restricted access Chapter One: Spanish Maritime Charting of the Gulf of Mexico and the California Coast
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One u Spanish Maritime Charting of the Gulf of Mexico and the California Coast w. michael mathes introduction Iberia, as direct heir of Greek and Arabic geometry, algebra, astronomy, navigation, and naval architecture, initiated the development of modern cartography. Catalán, Portuguese, and Mozarabic cartographers produced increasingly precise maritime charts, portolanos, during the fifteenth century , and by its final decade, this art, coupled with knowledge of navigational sciences, resulted in Portuguese maritime expansion to Africa and India and Castilian voyaging to the New World. To a degree, Africa and India were known to Portugal from the descriptions and cartographic representations of classical and medieval travelers. Castile, however, embarked upon discovery and exploration of a virtually unknown and appropriately named New World. By the opening of the sixteenth century—following the early Columbian voyages, the establishment of Spanish hegemony in the Western Hemisphere by treaty, and the founding of Spanish colonies in the Antilles —exploration of the American landmass in search of commercial markets or other sources of wealth was underway. In 1503, establishment of the Casa de Contratación in Seville to administer maritime traffic, trade, and immigration to overseas areas formalized Spanish expansion. A methodology was developed through precise, standardized, legallydefined and performed acts of possession, written and graphic description, formal demarcation, and establishment of universal place names. Detailed logs, rutters, and charts with both landforms and coastal profiles were prepared by professionals trained in mathematics, celestial navigation, and cartography . By royal orders of 1508, 1552, and 1571, pilots major and cosmographers , educated in such institutions as Seville’s Colegio de San Telmo, 2 u w. michael mathes were licensed in these professions and charged with preparation of all geographic and cartographic information relative to the Americas.1 Their work was governed by officially sanctioned standards for description and demarcation, with place names generally based upon the liturgical calendar , affixed at evening anchorage in honorof the feast of the following day.2 From the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, Spanish voyages of discovery and demarcation were generally contracted with the crown by private entrepreneurs, and thus were joint ventures. Customarily, the monarch provided funding, rights of commercial exploitation, and political honors to the contractor, who, in turn, would take possession of the region explored for the crown, chart it, promote its colonization, and pay a percentage of profits from its exploitation to the royal treasury. The pilots and cartographers employed by the organizerof the enterprise had to be royally licensed (though cartographers were not included in most voyages), and substantial geographic information was derived from their verbal descriptions and rutters. With creation of the Ministerio de Marina in 1714 and the subsequent administrative modifications under Carlos III (1759–1788), a product of the Enlightenment, these private enterprises were supplanted by royally organized and financed voyages, manned by officers and men of the royal navy, as well as civilian professionals appointed and paid by the crown. In 1524, the Real Consejo de Indias was created to administer the vast Spanish overseas empire, and royal orders of 1526, 1568, 1573, and 1596, all incorporated into the Recopilación de las Leyes de los Reinos de las Indias of 1681, Libro IV, títulos 1–4, governed all aspects of discovery and exploration . Far more extensive than originally imagined, the Americas, even in the early sixteenth century, were beyond full Spanish capabilities of colonization and fortification, and thus geographic-cartographic secrecy was a major factor in overseas defense. The Casa de Contratación restricted personnel on maritime expeditions for discovery, possession, and demarcation to screened loyal subjects, generally of Castilian birth. This institution also guarded results of these voyages—descriptive logs, charts, and other documents prepared by their cartographers—in its archive and was charged with preparation and maintenance of the padrón cartográfico, a form of master world map supervised by the cartographer major, upon which discoveries were delineated as they were made. Access to all of these sources was limited to pilots major and persons authorized by the Consejo de Indias.3 Although the arts of printing and engraving in Spain were of the highest standards in Europe, as a result of security policies, they did little Spanish Maritime Charting u 3 to contribute to knowledge of geographic discovery and cartography. In addition to security established over manuscript descriptions and charts, printed information was controlled by royal orders of censorship. In the early 1500s, the Catholic monarchs in Spain required anyone...


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