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In this paper, we examine two unique maps from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the Modern Map of Spain, attributed to Cardinal Margarit, and Spagna con le distantie de li loci, created in northern Italy. Like the British Gough map, both depict communication networks with specified distances. Through formal analysis and computational methods, we uncover the cartographic features of each map, linking them to their historical settings, thus enhancing the previously limited information. We elucidate their connection as two significant steps in the same cartographic evolution. Simultaneously, we investigate the depicted routes, determining the measurement units used and the communication networks illustrated, all within the broader framework of Europe’s Renaissance Communications Revolution. Our inquiries have led to a re-dating of the maps, challenged the traditional authorship, and proposed a theory regarding the functionality of the represented transport networks. This refreshes the perspective on early communication maps in Western Europe, offering new insights into the interplay between maps and itineraries, and fills a historical gap previously solely occupied by Great Britain’s Gough map.


The Margarit Map, dated 1456, is a parchment manuscript housed in the General Library of the University of Salamanca. It provides a detailed representation of the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic Archipelago, and North Africa. While its origin is debated, it’s most commonly attributed to Italian, possibly Florentine, cartographers. The map features geographical elements like relief, hydrography, and settlements, and includes 489 named localities.

It’s notable for its detailed annotations, including distances between cities, and the use of different color codings to denote geographical and political elements. Scholars suggest the map reflects the political and geographical interests of its first holder, Cardinal Joan Margarit i Pau, who had significant roles in the church and Spanish royal courts. The map was intended as a gift to King Ferdinand but apparently never reached him.

In terms of cartographic techniques, the map shows significant distortions attributed to the erroneous estimations of Earth’s circumference by Ptolemy. Various units of measurement are used, resembling the leagues and miles of the time, indicating a blend of scientific and practical considerations. The map has had a complex provenance, appearing in multiple collections before its current location, and raises numerous questions about its creation, intent, and historical context.

The map “Spagna con le distantie de li loci” (SCLDL) housed in Venice’s Correr Museum is a colored woodcut facing south, with no listed author or date. It closely resembles an earlier map by Margarit but also incorporates other sources. The map features 435 named localities and numerous routes but lacks a coherent network of connections. Errors are prevalent, especially in natural features and distance measurements. The map uses both Roman and Arabic numerals inconsistently. It is suggested that the map likely predates significant cartographic developments of the mid-16th century and may have been created in the 1530s. The southern orientation implies a target audience north of the Iberian Peninsula. Its commercial, printed nature and potential ecclesiastical sources for route information are also noted.
The Salamanca map and the “Spagna con le distantie de li loci” (SCLDL) map are closely related, sharing a high percentage of localities and routes with Margarit’s map. However, SCLDL introduces errors in distances and does not correct sea routes, likely due to the engraver’s inexperience. The text also points to a rich exchange of geographical information in northern Italy in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Both Margarit’s and SCLDL maps could have been sources for Paletino’s 1551 map.
The existence of these maps challenges the uniqueness of the British Gough map in medieval cartography. The Salamanca map, although later, similarly represents routes and is followed by the printed SCLDL map, which aims to depict a comprehensive network of communications in the Iberian Peninsula.



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