Hispanic Division: Back to Portuguese Role in Exploring and Mapping the New World
Portuguese View of the World at the Beginning of the 17th CenturyThis atlas, the title of which translates as "General charts of the whole navigation . . . with all the principal ports of the conquest of Portugal," is unique among the Library's treasures as an example of Portuguese cartography during the Age of Discoveries. This manuscript volume, which originated in Lisbon in 1630, was compiled by João Teixeira, who served as cosmographer to the king of Portugal. Teixeira, who was active from 1602 to 1652, is considered the most prolific Portuguese cartographer of the seventeenth century. He was a member of a Lisbon family that was active in cartography for possibly six generations; his father Luís Teixeira compiled the late-sixteenth-century map of the Azores displayed in this exhibit [item 2].
This atlas has been referred to as the "Secret maps of the Americas and the Indies from the Portuguese archives," reflecting the rivalry between the Portuguese and Spanish throughout this period. The first map, which is displayed here, is the most controversial. It is a planisphere or world map summarizing the extent of geographical knowledge at the beginning of the seventeenth century. What makes this map significant is the location of the line defining Spanish and Portuguese spheres of influence. This line of demarcation was drawn much further west than originally determined. Consequently, it shows the mouth of the Río de la Plata and northeast North America to be within Portuguese jurisdiction.
When this atlas was compiled in 1630, Portuguese power and influence were beginning to wane. From 1580 to 1640, Portugal and Spain were ruled jointly by the Spanish crown. Portugal, whose investments and manpower were stretched thinly throughout its far flung empire, was starting to lose possessions to the Dutch. Despite these imminent losses, this atlas provided a comprehensive portrait of the Portuguese empire at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Library of Congress
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Portuguese View of the World at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century