Riding the wave


The Real Padrão

Nuno Golçalves, Henry the Navigator (1394-1460).
Lisbon, Museum of Ancient Art.

In the fifteenth century the spirit of discovery that led the Portuguese to the Spanish dispute lands in the New World, received a decisive boost by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 Porto - Sagres 1460), who founded in this city a center of scientific studies , joining astronomers, cartographers and sea captains.

Anime therefore a systematic movement of ocean exploration, designed to look fabulous business opportunities in countries beyond the Canaries, and alliances against the Moors in the mysterious realm of Christian priest-king John , which Marco Polo had confirmed its existence.

Having rediscovered the Madeira and Azores - already known to the Genoese and the Catalans and then forgotten - he pushed his ships beyond Cape Bojador reaching, in 1445, the islands of Cape Verde and then Sierra Leone.

On the death of Henry King John II continued penetration in African territory, growing in the meantime about conquering the monopoly of navigation to the Indies.

In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Storms, by then called "Good Hope" after him Vasco de Gama reached the Malabar coast in India, so finding the path that would have allowed the Portuguese to import spices on more favorable terms compared to the Venetians, from which derived the final shift of trade routes from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Brazil was discovered in 1500 - settled by the middle of the next century - and the commercial empire was founded in India, extending the exploration to China and Japan.

In those years was crucial was built, and was updated in the House from India - founded in Lisbon in 1500 - the Padrão real, or a portfolio sample map is constantly updated with new discoveries and their pads, protected by state secrecy, the penalty death for offenders. Yet, in 1502 Alberto Cantino , diplomat in Lisbon of the Este family, donated to the Duke of Ferrara a world map on parchment depicting the new discoveries, given just a copy of the illegal Padrão.

There appeared for the first time the line of demarcation between Spanish and Portuguese possessions in 1494 agreed with the Treaty Tordesillas, which was established at 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands the meridian that gave the land to the western and eastern Spain - Newfoundland and Brazil - Portugal.

Presumably a parchment dating back to 1505 a little later, the Genoese Nicolas Cavero, much like the preceding one to suppose that it is also derived from Padrão, which has kept the entire nomenclature.

However, the oldest Portuguese paper is signed and dated 1492, by Jorge de Aguiar, one of about forty-known cartographers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, of which there is no biographical information, being remembered names just because they signed their cards.

The " Cantino Card "(1502). parchment mm. 2200x1050
(Modena, Biblioteca Estense )
The "Charter of Cavero" (1505). Parchment 2250x1150 mm
Although the work of Nicholas Genovese Cavero,
the paper is considered a real copy of Padrão
(Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France )
The maps are reproduced in
Coasts of the World in European cartography :1500-1900 , (179 p., about 300 images)
by Priuli & Verlucca, publishers , Ivrea, 2000.)