Madrid, Museo Naval de Madrid, MN-257

Map of Juan de la Cosa Facsimile Edition

Our price

More Buying Choices

Request Info

The manuscript Map of Juan de la Cosa is the earliest surviving European map that represents the Americas. Dated 1500 and created at least partly under the supervision of Juan de la Cosa (d. 1510), a member of Christopher Columbus's crew on his second voyage across the Atlantic Ocean (in 1493), the map mainly follows the tradition of nautical portolan charts in showing the world known to Europeans at the end of the fifteenth century.

An inscription near the left edge of the map identifies it as the work of Cosa made at Puerto de Santa María (in southern Spain). The map is the starting point of a new era in the history of European cartography, adding the American continent to the representation of the world.

The American Continent

The map represents the world known to Europeans at the time, with abundant decorative detail, especially in Africa and Asia. The eastern coast of America is shown at the left, painted in green and lacking decoration, except for the many banners representing Spanish dominions. At the center of the left edge, Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers, is depicted, as is traditional, carrying the Christ Child over water. This is perhaps an allusion to Columbus as Christo Ferens ("Christ-carrier," as he styled himself) in late life.

Rich Decorative Detail

The representation of Europe, Africa, and Asia follows the tradition of portolan nautical charts, with abundant place names along the coastlines and many informative drawings: the city of Genoa is especially prominent in Europe. In Africa, graphic features are abundant: eight kings are pictured. Included among them is Prester John, the legendary Christian king of a land remote from Europe, who is shown wearing a bishop's miter. The mountains of the continent are brightly colored in green and red.

In Asia, various rulers are shown, and a large depiction of the three wise men described in the Gospel of Matthew dominates. A large and elaborate wind rose in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean includes an attached woodcut depiction of the Virgin and Child.

A Variety of Sources

The map was surely created from a variety of sources, and the imprecise delineation of the eastern coast of Africa indicates a lack of available information about that area, which was being slowly explored by the Portuguese at the time. The islands of the Caribbean are large and slightly misplaced, following Columbus's faulty calculations. Indeed, the whole of the coast of America, the only land painted green on the map, is out of scale with most of the map, suggesting a different source for that part of the map.

The early history of the map can only be conjectured. Charles Athanase Walckenaer (1771-1852) purchased the map in Paris in 1832, and it was acquired by the Spanish government in 1853 for the Museo Naval de Madrid.

We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Map of Juan de la Cosa":

Request Info / Price
Map description compiled by Kevin R. Wittmann.
Please Read
International social justice movements and the debates that ensued prompted us to start considering the contents of our website from a critical point of view. This has led us to acknowledge that most of the texts in our database are Western-centered. We have asked the authors of our content to be aware of the underlying racial and cultural bias in many scholarly sources, and to try to keep in mind multiple points of view while describing the manuscripts. We also recognize that this is yet a small, first step towards fighting inequality.

If you notice any trace of racist or unjust narratives in our communications, please help us be part of the change by letting us know.

#1 Carta Mapamundi de Juan de la Cosa

Madrid: Egeria, S.L., 1992

  • Commentary (Spanish)
  • Limited Edition: 750 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Map of Juan de la Cosa: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

Our Price

More Buying Choices

Request Info

#2 Mapa de Juan de la Cosa

Madrid: Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1988

  • Commentary (Spanish) by Comellas, José L.
  • Limited Edition: 600 copies
  • This is a partial facsimile of the original document, Map of Juan de la Cosa: the facsimile might represent only a part, or doesn't attempt to replicate the format, or doesn't imitate the look-and-feel of the original document.

The facsimile features a reduction of the original document to approximately 133 x 70 cm.


Delivered wrapped into a cylinder.

Our Price

More Buying Choices

Request Info