Maritime Direction Book
A direction book for the west coast of America from California to the Straits of Magellan. Illustrated by numerous colour maps, showing considerable detail of the coastline and settlements. With annotations relating to natural history, volcanoes, food supplies, and historical events. This type of atlas was called a “roteiro” or, mangled into English, “rutter”. The artistry of the draughtsmanship is undeniable: lush watercolours were illuminated with gold and silver while drawings of vessels were executed in the finest detail. These would often be done by a separate artist, one familiar with the intricacies of shipbuilding.
The volume is a presentation copy and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This dedication, and the presence of the Maltese Cross on two maps, suggests it might have been made for a Spanish aristocrat proud of being a Knight of St John; however, nothing certain is known of its provenance. Analysis of Library records suggests that it came to the Society between 1816 and 1831, but no further evidence of its acquisition has been found. It might have been brought to Britain by a Fellow of the Society during the Napoleonic Wars when Spanish libraries and archives were frequently exposed to looting.
Watch Peter Barber FSA explore this unique 17th-century Spanish atlas: