The Society for the History of Discoveries offers the second lecture in its new occasional virtual lecture series on Tuesday, 20 April 2021, with a presentation by Chet Van Duzer.
“The Origin of the Mythical Island of Brasil in Early Nautical Charts”
Errors on maps can cause great loss of time an energy in exploration, and in this talk I will examine the origin of the long-lived mythical island of Brasil, which first appeared in the Atlantic west of Ireland on a nautical chart in 1325 and continued to appear on maps till the middle of the nineteenth century. I will begin by considering the island in its context on early charts, noting that it is most often depicted as a circle, and it associated with other circular features in northern Europe on the same charts. I suggest that the island, together with these other circular features, were the result of misinterpreted wind disks on an early chart that had perhaps suffered some damage. I offer some deductions about the early chart that contained these wind disks, and also examine another case where wind disks on a nautical chart were mistaken for geographical features, namely in early fifteenth-century charts by Giacomo Giraldi and Andrea Bianco. In these charts, wind disks were interpreted to be part of a mythical western branch of the Nile River.
This event is free and open to everyone, but is required. https://discoveryhistory.org/2021-virtual-lecture-series/
Chet Van Duzer is an independent American historian of cartography specializing in medieval and Renaissance maps — mappaemundi, nautical charts, and the maps in Ptolemy’s Geography — with an emphasis on determining the sources that cartographers used for the texts, images, and geographical features on maps. He is also a board member of the Lazarus Project at the University of Rochester, which brings multispectral imaging to cultural institutions around the world.