Marine Navigation Chart

Explore this map made by the German cartographer Martín Waldseemüller in 1516.

By Google Arts & Culture

Spanish National Geographic Institute

Marine Navigation Chart (Carta Marina Navigatoria) (1516 (facsimile edition 1960)) by Martín WaldseemüllerOriginal Source: Biblioteca del Instituto Geográfico Nacional

Carta Marina Navigatoria

This map, titled Marine Navigation Chart (Carta Marina Navigatoria), was made by the German cartographer Martín Waldseemüller in 1516. It was printed on 12 separate pages, designed to be assembled into a wall map of the world.

Differences with the ancient Greek geographers

It is an indication that the author intended to represent the whole of the known world, with its regions and demarcations as defined at the time, based on nautical charts that Portuguese sailors created on their oceanic voyages of exploration. The map, published three years before the voyage to the Spice Islands, shows us how the explorers would have viewed the world prior to their departure.

A printed map

The information that Waldseemüller included in the map's inscriptions and drawings came from travel journals, particularly from Ludovico di Varthema's 1515 account. Waldseemüller hoped his map would help spread knowledge about the world, since this was to be a printed map as opposed to a hand-drawn chart, and would therefore reach more people.

The new continent

Waldseemüller also created the famous Mappa Mundi of 1507, in which he used the place name America for the first time. He named the new continent in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, who he believed had discovered it. This nautical chart was drawn nine years later. Once the idea of Vespucci as the pioneer had been abandoned, the place-name for the newly discovered lands was changed to Terra Nova (New Land). 

King Manuel I of Portugal

This image, below the Cape of Storms as it was then known (today the Cape of Good Hope), depicts King Manuel I of Portugal riding a sea monster. It is a symbolic representation of Portuguese control over the waters on that side of the ocean.

List of spices

There is a large notice at the bottom right of the map, listing the origins and prices of a lot of spices and other products that were sold in Kozhikode (also known as Calicut). At that time, the city was the main trading center in the Indian Ocean. The inclusion of the spices on the map reveals the significance of these products for Europeans in the 16th century.

Images in South America

In this part of the map, Waldseemüller includes images of subjects of interest to Europeans. On the left is an opossum, the first marsupial they had ever seen, since they did not exist in Europe. And on the right are images of native people practicing cannibalism.

The Maluku Islands

This is the oldest preserved example of a printed map to include the Maluku (formerly the Moluccas or Spice) Islands, where cloves were endemic, and the Banda Islands, where nutmeg grew. Based on Varthema's travel journal, Waldseemüller situated them in the region of eastern Asia, which was wildly inaccurate and far from their true location.

Navigational instruments

This detail includes two 32-point compass roses, and between them a nautical compass, used to transpose distances onto nautical charts.

Texts: Spanish National Geographic Institute

Image: Marine Navigation Chart. Martin Waldseemüller (1516). Facsimile edition (1960), Library of the Spanish National Geographic Institute, CC BY 4.0

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