Central America, 1500, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Caribbean Coast, Spanish Portolan Chart
Possible Manuscript by Juan de la Cosa, ca. 1500
A very early Spanish navigational chart of the coast of Central America, presumably created in the early 1500s. The original portolan chart was drawn with multicolored inks on vellum, and is currently kept at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The LOC describes the item as a “Portolan chart of the Pacific coast of America from Mexico to northern Chile… from 1500” — a claim which has not been substantiated. Currently there is no historical evidence of European knowledge of the Pacific coast prior to 1513. The earliest known attempts at sailing and mapping the coast were made by the Spanish in 1518–1522. The second point of contention is the actual coastline on the map which looks nothing like the presented description of “Mexico to northern Chile”. When viewed with all three compass roses pointing at Levante (East), the drawn coastline resembles much closer the Atlantic coast from Nicaragua to Guajira, Colombia. If LOC’s dating of the object is accurate, (around 1500), that would connect the map to Rodrigo de Bastidas, Vasco Núñez de Balboa and Juan de la Cosa, and their expedition in 1500–1501 to reconnoiter the coastline of the Caribbean basin. Guajira was their starting point, where they sailed westward from Cabo de la Vela towards the Isthmus of Panama. As one of the most knowledgeable and skilled pilots and cartographers of his time, de la Cosa would have been the one to draw the exploratory chart, which would render it priceless. It would also place the chart as the missing piece in Juan de la Cosa’s grand opus — his 1500 map of the world, in which the Central American coast is obscured by a vignette of Saint Christopher carrying the Infant Christ.
• Portolan chart of the Caribbean coast of Central America, ca. 1500, brown, black, red & green inks on vellum
• Fine Art Premium Giclée (Gouttelette) Print (100% cotton 340 gsm fine art paper)
• Made in USA