Atlas of Charles V - Map of Mecia De Viladestes

Rés. GeAA 566 - Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)

Alternate Titles:

Carta Naútica de Mecia de Viladestes, Portulan de Mecia de Viladestes, Seekarte des Mecia de Viladestes, Atlas von Karl V. - Seekarte des Mecia de Viladestes

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Carta Naútica de Mecia de Viladestes
Portulan de Mecia de Viladestes
Seekarte des Mecia de Viladestes
Atlas von Karl V. - Seekarte des Mecia de Viladestes

Type
Extent / Format

1 map / 115.0 x 85.0 cm

Origin
Date
1413
Genre
Language
Catalan
Patron

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain (1500-1558)

Artist / School

Mecia (Matthew) de Viladestes

Former owners

Convent of Val de Cristo

Short description

The Majorcan school of cartography produced some of the most important practitioners of their trade in the Late Middle Ages. One of the most important, Mecia de Viladestes, completed a sea chart that set new standards of cartography in 1413. Of particular importance for the famous sea chart by Mecia de Viladestes is the depiction of the Sahara. The Spanish cartographer was one of the few insiders who knew the mysterious routes of the gold merchants through the dangerous African desert. In addition, Mecia de Viladestes depicted several unknown islands and exceptional scenes in his groundbreaking map. The sea chart of Mecia de Viladestes is of exceptional significance for the history of cartography!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Atlas of Charles V - Map of Mecia de Viladestes

The Majorcan school of cartography produced some of the most important practitioners of their trade in the Late Middle Ages. One of the most important, Mecia de Viladestes, completed a sea chart that set new standards of cartography in 1413. Of particular importance for the famous sea chart by Mecia de Viladestes is the depiction of the Sahara. The Spanish cartographer was one of the few insiders who knew the mysterious routes of the gold merchants through the dangerous African desert. In addition, Mecia de Viladestes depicted several unknown islands and exceptional scenes in his groundbreaking map. The sea chart of Mecia de Viladestes is of exceptional significance for the history of cartography!

An Important Cartographer

Meccia de Viladeste was a Jewish cartographer in Spain who, like many others, converted to Christianity and undertook numerous research expeditions at the behest of the King of Aragon. He was ascribed to the so-called Majorcan school of cartography, which was predominant from the 13th to the 15th centuries and which produced a masterpiece of European cartography with the famous Catalan Atlas of 1375 by Cresques Abraham. This Catalan World Atlas, made for King Peter IV of Aragon, was gifted to the French King Charles V in 1380, which is why it is housed in the French National Library today. As a groundbreaking cartographic document, the sea chart of Mecia de Viladestes is no less significant.

An Artistic Highlight Too!

The map on vellum has a size of 115 x 85 cm and is dated 1413. It shows a region, which encompasses the northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Black and Red Seas, as well as a part of the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, and Baltic Sea. **Wonderful illustrations supplement the numerous Catalonian descriptions that cover the portolan chart. Alongside cities and oases, watering holes and mountains, Africa is especially adorned with representations of camels, dark-skinned people, and four splendidly dressed African kings. Finally, the figure of John the Baptist kneels in the Nile Delta.

The River of Gold Through Africa

The fascination with Africa that already existed at the beginning of the 15th century is visualized by the map of Mecia de Viladestes. In Viladestes’ map, Africa stretches from West to East along the great rivers: the Senegal, Niger, and Niles. Caravans march through the desert to trade salt for gold with the desert tribes. This lucrative business was negotiated along top secret routes straight through the desert, which were only know to a few insiders. Viladestes knew these strictly secret locations in the desert where the caravans traded gold for salt. On the lower margin of his map, Viladestes attached explanations for the stages of the journey through the Sahara.

The North of the Seas

This exceptionally detailed information about the African continent was appended by an additional special feature of Viladestes’ sea chart. The Majorcan cartographer also depicted the northern regions of the Atlantic, whereof no maps were known in spite of the Hanseatic League. Viladestes integrated a wonderfully figurative scene there. Before Iceland, a small boat, having been unloaded from a large ship, nears an imposing whale in order to slay him with a harpoon. Upon closer inspection, a bishop can be recognized onboard the ship. This depiction could be of the legend of St. Brendan and thus interlink religious-legendary stories with the reality of whaling.
Unknown Islands?
Mecia de Viladestes paid close attention to the islands in the Atlantic, which are depicted with great care and detail. There Viladestes distinguishes himself as an exceptional cartographer with the constant drive after the actualization of his knowledge in this time of great discoveries. He depicted several small islands at the river-mouth of the great African stream of gold. These were interpreted as the Cape Verde Islands, which were nevertheless first officially discovered in 1455. As a result, the sea chart of Mecia de Viladestes circumscribes the history of discovery!
The sea chart of Mecia de Viladestes enchants in its entirety and in connecting with this variety of innovative notations. It is one of the most important maps from the famous and well known collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

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