Cantino planisphere

Cantino Planisphere

Cantino planisphere

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The Cantino planisphere (or Cantino World Map) is the earliest surviving map showing Portuguese Discoveries in the east and west. It is named after Alberto Cantino, an agent for the Duke of Ferrara, who successfully smuggled it from Portugal to Italy in 1502. The map is particularly notable for portraying a fragmentary record of the Brazilian coast, discovered in 1500 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, and for depicting the African coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with a remarkable accuracy and detail.


In the beginning of the 16th century, Lisbon was a buzzing metropolis where people from diverse backgrounds came in search of work, glory or fortune. There were also many undercover agents looking for the secrets brought by the Portuguese voyages to remote lands. Among them was Alberto Cantino, who was sent to Portugal by the Duke of Ferrara, with the formal intention of horse trading, while secretly collecting information on the Portuguese Discoveries. Cantino’s diligence is shown in two of his letters to the Duke, dated from 17th and 18 October 1501, where he describes, amongst other things, hearing Gaspar Corte-Real detailing his latest voyage to Newfoundland (Terra Nova) to King Manuel I of Portugal.

Most probably the Cantino Planisphere is a copy of the official prototype existing at Casa da Índia (The House of India), in Lisbon, where the new discoveries made by the Portuguese were recorded, held in secret and named the Padrão Real. It...
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