Portulano de Mateo Prunes

Portulano de Mateo Prunes Facsimile Edition

Mallorca (Spain) — Ca. 1563

The contemporary state of the science of marine navigation: noble compass roses, mighty cities, and impressive sailing ships on the map made by a member of one of the oldest families of cartographers in Mallorca

  1. Portolan charts are maps specifically designed and featuring information for navigation purposes

  2. Mateo Prunes (1532-94) is credited with thirteen portolan charts and a four-sheet atlas

  3. Compass roses, flags, coats of arms, and sailing ships adorn the artful and accurate map

Portulano de Mateo Prunes

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Portulano de Mateo Prunes

Mateo Prunes (1532–94) was a member of one of the longest-lived and best-known families of cartographers in Mallorca and was a splendid mapmaker in his own right. This portolan chart of the Mediterranean Sea and neighboring regions features artful ornamentation like compass roses, flags, coats of arms, and sailing ships, but is also extremely accurate and useful for navigation. The Portulano de Mateo Prunes is a fine specimen of 16th century cartography, when Mallorca lead the rest of Europe in this rapidly evolving science and families of cartographers like the Prunes passed down their skills and knowledge so that each generation could stand on the shoulders of the one that came before it.

Portulano de Mateo Prunes

This manuscript on colored and gilded parchment was made by Mateo Prunes (1532–94), as an inscription on the parchment itself reads "Mateo Prunes in the city of Mallorca, 1563". It represents an abbreviated image of the Mediterranean world of the 16th century where the nearby enclaves are represented together with references to the New World via two ships sailing in a westerly direction. Its author was part of one of the longest-lived and best-known families of cartographers in Mallorca. Thirteen portolan charts and a four-sheet atlas are attributed to Prunes.

What is a Portolan Chart?

The medieval "portulanos", also called portolan charts, are cartographic instruments that, together with other nautical instruments such as the compass, became authentic tools that allowed navigators to move with certain security among the coasts of the Mediterranean. Its origin goes back to the so-called "periplos" that collected the oral tradition of the Greek and Roman navigators who took the courses following the coast. This experience continued to be transmitted, giving way to the "portolan charts", a geographical compilation that included peculiarities of the ports, approximate distances between coastal features, river mouths, news about anchorages, and any reference that could be useful for navigation. The transfer of all this written information to a parchment or similar surface resulted in what is known as a nautical chart or portolan chart. They began to be made during the Middle Ages in the 13th century and continued until the Early Modern era. They began to be made in a geographical area of the Mediterranean with an intense political, commercial, and cultural relationship concentrated in various cities, among which Mallorca, Genoa and Venice would stand out as major centers of cartographic production.

A Glimpse of the Mediterranean in the 16th Century

This detailed map measures 50 x 95 cm and shows the Mediterranean coasts of Europe, Africa, and the Near East as well as the Black Sea and eastern Atlantic Ocean, which features the Canary Islands, Madeira, and two ships sailing westward. A depiction of the Madonna and Child at the westernmost edge of the map accompanies the inscription identifying the Prunes. Compass roses, cities, flags, and coats of arms fill the map in the typical manner of the period but are executed by an expert hand. Aside from being artful, the map is extremely accurate and identifies thousands of ports, cities, and towns. This splendid artifact of 16th century cartography is stored today under the shelf mark PM-1 in Madrid’s Museo Naval, where it has been kept safe since 1926.


Alternative Titles
Portulano del Mediterráneo de Mateo Prunes
Mittelmeer-Portolan von Mateo Prunes
Carta náutica de Mateo Prunes
Portolankarte des Mittelmeers von Mateo Prunes
Size / Format
1 map / 52.0 × 96.0 cm
Ca. 1563
Map of the Mediterranean area
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Portulano de Mateo Prunes – PM-1 – Museo Naval (Madrid, Spain) Facsimile Edition
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2005
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Portulano de Mateo Prunes

Inscription, Sailing Ships, Madonna and Child

Since maps were typically made from the hide of a sheep or some other animal, they often have a thin portion on one end corresponding to the neck. This provided a natural space for a depiction of the Madonna and Child, which was often included on maps originating from Mallorca during the Late Middle Ages. The inscription reading “Mateo Prunes in the city of Mallorca, 1563” is found between two ships: a large carrack bristling with canons and a small caravel with so-called lateen or triangular sails.

Portulano del Mediterráneo de Mateo Prunes
Facsimile Editions

#1 Portulano del Mediterráneo de Mateo Prunes

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2005

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2005
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Maria Luisa Verdejo Martin-Meras
Language: Spanish
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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
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