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Medieval Manuscripts: Cartography, Diplomacy and Espionage in the Atlas Miller

Five hundred years ago the expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan was traversing the recently discovered strait leading to the Pacific. This was the culmination of the era of geographic findings and intercontinental encounters between civilizations that forever changed the vision of the world. And what better to reflect these revolutionary times than the crown jewel of the sixteenth-century cartography!

The Atlas Miller, drawn in 1519 by Lopo Homem, Pedro Reinel and his son Jorge Reinel, with illuminations that are the work of António de Holanda is a bag full of wonders, but also apparent paradoxes. Sometimes, it clearly aims more to impress than to inform and a closer look at the lavishly decorated charts reveals not only routes towards new horizons but also hidden motives of its commissioners and a high-stake intrigue. Whose interests did it suit and, perhaps most importantly, who did this atlas seek to contradict?

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Our thanks to Moleiro Editor for this article and video. The facsimile editions of the Atlas Miller and other atlases and medieval manuscripts are available on www.moleiro.com. Visit also Moleiro’s YouTube channel for more captivating tales written on parchment: www.youtube.com/moleiroeditor.

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