Cartography and European Expansion and Consolidation in Colonial Spanish America, 1500–1700
- Carla LoisCarla LoisConsejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) / Universidad de Buenos Aires; Centro de Estudios Históricos, Universidad Bernardo O'Higgins
During the period of European expansion and consolidation (1500–1700) Mapping the world during the European expansion and consolidation (1500–1700) was a challenging intellectual activity which included the development of new ways of making knowledge, the invention of new instruments, the creation of unprecedented scientific-political institutions, a wider circulation of knowledge thanks to the improvements in printing, and the emergence of radical questions about the nature of the world.
In order to record the information provided by travelers, new cartographic genres and languages began to be created in Spanish institutions. On the one hand, they made use of and readapted well-established traditions, like Mediterranean portolans; on the other, they introduced more and more systematic methodological protocols, that would become solid cartographical traditions by the end of the 17th century, specifically sea charts, world maps, and atlases, among others. This new accuracy and updated geographical information elevated the ideal of scientific mapping and cartographical activities.
The expansion of the book market and particularly, within that market, the rapidly expanding demand for atlases in the Low Countries in the 17th century, contributed to the dissemination of cartographical images of a changing world (constantly being modified as a result of ongoing expeditions and explorations) to the educated public. The buyers of these images were not only scientists but also wealthy and curious people who could afford the high prices charged for the luxurious atlases produced by some of the most renowned publishers. From this time onward, maps were no longer exclusively scientific instruments but also commodities that helped “common people” to imagine how the world looked; in effect, they helped to create a shared modern geographical imagination.