeed usually, mean progress but rather the introduction, perpetuation or alteration of personal or regional stylistic 'signatures', against a broadly unchanging backdrop. The main dynamism, and one not immediately visible, relates to the charts' toponymy. Detailed studies of the 3,000 names around the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts reinforces some earlier conclusions while confounding others.

Some surprising findings have resulted from various detailed analyses of virtually all such works produced up to 1469, and selectively of those created thereafter - insights that were not possible on the basis of earlier partial studies.

Portolan charts, it is asserted, are a major, if not the primary, source for their own history

 

Access to the site

            The easiest entry-points might be via:

  • Overview of the portolan chart pages
  • Index to selected topics covered in the portolan chart pages (Microsoft Word - NEW: August 2021)
  • General Conclusions
  • The main essay subjects:

  • Mediterranean portolan charts: their origin in the mental maps of medieval sailors, their function and their early development
  • A detailed reassessment of the Carte Pisane: a late and inferior copy, or the lone survivor from the portolan charts' formative period?
  • Cartographic innovations by the early portolan chartmakers (and subsequent developments)
  • Anonymous works and the question of their attribution to individual chartmakers or to their supposed workshops
  • The wider implications of the 'Colour & Shape Analysis'
  • Mnemonic island shapes (in the Aegean and elsewhere)
  • Innovative Portolan Chart Names
  • Abandoned Portolan Chart Names
  • Red Names on the Portolan Charts (1311-1677) a detailed investigation
  • The style and content of Grazioso Benincasa's charts: imitation, innovation and repetition
  • The Charta Rogeriana: a reappraisal of the making of al-Idrīsī's world map of 1154 and its dissemination
  • The mental wind compass of the medieval Mediterranean: the rediscovery of its structure and interpretations of its use (including a section authored by Roel Nicolai)
  • The Representation of Navigational Hazards: The Development of Toponymy and Symbology on Portolan Charts from the 13th Century onwards (co-authored with Captain M.K. Barritt)
  • Shorter notes:

  • Stages in the construction of a portolan chart
  • To sign or not to sign?
  • Copies and imitations
  • Benincasa wrongly credited with being the first to include the new toponyms down the coast of West Africa (1446-61)
  • How did names get onto the portolan chart?
  • A reinterpretation of Andrea Bianco's "London" chart of “1448”
  • Dating the Catalan Estense world map (Roselli)
  • The latitude scale on the Beccari chart, 1403
  • The Cornaro Atlas (1489+)
  •  

    Mounted on the web 7 March 2011, with major additions February 2012, September 2013 & March 2015, November 2016, etc.
    (other additions and corrections are noted in the appropriate place)


    Significant post-publication additions & corrections to the portolan chart pages


    You can search across the whole of this site
        powered by FreeFind
    Advanced Search


    The tables have been left in their current Microsoft Office Word 3 format
    (allowing online sorting on up to three fields at a time)


     

    OVERVIEW

    GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

    INDEX TO SELECTED TOPICS (Microsoft Word) [New: 30 August 2021]

     

    The 1987 'CHAPTER' on pre-1501 charts

    Portolan charts from the late thirteenth century to 1500 (Additions, Corrections, Updates to the 1987 'Chapter')

     

    The 1986 'CENSUS' of pre-1501 charts

    A complete chronological listing of portolan charts assigned to the period pre-1501 (with a note of high quality reproductions and place-name lists)
    [this includes concordances between the listings of early portolan charts by Campbell (1986) and Pujades (2007), and also offers pre-sorted sequences by date, author, location, and where made - click on the relevant tab at the bottom].
    [Note that this is an Excel spreadsheet which opens separately]

    Census of pre-sixteenth-century portolan charts (Corrections and Updates to the 1986 'Census')

    Additional ('E') entries to the 'Census of pre-sixteenth-century portolan charts'

     

    Benincasa

    The style and content of Grazioso Benincasa's charts: imitation, innovation and repetition (Research notes)

    Tables to the Benincasa article
    [NB this is a single Microsoft Office Word 2003 page which opens separately]

     

    Carte Pisane and the earliest portolan charts

    'A detailed reassessment of the Carte Pisane: a late and inferior copy, or the lone survivor from the portolan charts' formative period?'
    (An extended essay on the dating of the Carte Pisane, concluding in favour of a date of c.1290 and reassessing what the Carte Pisane can tell us about the early stages of portolan chart development, and supported by a range of tables, was added on 2 March 2015:

     

    Charta Rogeriana

    The Charta Rogeriana: a reappraisal of the making of al-Idrīsī's world map of 1154 and its dissemination [added on 15 September 2020]

     

    Colours and Shapes

    The colours and shapes used to denote some of the smaller islands and the major estuaries on portolan charts up to 1500 [MENU]

    Sequence of 13 detailed Colour & Shape tables
    [see the listing under 'Detailed Analysis' for the Microsoft Office Word 2003 tables which open separately]

     

    Illustrations

    Illustrations to the portolan chart pages

     

    Innovations

    Cartographic innovations by the early portolan chartmakers (and subsequent developments) [added on 18 November 2016]

     

    Later charts

    Securely dated post-1469 charts used for the transcription or selective checking of the place-names between Dunkirk and Mogador (also used for the Colour & Shape Analysis)
    [NB this is a Microsoft Office Word 2003 table which opens separately]

     

    Mental Wind Compass

    The mental wind compass of the medieval Mediterranean: the rediscovery of its structure and interpretations of its use (including a section authored by Roel Nicolai) [added on 15 September 2020]

     

    Navigation Hazards

    The Representation of Navigational Hazards: the Development of Toponymy and Symbology on Portolan Charts from the 13th Century onwards (by Tony Campbell & Captain Michael Barritt RN., The Journal of the Hakluyt Society, December 2020)

     

    The Origin of the Portolan Chart

    Mediterranean portolan charts: their origin in the mental maps of medieval sailors, their function and their early development [added on 26 January 2021]

     


    TOPONYMY

    (On toponymy see also 'Carte Pisane' above)

    General Listing

    Listing and analysis of portolan chart toponyms along the continuous coastline from Dunkirk to Mogador (early 14th to late 17th century) including the transcribed names from the 'Liber de existencia riveriarum' and 'Lo compasso de navegare' as well as the Carte Pisane and Cortona chart

    (this is an Excel spreadsheet, which opens separately, containing almost 3,000 mainland names, a considerably enlarged version of the 'Table of Significant Names' below, now including infrequent toponyms and extending into the 17th century) [updated March 2015]

    Red Names

    Red Names on the Portolan Charts (1311-1677): a detailed investigation [MENU] (September 2013)

     

    'Significant Names'

    [The Table of 'Significant Names' was systematically revised during 2011 and the rest of the section,
    which includes 36 tables & graphs, was published in February 2012
    ]

    THE INTRODUCTION AND ABANDONMENT OF TOPONYMS ON PORTOLAN CHARTS, 1300 TO 1600 [MENU]

    Sequence of tables and graphs
    [see the Toponymy Menu for the suite of Microsoft Office Word 2003 documents which open separately]

     


     

    REFERENCE

    Bibliography comprising literature since 1986 (and missed earlier publications) as well as references for all the portolan chart webpages

     


    Some areas for possible future research into early portolan charts


     


    Please send corrections and additions to the author Tony Campbell:  


    Date range of this study and the areas covered

    There are three terminal dates. Since the 'Colour & Shape Analysis' is based on the 2007 Pujades DVD, it is comprehensive only up to 1469. However, where scans were available it was continued to 1500, and the conventions it describes have been selectively checked up to the late 17th century. The 1987 'Chapter' and its updates terminated in 1500, as did the 1986 'Census' and its Excel replacement. As far as toponomy is concerned the commentary extends to 1600 and the Excel spreadsheet to 1700.
          The coastal areas considered in these pages are those that might be found on a portolan atlas of 1469, i.e. excluding all later discoveries.


    Updating

    See the ongoing listing: Significant post-publication additions & corrections to the portolan chart pages


    Archiving

    How permanent is this site? No human is immortal and no site can guarantee permanence. However, the 'Map History' URL is independent of its host, so any subsequent move [and none is planned] would not affect existing links. More important is the fact that the UK Web Archiving Consortium started to archive the entire 'Map History' site in October 2008 [although it says just 'Home page archived'] and is repeating the capture in April and October of each year. For full details of the other places where this site continues to be regularly archived see 'Map History' Archive.


    Acknowledgements

    I would like to express my particular thanks to Ramon Pujades i Bataller for taking so much time to share his valuable insights about a wide range of portolan chart issues. This has led me to modify my views on several points. I am also most grateful to others for providing much appreciated help in various ways: Corradino Astengo, Peter Barber, Michael Barritt, Juan Ceva, Catherine Delano-Smith, Evelyn Edson, Piero Falchetta, Jens Finke, Enrique García Sánchez, Joaquim Alves Gaspar, Anton Gordyeyev, Paul Harvey, Mónica Herrera Casais, Alfred Hiatt, Friedrich Hild, David Jacoby, Joel Kovarsky, Jeremy Ledger, Luisa Martín-Merás, Jacques Mille, Roel Nicolai, Richard Pflederer, Luis A. Robles Macías, Sandra Sáenz-López Pérez, Emmanuelle Vagnon, Chet Van Duzer and Frank Weiden. The way I have made use of their suggestions is of course my responsibility alone.


    HOME (main menu)  |  Tony Campbell articles menu  |  Index   |   Sitemap   |   What this site is about   |   What's New

    eXTReMe Tracker