The Beginning of Voyages

Korea National Maritime Museum

 The advancement of astronomical observation technique, science, and more accurate nautical charts and navigation tools, people could make successful voyages.

In the early days of navigation, the unexplored ocean was considered hostile and dangerous. The sailors in the early days could sail around the world noticing the stars on the sky and relying on their experiences. Yet they could not just depend on their experiences when they were sailing along the sea routes to get to the new continents passing through the unknown waters. As their wishes became even clearer, their desire for wealth also grew stronger. With the advancement of astronomical observation technique, science, and more accurate nautical charts and navigation tools, people could make successful voyages.

"The sea will grant each man new hope,
as sleep brings dreams of home."
Christopher Columbus

On the Mystery of the Sea by Dudley
Robert Dudley | Italy, 1646~67

The first sea atlas to use the Mercator projection was entitled Dell'arcano del Mare, produced in Italy by English explorer and cartographer Robert Dudley (1574–1649). Organized into three volumes comprising 146 nautical charts of the entire known world, this six-part work is a compendium of knowledge for maritime voyages on such topics as navigation, shipbuilding, astronomy, and the Mercator projection.

The greatest originality of "On the mystery of the sea" is the world's first map book produced by the Mercator projection.

The work contains two charts depicting Korea, shown as an elongated oval. It bears the Italian inscription “Kingdom of Corai, is a peninsula” (Regno di Corai, é penisola), and the East Sea is represented as the “Sea of Korea” (Mare di Corai).

Sea Atlas by Goos
Pieter Goos | Netherlands, 1666

The first edition of De Zee-Atlas Ofte Water-Wereld, a sea atlas produced in 1666 by Dutch cartographer Pieter Goos (1616–1675), was comprised of 41 nautical charts and included names of the regions of Asia.

Rich in pigments and highlighted in gold, the finely-engraved charts were hand-colored on high quality paper. Numerous maritime atlases were subsequently published based on Goos’ Atlas.

Small Sea Atlas by Bellin
Jacques-NiCholas Bellin | France, 1764

A sea atlas produced by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703–1772), a French court hydrographer.

Organized into five volumes, its third volume on Asia and Africa includes a map of Joseon.

On which the East Sea is labeled as the Sea of Korea (Mer de Corée).

New Sea Atlas by Broukner
Issac Broukner | Germany, 1749

The atlas contains 14 maps and its 2nd and 8th maps depict the Korean Peninsula. On the second map with the long title of 「The widely recognized map in 1749, which draws the world based on the most practical and realistic observations」, it draws the Korean Peninsula in the middle of the without its name on it.

The title of the 8th map is 「The nautical chart of the part of the East Indies above the equator and Asia, 1749」 and it has the Korean Peninsula in the middle. “LA COREE” (the land of the Joseon dynasty) and “Cior ou Kinkitato” (Gyeonggi Province) are written on the middle of the Peninsula.

Portolan Chart by Bartholomeo
Bartholomeo Olives | Italy, 1550

The parchment map is the work of the most prominent chart maker of the day, Bartholomeo Olives. In Italian “Portulano” means “the description of the ocean” and the chart contains the detailed geographical information that helps sail the ocean, such as coastlines, reef sites and the like. Though the Portolan Chart was basically produced to sail the Mediterranean, it became widely used to cross the Atlantic when the Age of Discovery began.

Portolano chart was relatively inexpensive since the chart was used for practical purposes generally. However, the chart has not only the practicality but also the artistic value embodying the quintessential Portolan Chart

Also, the picture of the holy mother and Jesus are depicted on the chart showing his religious faith and a compass is displayed beneath the holy mother with his name, the date of production and the manufacturing location (Naples, 1550).

Portolan Chart by Monnus
Monnus | Italy, 1619

This is a portolan chart on parchment made around 1619 near Genova, Italy.

The chart maker’s name (Monnus) and the date of production (xviiii=1619) are written on the parchment nautical chart, and a middle line being inclined 8 degrees which is the commonly noticed characteristic of nautical charts is drawn. As with the other Portolan charts, it depicts the ports and coastlines in detail to help sail the ocean and different sizes of 14 compasses are placed on the chart helping identify the bearings quickly.

The practical form of nautical charts drawn on sheepskins or calfskins, containing the geography and the points of the compass was the most common type in the early days. However, after the 14th century, splendidly colored symbols related to religion and astronomy were included. The names of the places around the Mediterranean are written on Monnus’s chart and religious illustrations, compasses and others are added and decorated with gold leaf.

Celestial Globe Gores by Coronelli
Marco Vincenzo Coronelli | 1965

The celestial globe gores were reprinted and colored in 1965 from the copperplate containing an engraved celestial map produced by an Italian geographer and monk, Coronelli in the late 1600s. When two set of 12 pieces of upper and lower parts for each, 24 pieces in total, are assembled, a celestial globe which is 110cm in diameter is made. On the Gores constellations are artistically visualized with its name below, such as Gemini, Cancer, Leo and others in different languages like Italian, French, Latin and Greek.

A Pair of Globes by Adams Family
Adams Family; George Adams, Dudley Adams | UK, 1797

A set of navigational terrestrial and celestial globes made by the Adams family of England. To facilitate identification of the directions of sea routes, compasses are attached to the base.

The terrestrial globe shows the routes of the second and third voyages of Captain James Cook of England. Meanwhile, the East Sea is labeled as the Sea of Korea (Mare Corea) and the Straits of Korea as Fretum Corea.

A Pair of Globes by Newton & Son
Newton & Son; William Newton, William E. Newton | UK, 1846

This set of terrestrial and celestial globes was produced by English globe makers William Newton (1786–1861) and William E. Newton (1818–1879), of Newton & Sons.

The terrestrial globe shows the routes of the voyages of Captain James Cook.

The East Sea of Korea is labeled as the Gulf of Corea.

A Pair of Pocket Globes by Lane
Nicholas Lane | UK, 19th Century

It is a pair of portable celestial and terrestrial globes and the terrestrial globe displays latitude, longitude and the ecliptic.

Above the Pacific Ocean indicated on the surface “LANE’s Improved GLOVE. –LONDON” is written. Korea is clearly marked as “Corea”.

Astrolabe by Goes
Sebastiao De Goes | Portugal, 16th Century

The word “astrolabe” can be traced back to the Greek words for “star” (ἄστρον or astron) and “take” (λαβ- or lambanein), thus meaning “star-taker.” Ancient Greek astrologers used it in locating the positions of the sun and stars, and it was also used for determining local time and latitude and for surveying. When astrolabes were first invented, their primary use was to survey the altitude of the sun, moon, and stars above the horizon, but as astronomy and mathematics evolved, they provided even more information. An astrolabe is a very delicate and sensitive instrument, so when it is used at sea, even the slightest movement of a boat can make a huge impact on observations based on the astrolabe. For that reason, special mariner’s astrolabes were produced from the 15th century for navigational use.

This astrolabe bears the engraved name of SEBASTIAO DE GOES, a famous Portuguese manufacturer.


Since the astrolabe has been well-preserved, the golden color of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is clearly seen. There are small rings and 3 spokes inside the big wheel-shaped body.

France, 1588

A nocturnal, or night-dial, is an instrument that measures local time based on the relative locations of specific stars, and is used at night primarily for navigation. Knowing the time was important in calculating tides during navigation, and some nocturnals incorporated tide charts for key ports.

This nocturnal consists of three copper discs or dials placed one on top of another. The outer disc shows the twelve months of the year and the middle disc shows dates and hours, while the innermost disc has a rotating alidade, or pointer.

On the back of the disc is the word ‘Damien Peion a Trois’, assumed to be the producer it was made.

Germany, Early 17th Century

The nocturnal produced in the early 17th century in Germany was used to measure the time based on the location of a star at night. As well as the time, the length of the night, the phase and the transit time of the moon, and others can be figured out by using the instrument. It is simplified from the ring structure with three layers to two layers and the size is a bit small. It has Hour ring and Date ring on its front and back.

There is Lunar ring on the front of Hour ring with its arm. A phrase, “Ratio styli navi (a calculating aim for navigation)” is inscribed.

David Trap | Netherlands, 1750

It is a tool to find the direction of the magnetic line by rotating the magnet around the horizontal axis. it is called Compass in the sense that it divides the circle into azimuth. The ivory case contains a hand-painted azimuth table with a raised needle at the top.

Made in the 18th century, it bears the signature and crest of the compass-maker David Trap inside the lid.

H. Wildaa | Netherlands, 1782

This compass is believed to have been used on a ship of the Dutch East India Company. The directions can be seen from either side of the compass. The upper side is marked with 8 directions in Dutch: Oost (East), S(Z)uiden (South), West (West), etc.

On the other side, the 8 directions are indicated with painted Anemoi, classical wind gods of the four directions, and a sea monster is also depicted.

The inner corner of the compass is marked “H.W.,” presumably the maker’s signature, and “1782”, assumed to be the year it was made.

Netherlands, 1700s

It is the dry compass used by the ships of the Dutch East Indie Company. The East Indie Company from many countries served as the outpost of colonization and tried to dominate the east trade market competing with each other for the monopoly of trade. The metal compass is fastened on the rectangular wooden box and the signature of Captain Joseph Nickerson is marked on it.

Scotland, UK, 20th Century

The three different types of Binnacles are mostly equipped on yachts. All the binnacles are made of brass and welded or bolted. Among the binnacles, the binnacles in the middle and on the right side have the panels added on the outside and the panels have the name of the production company, model, serial number and the like.

Universal Ring Dial
William Watkins | UK, 17~19th Century

Universal equinoctial ring dial is shortened to and commonly called universal ring dial and it has the simplest western structure of Equatorial armillary sphere. Especially since it can function in any given latitude by moving the suspension ring, the word “universal” is given. And since it is small, thin and foldable, it is also classified as a type of portable sundial or pocket sundial. Based on the Astronomer’s ring mentioned by Gemma Frisius, a Dutch mathematician and cartographer in the 1500s, a British mathematician, William Oughred, devised the universal ring dial. The dial was so popular until the 1700s. But after the chronometer was invented in the early 1800s, it became obsolete.

Benjamin Martin | UK, Mid-18th century

The octant which has the producer’s signature, Benjamin Martin, was made in the middle of the 18th century. An octant is one of the tools used for astronomical observations and its arc spans 45 degrees.

A. Berthélemy, Lorieux, P. Ponthus | Modern

A sextant is a navigational instrument to measure the altitude of the celestial sphere over the horizon in order to determine local longitude and latitude. Holding the sextant with its attached telescope, you take a sight of the horizon and a celestial object (either the sun or a star), and measure the angle between them.

UK, 18th Century

A telescope made in 18th century England. Richly adorned with red velvet over the octagonal body.

Leonardo Semitecolo | Italy, 1750

A navigational telescope made by Italian artisan Leonardo Semitecolo (years unknown).

His signature is inscribed on the company’s distinctive perforated red paper decoration.

Waltham | USA, 20th Century

This accurate timepiece, often called a chronometer, is used to determine the location of a ship (longitude) during navigation based on the time.

Clocks used in ships in the early days operated by “pendulums”, but because of temperature fluctuations and the ship’s movements, these were very inaccurate. In order to overcome these problems, a navigational clock chronometer was made in the 18th century. A chronometer is mounted on gimbal (a pivoted support system composed of two rings connected by a bearing) that maintains its horizontal position, resulting in almost no error.

Principle of Clock by Harrison
John Harrison | UK, 1767

The book is written by a British clockmaker, John Harrison (1693~1776). He invented a chronometer, a highly accurate maritime clock, and in this book he wrote about the operating principles and scientific techniques of a chronometer using pictures and charts. And the specifications of a series of the chronometers, H1 through H4, are included.

Korea National Maritime Museum
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