The maps or charts called portulanos, 1. C. handbooks On navigation, were first drawn in the thirteenth century. We do have examples of such works previous to that period, but the kind that could bear comparison with Pin Reis are mainly in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.
The first portulano in Europe is found in the work of Adamus Biemensis in 1076. Then comes the map called pisane, presumably drawn in the thirteenth century The maps which appear after that bear the name of the author and the date of the drawing. The earliest among these is the portulano of Pietro Visconti, dated 1320. To this is added a section of Marino Snudus work, under the name of “Liber Secretaruin Fidehum Crucis”.
Thus, considering the development of this type of handbook and charts, it will be useful to make a short comparative review of other such contemporary works, especially of maps showing America.
The portulanos and the handbooks written after the fourteenth century mention the island of “Brasil”, and in 1414 the island of “Cipangu” and the “Antilia” are shown. It is believed that between 1474 and 1482 Toscanelli sent a portulano together with a letter to Christopher Columbus.
Unfortunately, these documents have not survived. In that letter he is supposed to have said that according to the testimony of several who had gone that way, if one kept on going to the west he was bound to reach Asia eventually.
According to what De la Ronciere wrote, this Portuguese map was drawn between 1488 and 1493. A photograph of the map will be found on another page in this book, together with the portion that Kretchner re-drew (p. 39).
The information spread all over the world after 1507 when Amerigo Vespucci wrote in a letter that it was a new continent and he called it “Novus Mundus”. St. Die, who published the letter, suggested the name “America” for it.
On the other hand there are some who claim that the name of America was adopted because the natives of Nicaragua called a part of their land “America”. It is true that in the first half of the XVIth century this new continent drew the attention of geographers, and that resulted in various maps being drawn of it. Piri Reis was one of these cartographers. Hence, a comparison of his works with sonic other contemporary maps drawn between 1507-1550 will reveal to us the greatness of Piri maps as historical documents in the discovery of America.
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