Portolan Charts

Richard Pflederer evaluates a vital tool of the age of discovery.

Portolan chart by Jorge de Aguiar (1492), the oldest known signed and dated chart of Portuguese origin (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, USA)Economists today tell us that the drivers of great economies are advanced technology, efficient finance and productive manufacture. It is true that throughout history these factors have always been the sine qua non of successful economies. However, in the age of the great discoveries, the ability to navigate the seas was as important as these other factors. Several elements played a part in this dominance of the forces of unknown seas, including shipbuilding, astronomy, navigational techniques and map-making.

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