The Barcelona City Council has acquired a fragment of a 14th century Portolan Chart

The document is a piece of cultural heritage by master cartographer Guillem Soler and is one of only ten examples of 14th century Catalan map making that survive today

The Barcelona City Council has acquired a fragment of Portolan Chart dated from the 14th century. The map, which will go to form part of the Barcelona City Historical Archives, is a rare piece of Catalan cultural heritage made by master cartographer Guillem Soler who, according to documentation, lived and worked in Majorca from 1368 to 1400. In 2015, the fragment will be on display together with a large-scale reproduction that has been created thanks to the collaboration of Hewlett Packard.

The document was presented today (5/09/14) in a press conferences. According to Jaume Ciurana, Deputy Mayor for Culture, Knowledge, Creativity and Innovation, the acquisition is exceptional due to the historical and cultural relevance of the document, which reveals the importance of Catalonia in the 14th century in terms of commercial and nautical routes. The presentation is in line with the City Council’s ongoing desire to acquire, where possible, artefacts that are relevant to Catalonia’s cultural heritage and history and make them available to the general public.

The document in question is not only extremely rare but also difficult to procure as previously no examples of 14th century Catalan cartography have been available in either Catalonia or the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. Up until now the only similar piece under conservation in the city, and that thanks to the public subscription initiative of the Catalan Studies Institute, has been a unique medieval Catalan nautical chart of the peninsula dating from 1439 by Gabriel de Vallseca.

Portolan Charts are the first realistic maps that exist and appeared about the mid-13th century when the rebirth of large-scale Mediterranean maritime trade, captained by the northern Italians and the Catalans throughout the 12th century allowed for the gathering of substantial geographical information relating to the Mediterranean area. The Portolan Chart was conceived specifically in order to facilitate navigation but eventually revolutionised the way in which geographical space was perceived and administered in medieval Western, Byzantine and Islamic societies.

It is rare for these maps to have survived in their entirety and more often than not they were divided, fragmented and reused as material for binding in subsequent books, as is the case with the fragment recently acquired by the City Council.

Publication date: Friday, 05 September 2014
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