Cantino's Map

Cantino's Map – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – c.g.a.2 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)

Lisbon (Portugal) β€” 1502

Valuable contraband from a spy at the Portuguese court: an exact copy of the famous and then secret world map "Royal Standard" with the newly mapped coastline of Brazil for the Duke of Ferrara

  1. Alberto Cantino was a spy for the Duke of Ferrara at the court of the Portuguese King Emanuel the Fortunate (1469–1521)

  2. The map he smuggled is a superb specimen describing the state of Portuguese discoveries ca. 1500

  3. It is believed to be an exact copy of a secret "Royal Standard", notable for depicting the Brazilian coast

Cantino's Map

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Cantino's Map

Cantino’s Map was produced in Portugal in 1502. It describes the state of Portuguese discoveries ca. 1500. The map was named after Alberto Cantino, a spy who worked for the Italian Duke of Ferrara at the court of the Portuguese King Emanuel the Fortunate. Cantino successfully smuggled the modern map from Portugal to Italy and to present the new geographic findings to his duke.

Cantino's Map

Portuguese seafaring was advancing worldwide in the 15th century. No other country could record as many discoveries and successful expeditions as Portugal. The Kingdom of Portugal was among the most important colonial powers worldwide. In the course of the numerous discoveries of unknown lands and new geographic regions, the most important cartography school in Europe developed in Portugal. The masterful Cantino’s Map outstandingly illustrates the state of Portuguese discoveries ca. 1500. The hand-drawn maps show the landmasses known at that time and is illustrated by vividly colored decorative elements.

The Spy Alberto Cantino

Alberto Cantino was officially a diplomat of the Italian trading house of Duke Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara at the court of the Portuguese King Emanuel the Fortunate. Unofficially, Cantino’s primary objective above all else was the procurement of information regarding the Portuguese discoveries and expeditions. Thus he reported about the Gaspar Corte-Real, whose voyage of discovery abducted people and hauled them back to Portugal. In this regard, two letters to the Duke from the 17th and 18th of October, 1501 still survive. The spy was made famous for the map that bears his name. In the year 1502, he managed to smuggle the Portuguese map into Italy for the Duke of Ferrara.

A Special Map

The world map by Alberto Cantino is considered to be particularly noteworthy, because it illustrates a part of the Brazilian coast. This was discovered by the Portuguese seafarer Pedro Álvares Cabral ca. 1500. He postulated that he had discovered a new continent previously unknown to Europeans. It was first confirmed later, that this was a part of the same continent, which various Spanish explorers, e.g. Amerigo Vespucci, had already discovered farther to the north. Beyond that, the maps contained findings from the journeys of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean, of Vasco de Gama and later Pedro Álvares Cabal to East Africa and India, as well as Gaspar Corte-Real and Miguel Corte-Real to Greenland and Newfoundland. The map documents the great deeds of the Portuguese explorers in the finest detail.

The Turbulent History of the Splendid Map

It is assumed that Cantino’s Map is an exact copy of a world map, which is designated with the title Royal Standard and which was kept secret from the public. It is also assumed that Cantino was able to bribe one of the Portuguese cartographers into making him a copy. The map provided the Italian with knowledge of the Brazilian coast, and this part of South America therewith, long before other nations generally became aware that South America stretched itself far southward. This map probably served as an important source for the world-famous WaldseemΓΌller Map of 1507, the first world atlas ever.


Alternative Titles
La Carta del Cantino
Charta del navicare del Cantino
Cantino's World Map
Planisfero di Cantino
Cantino Planisphere
Planisfero del Cantino
Cantino Map
Size / Format
1 map / 220.0 Γ— 105.0 cm
Gothic Textura Quadrata
Colorful illumination of topographical features and coastlines
Alberto Cantino
Previous Owners
Estense Court of Ferrara

Available facsimile editions:
Cantino's Map – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – c.g.a.2 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2004
Limited Edition: 750 copies
Detail Picture

Cantino's Map


Most of the cities are only indicated by their written names on Cantino's Map. The exceptions are therefore all the more striking. As usual, Jerusalem is highlighted by a large depiction of the city. In North Africa, the Tower of Babel and the important Portuguese trading post Elmina Castle ("Castello damina") in the Gulf of Guinea also appear. As one of the most important trading metropolises in the Mediterranean region, Venice is also included in this list, appearing oversized north of the Adriatic with many high towers and seemingly endless arcades.

Cantino's Map – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – c.g.a.2 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Single Page

Cantino's Map

Tordesillas Line

With the Treaty of Tordesillas of June 7, 1494, the rule over the Atlantic Ocean was settled between the kingdoms of Portugal and Castile. Both kingdoms had a great interest in reaching Asia via the Atlantic – either via the route around the African continent or via the route to the west. A line of demarcation was established, which was to run along a meridian 370 "LΓ©guas" (c. 1418 miles) west of the westernmost Cape Verde Islands.

It is clearly marked in blue on the map. While the Castilian Crown's territory lies to the west, the part of the Atlantic to the east of the line belongs to the "Terra del Rey de Portugall" – including various Atlantic islands, parts of present-day Brazil, which is populated by giant parrots, and the forested Newfoundland in the north. It is one of the oldest cartographic representations of the North American island.

Cantino's Map – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – c.g.a.2 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 La Carta del Cantino

Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2004

Publisher: Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2004
Limited Edition: 750 copies
Binding: Printed in 5 fragments, which have been connected by a green cloth backing, the scroll is kept in a protective blue box with the commentary volume
Commentary: 1 volume by Ernesto Milano, Laura Federzoni, Marco Cattini, and AnnaΒ­lisa Battini
Languages: Italian, English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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