A la Espada y el Compas

Date: 1599
Owner: John Carter Brown Library, Brown University
Source Type: Images


This image represents the ideal of the knight-cosmographer, a crusader who uses modern navigation in order to gather wealth, knowledge, and territory for his empire. Vespucci and Magellan were often depicted as fully armored knights using navigational instruments like compasses and armillary spheres to find their way at sea. Iberians in the sixteenth century turned exploration and the quest for new knowledge into a kind of modern crusade, a tradition that would later be adopted by northern European explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh and John Smith. The phrase "To the sword and the compass, more and more and more and more" and the image of a knight with one hand on his sword and the other holding dividers above the Americas on a graticuled globe reveals how closely conquest and navigational science were linked in early modern imperialism.

See: Canizares-Esguerra, Jorge. Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World. Stanford: University of California Press, 2006.
CITATION: A la Espada y el compas Mas y mas y mas y mas. 1599. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.