Portolan chart of the Mediterranean Sea

Mateo Prunes1563

Naval Museum

Naval Museum
Madrid, Spain

This manuscript on colored and golden parchment was created by Mateo Prunes, as stated on the parchment itself, in an inscription under an image of the Virgin that reads: "Mateo Prunes in the City of Majorca 1563." It features an image of some of the 16th-century Mediterranean with nearby enclaves and references to the New World to the west together with Atlantic vessels. Its creator was a member of one of the longest-standing and best-known cartographer families in Majorca. He also created 13 nautical or portolan charts, and a 4-page atlas.

Medieval "portolan charts" (also called "portulan charts") were cartographic instruments that, together with other nautical equipment such as compasses, became indispensable tools allowing ships to move safely around the Mediterranean coastline. Their origins can be traced back to the "peripli" manuscripts used to record oral descriptions of coastal routes by Greek and Roman navigators. In time these developed into "portolan charts": a geographical summary including port characteristics, approximate distances between coastal features, river mouths, anchorage information, and any other references that a seafarer might find useful on their journey. The information was written on parchment or a similar material, resulting in what are now known as nautical or portolan charts.

They were first made in the Middle Ages (13th century) and were produced until the Early Modern Period. They were originally made in a region of the Mediterranean where there were intensive political, commercial, and cultural links between cities, including major map production centers such as Majorca, Genoa, and Venice.


  • Title: Portolan chart of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Creator: Mateo Prunes
  • Date Created: 1563
  • Location Created: Mallorca, Spain
  • Type: Cartography
  • Original Source: Museo Naval, Madrid.
  • Rights: Museo Naval, Madrid-All rights reserved
  • Medium: Pigment, Parchment
  • Width: 98cm
  • Height: 53cm

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