A portolan chart of Europe by Grazioso Benincasa


This chart of Europe was drawn by Grazioso Benincasa at Ancona in 1470. It illustrates the detailed complexity of late portolan charts. Constantinople is in the centre, Crete at the foot and the intervening archipelago practically calls out for the fuller treatment provided by contemporary books of islands. The use of red to distinguish the more important place-names is a common feature on portolan charts.

Authorship of this portolan is confirmed by the inscription at the neck: Gratiosus Benincasa Anconitanus Composuit Ancone anno domini mcccclxx. Die viii Octubrie. Benincasa was one of the most active 15th century Italian chart makers. The Bay of Cardigan is not shown on this map, the Welsh coast and that of northern England is a smooth curve, dating this chart to pre 1550. Scotland is an island, the knot tying England and Scotland is typical of Benincasa, who reproduced the standard nautical chart with this new feature. Ireland is shown with the fabled land mark, the Purgatory of St Patrick, an inland loch with many islands. The text records that there are 368 islands. A dark red circle to the left of Ireland is marked “Brazill”, known to exist due to classical legend, the location and form however are obviously as yet unknown. [Anthilia] is marked under the skin of the neck. This chart is interesting in that it shows the expansion of Portuguese knowledge of the coast of Africa. Spain and Portugal were hunting for the New World. The east coast of England is the most accurate area of Britain depicted on this chart. Crosses around the coast indicate rocks, a peril to ships. London is marked in red and the Thames is indicated.

Full title:
A portolan chart of Europe by Grazioso Benincasa, showing the Aegean
Grazioso Benincasa
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
British Library. Additional MS, 31318A

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