Concept

Cantino planisphere

Summary
The Cantino planisphere or Cantino world map is a manuscript Portuguese world map preserved at the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, Italy. It is named after Alberto Cantino, an agent for the Duke of Ferrara, who successfully smuggled it from Portugal to Italy in 1502. It measures 220 x 105 cm. This planisphere is the earliest surviving map showing Portuguese geographic discoveries in the east and west and is particularly notable for portraying a fragmentary record of the Brazilian coast, which the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral explored in 1500, the Southern coast of Greenland, explored in the late 1490s, and for depicting the African coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with remarkable accuracy and detail. It was valuable at the beginning of the sixteenth century because it showed detailed and up-to-date strategic information in a time when geographic knowledge of the world was growing at a fast pace. It is important in our days because it contains unique historical information about the maritime exploration and the evolution of nautical cartography in a particularly interesting period. The Cantino planisphere is the earliest extant nautical chart where places (in Africa and parts of Brazil and India) are depicted according to their astronomically observed latitudes. At the beginning of the 16th century, Lisbon was a buzzing metropolis where people from diverse backgrounds came in search of work, glory or fortune. There were also many undercover agents looking for the secrets brought by the Portuguese voyages to remote lands. Among them was Alberto Cantino, who was sent to Portugal by Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, with the formal intention of horse trading, while secretly collecting information on Portuguese discoveries. Cantino's diligence is shown in two of his five remaining letters to the Duke, dated from 17th and 18th October 1501, where he describes, amongst other things, hearing Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real detailing his latest voyage to Newfoundland (Terra Nova) to King Manuel I.
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