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Peter H. Meurer:

Six maps of the West Coast of Africa from the Waldseemüller school

Cartographica Helvetica 45 (2012) 15–26


The Austrian National Library in Vienna preserves a unique copy of Fracanzano de Montalboddo's Itinerarium Portugallensium (Milan 1508). It is enriched by a series of six undated and unsigned woodcut maps: a world map and five maps of the west coast of Africa illustrating the expeditions of Alvise Cadamosto (1455/56) and Pedro de Sintra (1463). Detailed analyses of style and content classify this set as proof prints for the never-published edition of Itineraria which was planned already by Martin Waldseemüller. Some surviving letters indicate that this project was taken up again around 1520/25 by the Strasbourg publisher Johannes Grüninger in cooperation with Laurent Fries.

  • The wood blocks are carved by the same anonymous artist who also made the most recent maps in the 1522 Strasbourg edition of Ptolemy's Geography.
  • The blocks can be dated between 1521 and 1524. Terminus ante quem is the use of one block in an altered state in Fries' Uslegung der Mercarthen of 1525.
  • The world map shows a central wind rose similar to the one on Vesconte Maggiolo's 1504 planisphere.
  • The topographical details and names on the five maps of Africa are compiled from the modern Waldseemüller map of Northern Africa (1513) and Montalboddo's report on the travels of Cadamosto and Sintra. But there are considerable corrections of coordinates as compared to Waldseemüller.

Waldseemüller may have been the author of the first drafts of the maps. The final version, however, can be attributed only to Laurent Fries. Also this second Strasbourg attempt towards an anthology of travel records was never published. Nevertheless, the idea was pursued by Johann Huttich and realized in the Novus orbis regionum (Basel 1532).

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