Universal Chart

Juan Vespuccio

Naval Museum

Naval Museum
Madrid, Spain

This parchment universal chart is a reproduction of the original, which is kept at the Hispanic Society of America in New York. There is a signature in the upper-left margin next to the double-headed eagle shield, which reads: "Jû Vespuci, piloto de su Magestad me fecti en Sevilla Ño 1526." The presence of the double-headed eagle in reference to Emperor Charles V, as well as the lavish nature of the chart, lead some historians to believe it could have been a gift for the Emperor's marriage to Isabella of Portugal.

The continents are represented by a range of anecdotal elements such as animals, cities, and mountains. The South American continent contains fewer place names and less information than Central and North America. Along the coastline, naked locals are depicted in scenes from daily life. The inclusion of the Yucatán Peninsula reflects the geographical knowledge that Juan Vespucio had about Cortés' 1524 voyage. The Strait of Magellan appears with the inscription "Strait of Santón discovered by Ferdinand Magellan" and the city of México-Tenochtitlan, discovered in 1521, also features.

The chart was produced under the auspices of the House of Commerce in Seville, which had been created by the Catholic Monarchs in 1503. It was founded to manage all aspects of the New World. Examples included organizing scientific initiatives, building navigational instruments, and creating maps. These activities were developed by the Chief Pilot, who was also in charge of preparing for and running expeditions. This role was carried out by a navigator with the ability to draw nautical charts and maps to add to the Royal Register. The post was held by Amerigo Vespucci, and later by his nephew Giovanni Vespucci from 1512.

Giovanni participated in several voyages and was involved in the demarcation commission that had to record everything agreed in the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal regarding the division of lands in the New World. However, he was accused of spying for the Medici family and was removed from his cartography duties.


  • Title: Universal Chart
  • Creator: Juan Vespuccio
  • Location Created: Sevilla, Spain
  • Type: Facsimile
  • Original Source: Hispanic Society, New York.
  • Rights: Museo Naval, Madrid - All Rights Reserved
  • Medium: Printed paper
  • Width: 262cm
  • Height: 85cm

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