A Manuscript Portolan Chart by 17th Century School


A Manuscript Portolan Chart


17th Century School

Ref GM1115
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 16" x 22" (40 x 56 cm)
Price Add to basket
Portolan charts are navigational maps based on realistic descriptions of harbours and coasts. They were first made in the 14th Century in Italy, Portugal and Spain. In the two latter countries they were considered State secrets, with very valuable descriptions of the Atlantic and Indian coastlines. They were much in demand by English and Dutch raiders and later trading ships. The word Portolan comes from the Italian adjective Portolano meaning "related to ports or harbours". These charts were based on accounts of medieval Europeans who sailed the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts and later were used to map coastal resources in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Frequently drawn on sheepskin, Portolan charts show coastal features and ports only. In earlier days, what could be used as a harbour encompassed more of the coastline than now, as ships were smaller; they might need to seek refuge in a harbour more often, and some ships were intentionally beached for maintenance and repairs. Thus, nearly any protected bay or flat beach might be of interest to mariners, not only for safe harbour but also as previous coastal reconnaissance. The straight lines criss-crossing many Portolan charts represent the thirty-two directions of the mariner's compass from a given point. This is, in some ways, similar to the compass rose displayed on later maps and charts. Naming or demonstrating all thirty-two points is called boxing the compass.