These pages of essays, notes, tabulated data and analysis (equivalent to more than one 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
The easiest entry-points might be via:
The main essay subjects:
Significant post-publication additions & corrections to the portolan chart pages
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
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'
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'
(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:
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 to the portolan chart pages
Cartographic innovations by the early portolan chartmakers (and subsequent developments) [added on 18 November 2016]
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]
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]
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 on the Portolan Charts (1311-1677): a detailed investigation [MENU] (September 2013)
[The Table of 'Significant Names' was systematically revised during 2011 and the rest of the
which includes 36 tables & graphs, was published in February 2012]
THE INTRODUCTION AND ABANDONMENT OF TOPONYMS ON PORTOLAN CHARTS, 1300 TO 1600 [MENU]
[All 1,800 recurring names between Dunkirk and Mogador - NB this is a large Microsoft Office Word 2003 table which opens separately]
Sequence of tables and graphs
[see the Toponymy Menu for the suite of Microsoft Office Word 2003 documents which open separately]
World maps and the portolan chart
‘How did the coastal outlines on the portolan charts of the Mediterranean
and Black Sea find their way into world maps? And why did it take three centuries?’.
[A YouTube video of a talk to the IVth International Workshop: ‘On the Origin and Evolution of the Nautical Chart’, Lisbon, 26
May 2023 (Session 5, part 1). This is effectively a synopsis of a longer forthcoming essay.]
[A YouTube video of a talk to the IVth International Workshop: ‘On the Origin and Evolution of the Nautical Chart’, Lisbon, 26 May 2023 (Session 5, part 1). This is effectively a synopsis of a longer forthcoming essay.]
Bibliography comprising literature since 1986 (and missed earlier publications) as well as references for all the portolan chart webpages
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.
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.
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.