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The Luso-Hispanic World in Maps: A Selective Guide to Manuscript Maps to 1900

This resource guide describes in detail a selection of early manuscript maps by Spanish and Portuguese cartographers, or in areas linked to Spain and Portugal.


This guide is adapted from The Luso-Hispanic World in Maps: A Selective Guide to Manuscript Maps to 1900 in the Collections of the Library of Congress, originally published in February 1999 by John R. Hébert and Anthony P. Mullan. An online version of the guide was first published in 2011, and was migrated to this research guide in 2024. It has been updated to reflect maps cataloged and digitized since the publication of the bibliography.

The Luso-Hispanic World in Maps

Spain and Portugal expanded in rapid fashion from the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern Europe, following the late fifteenth century discoveries along the African coast, the Indian Ocean, and in the Americas and Asia. New discoveries and exploration brought with them the need for improved information in descriptions and maps as the Luso-Hispanic world began to be formed in the early years of the sixteenth century. Vast expanses of the Americas, of Asia, and of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans were uncovered and explored repeatedly until a reasonable understanding of the entire world unfolded. Spain and Portugal were in the vanguard of Europe's overseas expansion, ushering a shift from an interior looking Europe to one that sought territories and trade worldwide.

[A portolan chart of the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent continents].
Roiz, Pascoal. [A portolan chart of the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent Continents]. 1633. Luso-Hispanic World number 10. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

That Iberian thrust carried with it the need for carefully constructed and accurate maps of vast areas of the world previously unknown to Europe. Early on, both the Spanish and the Portuguese were compelled by practical purposes, not excluding shipping and material losses in uncharted waters, to establish special mapping agencies to insure the most accurate and up-to-date information from newly uncovered lands. The drive on the part of the two Iberian powers to expand the limits of European knowledge of the Atlantic world rested on the legacy of two independent and important efforts of each kingdom. In the early fifteenth century, Portugal's Henry the Navigator assembled the finest cosmographers, navigators, and cartographers in Sagres to compile information about the Atlantic world and the African coast. In 1507, Spain's King Ferdinand established the office of the Piloto Mayor in the Casa de Contratación in Seville to assemble systematically and to concentrate the latest geographical and cartographical data from the lands newly uncovered since Columbus' 1492 voyage to America. Spain and Portugal were at the forefront of knowledge regarding the rapidly changing concept of the world and its surprising resources. That legacy was carried forward throughout the colonial period of both European powers, and is reflected in the maps that Spaniards and Portuguese prepared to describe portions of the world. No evidence of this careful description of portions of the world is more compelling than that of the cartographic output of João Teixeira in 1630 or the extensive mapping of Spanish areas of influence by the Real Escuela de Navegación in the eighteenth century.

In describing the Luso-Hispanic world before 1900, or portions of it, the map fulfills an interesting and important need, i.e., accurate geographic data in a historical context. For us, the Luso-Hispanic world includes those countries and regions of the world ruled by Spain and Portugal at the apogee of their power. By this definition, all of present-day Latin America, the Caribbean, significant portions of the United States and Canada, various islands in the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, the Philippines, parts of mainland Asia, sizeable portions of the coastal regions of Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula--in other words, a huge portion of the world--would be considered parts, at times, of the Luso-Hispanic world. We have applied this geographical definition to our survey of the Library of Congress' cartographic holdings.

The Authors

Starting on September 1, 1998, we, Anthony Mullan and John Hébert, began systematically to identify the manuscript maps of the Luso-Hispanic world in the collections of the Library of Congress. At the end of this six-month project this publication, The Luso-Hispanic World in Maps: A Selective Guide to Manuscript Maps to 1900 in the Collections of the Library of Congress, has emerged.

The Luso-Hispanic World in Maps is a record to and a description of a body of materials, primarily maps, from the mid-sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. This publication was made possible by a Billington-Krasnoff grant that was awarded to the authors by the Madison Council of the Library of Congress. We initiated the project with a systematic survey of manuscript maps and atlases by state and by country contained in the rarity vault of the Geography and Map Division. From September 1998 through most of February 1999, the authors worked on a full-time basis on all aspects of this publication.

Dr. John Hébert was, at the time of publication of the cartobibliography, the Chief of the Geography and Map Division. Previously, he was a Senior Specialist in Hispanic Bibliography in the Hispanic Division. He directed the Library of Congress's Quincentenary program and was curator of the exhibition, 1492: An Ongoing Voyage. He is a historian by training and began his career in the Geography and Map Division and from late 1974-1999 served as Assistant Chief, and for periods Acting Chief, of the Hispanic Division.

Mr. Anthony Mullan was, at the time of publication of the cartobibliography, a reference and a fine arts specialist in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division. He is an art historian by training, and he has had long and abiding interest in Latin American art and culture. Mr. Mullan served also as a visual research specialist for the aforementioned exhibition, 1492: An Ongoing Voyage, and contributed substantially to the companion volume by the same title that complemented the exhibition and the Library's Quincentenary endeavor.

The successful completion of this publication would not have been possible without the support and assistance of several individuals in the Geography and Map, the Hispanic, the Humanities and Social Sciences, and Manuscript Divisions as well as the Printing Office and the Madison Council. A special note of gratitude is directed to Cassy Ammen, Humanities and Social Sciences Division, who guided us through her great knowledge and kindness in the intricacies of the ProCite software package, which we used to compile the more than 1000 records, maps, found in the publication.