Portolan charts in the Bodleian Library

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises Arabic, English, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish portolan charts (early 15th cent.-1741) covering the following areas:

  • Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Bay of Biscay, Black Sea
  • Indian Ocean, Eastern Dutch East Indies, Madura, Java Sea, Lesser Sunda Islands, Malabar coast, South China Sea, Gulf of Siam, entrance to Canton, Straits of Taiwan
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Europe, South Africa, South and Central America and South East Asia.

The shelfmarks of the collection are as follows: MSS. Bodl. Add. E. 8-10; MS. C2:7 (23); MSS. Can. Ital. 140-4; MS. D1 (185) [1-13]; MS. Don. a. 4-5; MSS. Douce 390-1; MSS. K1 (110-11); MS. Marsh 294; MS. Rawl. B. 256.

Administrative / Biographical History

Cartographers represented in the collection include: Battista Agnese (1514-64), the Blaeu family including Joan Blaeu (ca. 1599-1673), John Burston (fl 1638-66), Pietro Cavallini (fl 1654-88), Nicholas Comberford (c. 1600-73), John Corner (fl 18th cent.), Augustine Fitzhugh (fl 1683-97), Joel Gascoyne (1650-1705), Francesco Ghisolfi (fl 16th cent.), Joan Martines (1556-90), Bartolomeo Olives (fl 1538-88), Placido Caloiro et Oliva (1615-53), Ali b. Ahmad Safakusi (fl 16th cent.), Domingos Teixeira (fl 1565-95), John Thornton (fl 17th cent.) and Samuel Thornton (fl 1703-39). See Tooley's dictionary of mapmakers for details.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk)


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

The card catalogue in the Map Room has a summary entry for each item. See under 'portolan'. More detailed descriptions may be found in the following catalogues:

  • MSS. Bodl. Add. E. 8-10: Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vol. V, nos. 30315-17.
  • MS. C2:7 (23) and MSS. K1 (110-11) were previously MS. Maps Atlantic a. 1; MS. D1 (185) [1-13] was previously MS. Maps Indian Ocean a. 1. Descriptions may be found under the old shelfmarks in Madan et al., ibid., vol. V, nos. 30626 and 30632.
  • MSS. Can. Ital. 140-4: Conte Alessandro Mortara Catalogo dei manoscritti italiani che sotto la denominazione di codici Canoniciani italici si conservano nella Biblioteca Bodleiana a Oxford (Catal. cod. MSS. Bibl. Bodleianae, pars xi; Oxford: 1864).
  • MS. Don. a. 4-5: M. Clapinson and T.D. Rogers, Summary Catalogue of Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford. Acquisitions 1916-1975. (Oxford, 1991), vol. I, nos. 38628-9.
  • MSS. Douce 390-1: Madan, et al., ibid., vol. IV, nos. 21965-7.
  • MS. Marsh 294: Madan, et al., ibid., vol. III, no. 9292.
  • MS. Rawl. B. 256: William D. Macray, Catalogi codicum manuscritorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae partis quintae fasciculus primus viri munificentissimi Ricardi Rawlinson, J.C.D., codicum classes duas priores, ad rem historicam praecipue et topographicam spectantes, complectens (Catal. cod. MSS. Bibl. Bodleianae, pars v; Oxford: 1862).

Family Names