“A Sea of Denial” examines the cartographic invention of the Pacific Rim by the Spanish imperial imagination during the long sixteenth century. Guided by the desire to include as much as possible within the line of demarcation established by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) and the negotiation of its antimeridian in the 1520s, Castilian mapmakers designed maps of the world and of the Hispanic Indies that fashioned the lands around the Pacific Ocean into an increasingly coherent image of a trans-Pacific empire. This study examines how this development is accomplished on specific maps through the interplay of line, word, and image, of geography and artistry, that struggle to map the traditional “East” as a Hispanic “West,” called “las Indias del Poniente.” These maps include the 1529 world map by Diogo Ribeiro, in the collection of the Vatican Library, and the 1570 map of the Indies by Juan López de Velasco eventually published as part of Antonio de Herrera’s Descripción de las Indias (1601). The world map of Martin Waldseemüller (1507) and the Pacific map of Abraham Ortelius (1589) provide points of comparison. Although this effort avails itself of the flexibility inherent in modern cartography, it cannot convincingly displace the deep-seated tendency to think of East and Southeast Asia precisely as “Eastern.” Ultimately, the effort fails, but not without offering us some insight into the ways that the early modern imperial imagination could attempt to remap the world for its own purposes.


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pp. 1-27
Launched on MUSE
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