Origin and evolution of Portulan charts

Toujours à Lisbonne, les 6 et 7 juin prochain, se tiendra un colloque intitulé On the origin and evolution of Portulan charts, organisé par l’Interuniversity Center for the History of Science and Technology (CIUHCT)


The origin of the nautical chart is among the most challenging unresolved subjects within the History of Cartography. Emer-ging almost fully-formed in the thirteen century and exhibiting an unprecedented accuracy, when compared with the con-temporary cartography, the portolan chart of the Mediterra-nean is an intriguing medieval artefact. The purpose of this workshop, the first to gather most of the internationally re-cognized specialists on the subject, is to assess the current state of knowledge and the range of opinion about the birth and evolution of portolan charts. New and promising deve-lopments have occurred in recent years which may help to solve some of the most critical questions about the when, where and why the earliest charts were created, how they were constructed, how they evolved over time and how they were used. These matters will be the focus of the more than twenty papers ―and one round-table discussion―that will be presented in the workshop. Reflecting the fact that the re-searchers currently working on these issues come from the both sciences and the humanities fields, the papers will deal equally with technical and historical viewpoints.

Le programme:


SESSION 1        09.30 – 11.00

Chair:       Joaquim Alves Gaspar

09.30 – 09.50      Welcome

09.50 – 10.45      Opening Talks

Evangelos Livieratos (ICA Commission “Cartographic Heritage into the Digital”) : tasks, tools and working methods

Tony Campbell : Recent research: evidence from the texts and charts themselves

Joaquim Alves Gaspar : Some historiographical notes on the origin of portolan charts

10.45 – 11.00  Gregory McIntosh and Richard Pflederer | Proposal for genetic testing of medieval and Renaissance manuscript map parchments (short paper)

SESSION 2        11.30 – 13.00

Chair:       Ramon Pujades

11:30 – 12.00      Dmitri Shcheglov | Ptolemy’s map and ancient background of the portolan charts

12.00 – 12.30      Stefan Schröder : The Islamic hypothesis revisited: transcultural knowledge and late medieval portolan charts

12.30 – 13.00      Chet Van Duzer : Misplaced islands and the meridian of water: an unsuspected case of Islamic influence on nautical charts

SESSION 3   14.30 – 16.00

Chair:       Chet Van Duzer

14.30 – 15.00      Harald Gropp : Portolan maps and mappae mundi from Llull to Martellus

15.00 – 15.30      Ramon Pujades : Genoa and the birth of medieval nautical cartography: the basic features of an exported pattern

15.30 – 16.00      Gregory McIntosh : After the compass and before the chart: considerations on the origin of the portolan chart

SESSION 4        16.30 – 18.00

Chair:       Catherine Hofmann

16.30 – 17.00      Emmanuelle Vagnon : Cultural and commercial use of portolan charts: old debate, new evidence

17.00 – 17.30      George Tolias : Nautical chart ownership and late medieval – early modern classification patterns

17.30 – 18.00      Corradino Astengo:  Manual of instructions not included


SESSION 5        09.00 – 10.30

Chair:       Corradino Astengo

09.00 – 09.30      Juan O. Hernández : Name ‘deturpatio’ in portolan charts during Atlantic expansion

09.30 – 10.00      Krisztina Irás : Central Europe on portolan charts

10.00 – 10.30      Jacques Mille : The French coasts of the Mediterranean Sea on portolan charts

SESSION 6        11.00 – 12.30

Chair:       Evangelos Livieratos

11.00 – 11.30      Roel Nicolai : Geodetic and methodological aspects of the research into the origin of portolan charts

11.30 – 12.00      Catherine Hofmann, Nathalie Buisson and Pascale Richardin : Is the Carta Pisana still the oldest known marine chart? The results of laboratory analysis and of radiocarbon dating

12.00 – 12.30      Tony Campbell : What do we know historically about the origin of the portolan chart; how can we best fill in the gaps?

SESSION 7        14.00 – 15.30

Chair:       George Tolias

14.00 – 14.30      Richard Pflederer : Portolan charts of the Mediterranean Sea: localized variation in indicated bearings between points

14.30 – 15.00      Kevin Sheehan : Construction and reconstruction: investigating how portolan maps were manufactured through experimental reproduction

15.00 – 15.30      Joaquim Alves Gaspar : Cartometric and modelling techniques in the study of portolan charts

SESSION 8        16.00 – 17.30

Chair:       Tony Campbell

16.00 – 16.15      Richard Pflederer : Comprehensive census of portolan charts: late 13th century to mid-18th century (short paper)

16.15 – 17.30      Round table discussion

Evangelos Livieratos : Analyzing the geometric content of old maps: smooth operational approaches and the Digital Humanities perspective

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