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The colours and shapes used to denote some of the smaller islands
and the major estuaries on portolan charts up to 1500

(essays, notes and analytical tables)


Mounted on the web 7 March 2011 - additions and corrections are noted in the appropriate place with a dated statement between { }, which can be searched for

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Conclusions drawn from the various Colour & Shape pages



The following tables are in Microsoft Office Word 3 format

For a visual index to the features analysed on these tables see Illustrations to the portolan chart pages


Conventions and abbreviations used in the Colour & Shape Analysis tables


The Colour & Shape Analysis (C&SA) was carried out during 2010. It involved noting the colour and/or shape of 51 features, representing, in all, about 100 elements. Altogether, 70 charts and 40, multi-sheet atlases were analysed for the period up to 1469, and a selection of some 35 works for the period 1470-1550.

This work was only possible because of the efforts of Ramon Pujades in collecting scans of almost all the portolan works produced before 1470, and offering them on a DVD accompanying his Les cartes portolanes (2007). Where others would probably have been selective, for example about the many charts of Roselli or the sheets in Benincasa's numerous atlases, Pujades included all for which he could obtain scans. The ability to examine on screen almost all works produced up to 1469 gives added strength to the conclusions described in these webpages. As a result, the opinons of some earlier commentators, who did not have access to a comparable resource, have needed revision.

He deserves a massive vote of thanks for providing this magnificent corpus, which has opened up new dimensions in portolan chart research. We should be grateful also to the institutions which gave permission for their images to be published on the DVD, and to his publishers for meeting those costs.

As far as I know, this is the first comprehensive use of that magnificent resource. It will certainly not be the last.

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