Planisphere world map by Francesco Rosselli, around 1508 by Francesco Rosselli

Planisphere world map by Francesco Rosselli, around 1508

Francesco Rosselli

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Maps and charts
Part of the Maps and charts Collection
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Planisphere world map by Francesco Rosselli, around 1508

The dating of this planisphere and sea-chart depends partly upon the fact that the names given by Columbus during his fourth voyage to features in Central America, including Hispaniola and Cuba, are here shown on the Indo-China coast. This is consistent with Columbus's own belief that he had reached the coasts of Asia. This style of world map originated with Ptolemy and continued into the 17th century.

Two world maps on the same mount, probably orginally a double page from a book, laid down inside a  brown leather cover and heavily hand coloured (the colouring is so heavy it was long thought to be a manuscript, in fact a method employed by contemporaries to make prints look less like prints). This is the earliest extant map to show the world in 360 degrees of longitude and 180 degrees of latitude within an oval projection, a form which would be adopted by many major cartographers later in the century. Columbus' place names for central America are placed (as claimed by Columbus) along the coast of Asia, which extends to the eastward following the Ptolemaic conception of the continent, into a peninsular North America.

The main issue for cartographers in the early sixteenth century was how to reconcile the Ptolemaic understanding of world geography with the geographical knowledge which reached Europe following the turn of the century voyages of exploration. This map is Rosselli's attempt at that feat, incorporating the latest information into a Renaissance geographical tradition. It is particularly important because it is the only extant world map by a contemporary cartographer to depict Columbus's own understanding of the geographical results of his fourth voyage.

  • Image reference: C4568-A

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