Map of Juan de la Cosa

Original orientation
Rotated to match modern map orientations

The map or chart of Juan de la Cosa is a mappa mundi painted on parchment, 93 cm high and 183 cm wide. Since the nineteenth century it has formed part of the collections of the Naval Museum of Madrid (Spain). A line of text on the map says it was made by the Cantabrian cartographer and sailor Juan de la Cosa in 1500 in the Andalusian port city of Puerto de Santa María. Its rich decoration hints that it was ordered by some powerful member of the court of the Catholic Monarchs,[1] who ruled the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon at that time.

This map is the earliest undisputed representation of the Americas. Some historians have claimed that some of the Antilles appear on earlier maps such as the Pizzigano map of 1424 but there is no consensus about it. Furthermore, the Vinland map shows part of North America but it is most probably fake. The La Cosa map shows the lands discovered up to the end of the 15th century by Castilian, Portuguese and English expeditions to America. It also depicts a large fraction of the Old World, according to the style of medieval portolan charts and including news of the arrival of Vasco de Gama to India in 1498.[1]

The map of Juan de la Cosa is the only cartographic work made by an eyewitness of the first voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Indies that has been preserved.[2] Possibly as an allusion to Columbus, it contains a large image of Saint Christopher that covers the region where Central America should have appeared. On the other hand, Cuba is drawn as an island, which contradicts Columbus' opinion that it was a peninsula of Asia.[3]


  1. 1 2 MARTÍN MERÁS, Luisa (2000). "La carta de Juan de la Cosa: interpretación e historia". Monte Buciero (Ayuntamiento de Santoña) (in Spanish) (4). ISSN 1138-9680, pp. 71-86.
  2. ALVAREZ, Aldo (2003). "Geomagnetism and the Cartography of Juan de la Cosa". Retrieved November 4, 2008.
  3. ELKHADEM, Hossam; et al. (1992). "Juan de La Cosa, Parte correspondiente a la America de la Carta General de Juan de La Cosa...". Cartes de Amériques dans les collections de la Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier (in French). Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier. Retrieved November 1, 2008.

Smith, James L. (28 November 2014). "Europe's confused transmutation: the realignment of moral cartography in Juan de la Cosa's Mappa Mundi (1500)". European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire. 21 (6): 799–816. doi:10.1080/13507486.2014.960813. 

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