Europe's confused transmutation: the realignment of moral cartography in Juan de la Cosa'sMappa Mundi(1500)

James L. Smith
2014 European Review of History  
Following the voyages of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci in the last decade of the fifteenth century, the New World of the Americas entered the cartographic and moral consciousness of Europe. In the 1500 mappa mundi of Juan de la Cosa, navigator and map-maker, we see Europe as a hybrid moral entity, a transitional blend of the medieval and the modern at the crossroads between two mappings of Europe. This paper argues that the Juan De la Cosa map represents
more » ... a blurred transition between mapmaking traditions and a mixed moral rhetoric of European identity. The De la Cosa map operates across two sets of imagined axes: held horizontally, the map is set to a Ptolemaic grid with Europe straddling the prime meridian, and yet when held vertically it presents a medieval moral continuum in which the Americas occupy an ascendant position, a verdant new Jerusalem in contrast to the Babylon of the old world. Europe is both drawn to the centre of a new world order, and also pushed to the moral margins in an echo of the medieval mappa mundi still imperfectly resolved.
doi:10.1080/13507486.2014.960813 fatcat:ekxxyhsjtvdpzf56wovzi6g36a