An Official Image of the World for the Hispanic Monarchy

The Padrón Real of the Casa de la Contratación in Seville, 1508–1606

In: Nuncius
Antonio Sánchez Centro Interuniversitário de História das Ciências e da Tecnologia (CIUHCT), Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal

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This paper discusses the Padrón Real (Royal Pattern Chart or master sea chart), an official class of maps of the world instituted by the Spanish monarchy and produced by Seville’s Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade) from 1508 onwards, in a political context dominated by the dispute between the two largest expansionist empires in Europe – Portugal and Castile – which was heightened following the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. The Padrón Real became a model for European cartographers and its history sheds light on the development of map-making practices at the Casa in the Crown’s attempt to regulate cosmography for its own political ends.

The Padrón Real was unprecedented for its time and, together with the question of how to determine longitude, reflected what were the most important cartographic challenges facing the early modern world: how to represent a three-dimensional body – the globe – on a flat surface and how to provide reliable geographic maps when they were subject to constant revision.

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