Map of Juan de la Cosa

Map of Juan de la Cosa

Puerto de Santa María (Spain) — 1510

From the travel companion of Christopher Columbus: the newly discovered regions of America side by side with the Old World

  1. Juan de la Cosa (ca. 1450–1510) depicts the newly discovered regions of the Americas along with the Old World

  2. De la Cosa accompanied Christopher Columbus (1451–1505) on three of his voyages as a captain and cartographer

  3. Aside from his own findings, he also relied on those of Amerigo Vespucci, Pedro Cabral, and Vasco da Gama

Map of Juan de la Cosa

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Map of Juan de la Cosa

Juan de la Cosa’s famous world map is a true wonder from the Age of Exploration ca. 1500. In it, de la Cosa unites all the newly discovered regions of the New World with known parts of the world. In this way they offer a comprehensive picture of the world at that time. De la Cosa accompanied Christopher Columbus on three of his voyages of discovery to the New World as a captain and cartographer, and thus was one of the first to be in the know concerning these new regions. Columbus himself left behind no maps, so the Map of Juan de la Cosa, which has inter alia the first depiction of America on it, represents a unique geographical attestation!

Map of Juan de la Cosa

Juan de la Cosa’s famous world map is a true wonder from the Age of Exploration ca. 1500. In it, de la Cosa unites all the newly discovered regions of the New World with known parts of the world. In this way they offer a comprehensive picture of the world at that time. De la Cosa accompanied Christopher Columbus on three of his voyages of discovery to the New World as a captain and cartographer, and thus was one of the first to be in the know concerning these new regions. Columbus himself left behind no maps, so the Map of Juan de la Cosa, which has inter alia the first depiction of America on it, represents a unique geographical attestation!

Columbus’ Captain

Juna de la Cosa (ca. 1449–1510) was an eyewitness and important figure of the Age of Discovery ca. 1500. As captain and owner of the Santa Maria, the ship with which Christopher Columbus departed in the year 1492 for his first voyage of discovery, he was among the first to study the exotic world of the Caribbean. Juan de la Cosa accompanied Columbus on his second and third voyages of discovery as a captain, valued advisor, and head cartographer. He possessed a comprehensive knowledge that made him a valuable travel companion. Altogether, de la Cosa undertook seven expeditions to the New World, among them with Amerigo Vespucci and Vasco Nunez de Balboa. He was killed in Columbia during one of these voyages of discovery in 1510 when he was hit by poisoned arrow during a battle with the Indios.

An Important Mappa Mundi

In the course of all these travels, particularly during the first expedition with Christopher Columbus, he collected the knowledge that would allow him to depict this New World. His famous world map probably originates in the year 1500 in Puerto de Santa Maria. The map, made of two ox hides joined together, has the dimensions of 183 x 96 cm. Here, de la Cosa presents all of the discoveries of his time. He did not just bring those lands under the Spanish flag into consideration, but all lands, and thus delivered a comprehensive picture of the world at that time.

The Oldest Known Map of America

Among others, the islands of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the then-known coasts of South America were depicted in detail. Cuba, then known as Juana, was correctly depicted for the first time as an island, whereas Columbus believed that it was only a peninsula of the great Indian subcontinent. Thereby Juan de la Cosa not only relied upon his own findings – it was impossible for him to travel the entire known world – but also on the most diverse sources, e.g. by records from Amerigo Vespucci, Pedro Cabral, and older information from Vasco da Gama.

A Lucky Find in the 19th Century

Today the world map by Juan de la Cosa is found in the Museo Naval in Madrid. It was lost and forgotten for a long time and was first rediscovered in the 19th century. In 1832, Charles Walckenauer, a French map researcher and subsequent director of the map collection of the French National Library, made a sensational discovery in a small Parisian antiquarian book shop. The news of this discovery reached Alexander von Humboldt, who concerned himself with the world map by Juan de la Cosa in his writings. Presumably, the map was removed from the Vatican archives and sent to France during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1853, after the death of Tod Walckenauers, the document of such historical significance was finally acquired by the Spanish government and in this way was returned to its originally intended destination.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Mapa de Juan de la Cosa
Juan de la Cosa Map
Chart of Juan de la Cosa
Mapamundi de Juan de la Cosa
Karte von Juan de la Cosa
Size / Format
1 map / 183.0 × 96.0 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
1510
Language
Content
World map including the recently discovered Americas
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca (1451–1524)
Charles Athanase Walckenaer (1771–1852)

Available facsimile editions:
Map of Juan de la Cosa – Museo Naval (Madrid, Spain)
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1988
Limited Edition: 980 copies

Carta Mapamundi de Juan de la Cosa
Egeria, S.L. – Madrid, 1992
Limited Edition: 740 copies
Detail Picture

Map of Juan de la Cosa

The Three Kings

Bearing their gifts for the King of the Jews, the Magi are shown on horseback following the star through Asia to the city Bethlehem. Although the part of the map concerning the Atlantic and the newly discovered Americas is based on the most recent cartographic discoveries, the depiction of Asia in this map still relies on myth, Ptolemaic models, and the travelogues of people like Marco Polo. As such, various biblical people and locations are also depicted on this historic map.

Mapa de Juan de la Cosa
Single Page

Map of Juan de la Cosa

First Glimpse of the New World

In contrast to a mappa mundi, which is east oriented, this map is focused on the newly discovered Americas and thus has west at the top of the map. In contrast to Europe and Africa, which are pale and covered with cities, the New World is a lush green landscape surrounding the Caribbean, wherein lies a few islands that the voyages of Columbus have actually mapped out with some precision.

While most maps show an image of the Madonna and Child at the top, there is an image of the patron saint of traveler and sailors, St. Christopher, under which Juan de la Cosa’s name appears. Instead, the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus appear in the compass rose on a piece of paper that was pasted on the map, possibly drawn by Juan de la Cosa himself.

Mapa de Juan de la Cosa
Facsimile Editions

#1 Mapa de Juan de la Cosa

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1988
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Rolled map in a protective cylinder
Commentary: 1 volume (32 pages) by José Luis Comellas
Language: Spanish
1 volume: The facsimile is a reduction to approximately 133 x 70 cm. Partial reproduction of the original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding. Facsimile was reduced to a size of about 133 x 70 mm.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
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#2 Carta Mapamundi de Juan de la Cosa

Egeria, S.L. – Madrid, 1992

Publisher: Egeria, S.L. – Madrid, 1992
Limited Edition: 740 copies
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
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.
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