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Arthur Dürst:

Brazil depicted in early maps

Cartographica Helvetica 6 (1992) 8–16


The first maps of Brazil were influenced by two important events: there was the almost simultaneous discovery of the country by the Spanish (1499) and the Portuguese (1500), and then the subsequent Tordesillas Treaty governing the interests of both nations.

The earliest cartographic representation was made by the Spaniard Juan de la Cosa. The drawing contained hardly any details and did not show much more than the coastline. Only two years later a Portuguese planiglob, known as the 'Cantino Map', appeared, probably a copy of the secret reference map (padrão real). These cartographic prototypes were kept at the sailing (navigation) centers in Lisbon and Sevilla and contained the latest informations.

One of the heads of the Spanish center was Amerigo Vespucci whose first name was used by Waldseemüller in 1507 to name South America in his Universalis Cosmographia. This map was in turn the basis for further maps by Apianus, Fries, and Münster. The coast from the Amazone River to the Rio de la Plata was already well-documented in the so-called 'Miller Atlas' from around 1519, and the unexplored interior was called Terra Brasilis.

Bibliographic note

  • Edited version of: Brasilien im frühen Kartenbild. In: Brasilien. Entdeckung und Selbstentdeckung. Junifestwochen Zürich 1992. ed. Guido Magnaguagno, Martin Schaub. Bern, 1992. pp. 38–48.

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