World Map by Juan de la Cosa

Date: 1500
Owner: Granger Collection, The
Source Type: Images


This world map from 1500 was drawn by Juan de la Cosas, owner of the Santa Maria and a skilled navigator and cartographer. Although the outlines of the western continents of Europe and Africa have faded (they are barely discernible), many land marks remain clear in each of them. To the east, de la Cosa drew a rough outline of what he imagined the coasts of north and South America to look like, as well as a more detailed depiction of the Caribbean islands, which he would have known well from travels with Columbus and other explorers. This map places north at the top of the map and has several roses and rhomb lines.

De la Cosa participated in a total of seven expeditions to the New World. During Columbus' second voyage, in which a concerted effort was first made to found a colony on Hispaniola, de la Cosa traveled westward throughout the islands in an effort to find China (he later signed an affidavit claiming that Cuba was the Asian mainland, though he may have been coerced by Columbus to do so). In subsequent voyages, de la Cosa surveyed the coasts of Colombia and Central America; he was eventually killed by Native Americans in Colombia during his seventh trip to the New World.

The speed with which Spain set about exploring and colonizing the Americas after 1492 is extraordinary. The energy of men like de la Cosas, who made several voyages in search of gold and explored as they went, was crucial to this effort. The fact that the Crown collected the explorers' information, especially maps, concurrently with their riches, set the foundation for the massive American empire that developed in the mid sixteenth century.
CITATION: "Nina: World Map." 1500. The Granger Collection, New York. 0007646.