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2 Staging the Southern Continent

2 Staging the Southern Continent

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3. Mapping the Pacific


The reasons for the increasing European expansion in the

early modern period are multiple and complex. Samuel Edgerton, for

example, sees the Christian frustration regarding the failure to reconquer Jerusalem from the Arabs as one possible reason for the

desire to travel, explore and chart the unknown universe.40 This,

Edgerton suggests, provided the necessary impetus to sail beyond the

known shores and the boundary markers of the pillars of Hercules in

Gibraltar, which had for centuries been inscribed with the motto “Non

plus ultra” (“there is nothing beyond”). This motto was significantly

rewritten by Charles V as “Plus ultra” (“there is more beyond”)

following upon the nearly three decades of exploration that had taken

place since the discovery of the Americas by the time he ascended the

Spanish throne in 1517. From this time onwards, then, increasing

numbers of explorers (and their sponsors) felt the need to sail in

search of new routes, worlds and markets.

The early modern cartographic impulse took place at a time

when expansion was rendering the world increasingly smaller, and

when humans saw themselves to be displacing God as the agents of

history.41 From such a perspective, the humanistic ideas that inform

the period known as the renaissance equally underline world

exploration. To put it otherwise, early exploration provided the

backdrop for the development of the humanistic philosophies that

became the hallmark of the renaissance. It would appear, therefore,

that these developments would render somewhat anachronistic the

profound religiosity and determinism we identify with the Middle

Ages. However, these ideas are prominent in the voyages of

exploration associated with the Iberian Peninsula, including those of

Álvaro de Mendaña and Pedro Fernández de Quirós, and can also be

seen in many European cartographic products that developed at the

time, especially those from the Dutch school.

Mapmakers from the Dutch school, including Jodocus

Hondius, Peter van den Keere or Willem Jansz Blaeu, highlight the

relationship between discovery and vanity in some of their maps.

These sixteenth- and seventeenth-century world maps present a vision

of the world that is both moral and geographical, as demonstrated in

the way they display ostentatiously the baroque theme of vanitas.42

These topoi crossed the Christian divide between Reformers and

Catholics to become one of the prevalent notions underlying


3. Mapping the Pacific

exploration and mapmaking from the second half of the sixteenth

century until well into the seventeenth.

The histrionic notion of the world as a stage is of special

interest in relation to the early modern maps of the hypothetical

Southern Continent. As long as the Pacific remained uncharted,

geographical discoveries and fantasies interacted in the invention of

this large area of the world. Indeed, fiction and reality merge in the

representations of the world as a stage that informs the mapping of the

Pacific at the time of the Spanish journeys studied in this book. These

maps stress the religious notions underlying renaissance geography

and the idea of a histrionic world that is divinely ordained. Among

these, the heart-shaped world map of Jodocus Hondius, Typus Orbis

Terrarum, published in 1589 (Fig. 23), offers some interesting

insights.43 This miniature map is the first map known by Hondius,

who fled the religious struggles in the Netherlands to live in London

in the 1580s before returning to Amsterdam in 1592 or 1593. Here the

image of the whole universe, which is suspended by a cord held by the

hand of God and thereby subject to God’s divine power, has clearly

been constructed by human action. This is seen by the map’s

incorporation of recent discoveries and its open acknowledgement of

the recent circumnavigation of the world by Sir Francis Drake (157880).44 The rounding of the southernmost tip of South America and the

presence of the island baptized by Drake as Insula Regina Elizabetha

attest to the achievements of the journey. Two concepts that seem to

us to contradict each other, scientific progress and religious

predetermination, are clearly combined in this map.

At around the same time, Hondius engraved another world

map relevant to the exploration of the Pacific, which appeared in

Hugh Broughton’s A Concent of Scripture (c.1590) (Fig. 24). In this

“Map of the Earth with names (the most) from Scriptures,” the lands

to be discovered are written over with words that conjure up the

mythical islands of wealth and riches mentioned above: Ophir and

Tarshish: Ophir in South America and Tarshish over the Pacific,

Atlantic and Indian oceans.45 The quotation from Psalm 72, also

inscribed on the map, explains that: “The kinges of Tarshish shall

bring presentes.” John Gillies interprets this map identifying the

Biblical associations with contemporary colonialism:

3. Mapping the Pacific


Broughton’s reinscription of the Typus—the most prominent icon of

the new geography c. 1590—in the biblical idiom of the “ends of the

earth”, is beyond mere idiosyncracy. It is systematic in a way that

points beyond the poetic geography of the Bible to a powerful protocolonial discourse in which the peoples of the “ends of the earth” are

written as objects of missionary and imperialistic attention. [...]

[T]he biblical association between “Tarshish,” “treasure,” “fleets”

and “Spain,” may also conceal an allusion to the oceanic empire of

Philip II whose yearly treasure fleet, the carrera de las Indias, made

the hazardous journey from the Caribbean to Cadiz: which the

Romans knew as Gades and the Greeks may have known as

Tartessus. (1994: 177)

The ways cartographic representations of the newly colonised

world highlight the meaninglessness of exploration and construct

world geography as a theatre are neatly summed up in a map produced

nearly at the same time as Hondius, which is normally known as the

Fool’s Cap Map c. 1590 (Fig. 25).46 This map, which follows that of

Abraham Ortelius in its geographical features, is derived from one

made by Jean de Gourmont c. 1575, and is designed to emphasize the

imbrication of exploration and vanity.47 The characterisation of the

world as a fool offers a wide array of possible interpretations, for the

fool was a cultural icon embodying multiple meanings. These

meanings ranged from the relationship of madness with wisdom,

inherited from the classical tradition, to, as Peter Whitfield sums up,

the role of scapegoat:

The Fool’s origin and central role seems to have been in magic: he

was a kind of scapegoat who drew down upon himself the forces of

evil, unreason or ill-fortune, and by confronting them, averted the

power from his community. He was licenced [sic] to break rules,

speak painful truths, and mock at power and pretension, and the

grotesque shape he bore was a kind of living punishment […] it is

now the whole world which takes on the Fool’s costume, thus

forcing the viewer to confront the possibility that the whole created

order is irrational, alien and threatening. (1994: 78)

Equally relevant in the context of Pacific exploration is one of the

most interesting representations of moralised geography, Hondius’

“Christian Knight” map of c.1597 (Fig. 26). Hondius’ map is

important not only for being quasi-contemporary with Quirós’

depiction of his journey to the Pacific as pilot of the second fleet (led

by Mendaña in 1595), but also because of the salient place occupied


3. Mapping the Pacific

by the mythical Southern Continent in it. In this map, in the large

space supposedly occupied by the undiscovered southern territories,

the various Christian notions that remind humans of the

meaninglessness of earthly endeavours and the worthlessness of

worldly riches are all placed in Terra Australis Incognita. The World,

Sin, Flesh, Devil and Death, Mundus, Peccatum, Caro, Diabolus and

Mors, are located around the central figure, the Knight in armour. This

Christian Knight who steps on the Flesh, Caro, is inspired by the Holy

Ghost hovering over him, much like the explorer Pedro Fernández de

Quirós was when naming Vanuatu Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.48

These images surround the knight with the paraphernalia of the

theatrum mundi, where humans are placed in a universe that is

geographically and spiritually histrionic. The world, its riches and

confines are thereby moralised.

Contradictorily, then, these maps present an invitation to

discover and define the unknown universe that is couched as a warning

against forgetting that the ultimate common destiny of all humans is

death and one ought to be prepared for it. As Whitfield observes, these

maps link the physical world with the forces that lie behind it:

What unites [the motifs in the maps] is the intention of the

mapmaker to display not merely the world but the forces which

shape and control the world […] There is a sense, especially in the

larger maps of baroque theatre, in which gods or monarchs survey or

manipulate human drama” (1994: 74).

From the point of view of production and consumption, these

maps can be treated as narratives. This treatment is especially useful

in maps in which the line between cartographic representation and

narrative is difficult to draw, as happened paradigmatically in the

contemporary atlases. Besides atlases, however, many early modern

maps were accompanied by elaborate textual explanations. These were

added in adjacent pages, were written as explanations on the map

itself, or were included in vignettes that could be read individually or

sequentially. The intimate relationship between map and narrative is

obvious in the most important collection of maps that made up what is

considered the first atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Abraham

Ortelius (1570) (Fig. 27). Indeed, in Ortelius’ Theatrum, as Peter van

der Krogt has argued, maps and words “form one whole.” Ortelius’

atlas, van der Krogt affirms, “can essentially be called the first (world)

3. Mapping the Pacific


atlas” for it “is the first publication with maps which have been

exclusively designed to be issued in a book together with other,

similar maps […] Through the text, introductory matter and registers,

the maps truly form one whole” (1998: 60).49

Ortelius, like Ptolemy and the classical geographers that were

his models, saw geography and history as inseparable aspects of

knowledge.50 In his famous Theatrum, he included a lengthy

description of the land depicted in the maps in the pages between the

maps, where geographical, botanical, ethnographical, folkloric and

even literary information can be found. To quote Van der Krogt on

this aspect of the atlas,

On a standard, folded double folio map, two pages are available for

explanatory texts, the first and the fourth, the map being displayed

on pages two and three. In the early editions […] the text is usually

limited to a single page. In later editions the second page is used as

well. In a text, usually we first get a geographical specification and

description of the country, sometimes augmented with ethnographic,

economical, remarks and details on physical geography. Texts tend

to consist of a succession of summarised bits and pieces, unrelated

abstracts, in which historical subjects dominate. (1998: 68)51

A good mixture of fact, fiction and interpretation, these sections

rightly complement the decorative and informative aspects of the

maps themselves. This provided the grounds for Ortelius’ rationale of

the explanations:

Because we thought it would be a thing nothing pleasing to the

Reader or Beholder, to see the backsides of the leaues altogether

bare and empty; we determined there to make a certaine briefe and

short declaration and Historicall discourse of euery Mappe, in the

sam[e] manner and order as we said we obserued in the Mappes

themselues; not omitting nor concealing any mans name, that we

had occasion to use. (1570: np)

The premises outlined here by Ortelius were thereafter followed in the

construction of atlases as well as in collections of city views, such as

the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, where the charts were always

accompanied by explanatory narrative.52


3. Mapping the Pacific

Ortelius’ Theatrum thus set down the intimate relationship

between map and narrative, further suggesting the impossibility of

separating geography from history, and religion from the idea of the

world as theatre.53 This interdependence is also seen in the

development of the Theatrum from its first publication to the

numerous editions, translations and additions it underwent in the

following decades. The success of the Theatrum led to its increase in

size and its eventually being made into a pocket edition, the Epitome,

which made the atlas cheaper and more widely available. After the

atlas had gone through the multiple editions and translations that made

his compiler wealthy and renowned, Ortelius complemented it from

1598 onwards with a section dedicated to “The Geography of Holy

Writers,” in the Parergon (Fig. 28). This addition to the Theatrum

included maps of ancient civilization drawn up by Ortelius. The

relationship between history, religion, geography and the idea of the

world as a stage is prominent in this section, which John Gillies calls a

“historical geography” (1994: 60). In the Parergon, Gillies suggests,

geography is made into a “historical ‘theatre’”:

In these maps of bygone empires and events, the idea of geography

as a historical “theatre” is made graphically manifest [...] To their

purely cartographic function, Ortelius adds a narrative-theatrical

function. As well as describing regions, these maps tell histories.

Accordingly, the cartography is complemented by a variety of

narrative or pictorial devices [...] Textual legends appear before or

within or beneath maps, in order to convey the historical dimension

of the geographic image. (1994: 72)54

If the early modern theatre represents a microcosmic image of the

world, the world is also compared to a theatre, where everything is

ephemeral and where humans are nothing but actors.55 This theatrical

universe is an “invention,” much as each new discovery is said not just

to image forth but also to invent anew a geographical area for


Geography, myth, theatre and religion are likewise eloquently

woven in the Parergon’s initial address to the readers, entitled “The

Geography of Holy Writers.” Here Ortelius deals with one of the

places that became all-important in the exploration of the Americas

and of the Pacific, the Solomonic land of Ophir. This land is visible in

the map that opens the Parergon, Geographia Sacra (Fig. 29) and is

also highlighted in the inset map in it where he situates Ophir in the

3. Mapping the Pacific


east, above India and the Malayan peninsula (Fig. 30). From this

mythical land, Ophir, Solomon was thought to have taken the gold to

build his famous temple in Jerusalem. Ortelius’ own words, as

translated by John Norton in the first English edition of 1606,

demonstrate this religious-cum-mythical link:

We haue vpon the side in a void place set the Mappe of the whole

World, whereby the diligent student of Diuinity by conferring might

easily see, what and how great a portion of the same, the holy

history doth mention and comprehend: and at once, iointly with the

same labour to find out the situation and position of two famous

places mentioned in the holy Scriptures: namely of the situation of

the country Ophyr and the earthly Paradise. Of the which although

many men do write many and diuers things, and the opinions of the

learned be different, yet we haue also set downe our iudgement,

willingly giuing leaue to the learned Reader, his discretion, to take

which him pleaseth: and he may read, if he thinke good, that which

in our Geographicall Treasurie, we haue written more at large of

Ophyr. Of Paradise also there is the like controuersie and question

amongst the Diuines. (1606: np)]

The Ophirian legend, as indicated in the Introduction of this book,

informs and is informed by the journeys of exploration to the South

Pacific at this time, and it articulates the overlapping of geography and

chimera. This articulation takes the form of the world-as-stage topos

that is, I submit, part and parcel of the epistemology of the early

modern period. By the time the Theatrum was published, the

relationship between the Ophirian conjecture and the exploration of

the Pacific had a long tradition, which started in the classical era and

culminated in many sixteenth-century representations. In fact, Ophir

was also confused with, among other places, the lands described by

Marco Polo as Beach, Locach and Maletur.56

As with the Ophirian legend, the uses of Marco Polo’s

geographical knowledge in the exploration of the Pacific emphasise

the intimate overlapping between geography and morality that informs

early modern cartography. In fact, the writings of Marco Polo were

taken to be authoritative by many subsequent generations so that his

influence in the representation of the “east” and the “southern

continent” lasted for well over three centuries. Polo’s names survived

in the most famous maps of the era, including those of Ortelius (Fig.

1).57 Gerard Mercator, who became a model for cartographers


3. Mapping the Pacific

thereafter, used Marco Polo in his influential world map of 1569,

which was reprinted thereafter by his son, Rumold, and then by the

Hondius family till the 1630s (Fig. 16) (Shirley 1983: 139-40).58

Contemporary maps and narratives therefore weave to varying

degrees the Spice Islands with the islands of gold and silver, and

Argyre, the biblical Ophir and Tarshish, Ptolemy’s Golden

Khersonese or his southern landmass,59 Cipangu, the Southern

Continent and Polo’s Beach, Locach and Maletur. Journeys to the

South Seas show these mythical or real places as their stated or

implied objectives in an elusive merger of dream and reality.60 By

means of this alternation, they belie their intended imperialistic aims

and construct a mythical type of history that incorporates beliefs and

fantasies. This alternation informs the appearance of Argyre or Isla de

Plata in the map of the Pacific, Maris Pacifici, included in Ortelius’s

Theatrum from 1589 onwards (Fig. 16 and Fig. 31). From 1570 to

1587, in all editions of Ortelius’ atlas, the Map of Asia only has the

large island of Iapan and various smaller islands, including Fermosa

(today’s Taiwan) and Lequeio (Lequio in the Philippines. This map

remains unchanged in later editions, but the new map of the Pacific,

Maris Pacifici, includes an island larger than Japan north of this

country and identifies it with the classical Argyre in the legend next to

it. These versions alternate freely in various post-1589 editions.61

Reinforced by a view of life as representation, and of the

world as a stage where humans follow the designs of divine destiny,

these maps, like the narratives that often accompanied them, construct

a universe where fiction and reality are representation both for the

actors and for the viewers. Whitfield comments: “At their most

expressive, these maps created a sense of the world possessed,

politically through exploration and conquest, intellectually through

geographical imagery” (1994: 74).62 Much like the explorations on

whose information they relied, the maps of the early modern Pacific

merge not just fact and fiction but, more interestingly, beliefs,

chimeras and theatricality. This theatricality, in fact, is part and parcel

of the construction of space in maps and, as the following chapter will

show, in the rituals and ceremonies performed by the explorer.

3. Mapping the Pacific




For example, to signify the power of the Spanish ruler, Mendaña showed a map to

the Marquesan cacique Bile Banara: “[T]omé vna carta de marear y señálele lo que

era mar y lo que era tierra, y señálele por su tierra vna isla muy pequeña y toda la

demás le dixe que era de Vuestra Majestad” (Kelly 1965: 13).


I study some maps representing the Pacific from Magellan's journey (1519-21) until

the seventeenth century in “Representaciones del Pacífico 1599-1606”. (2001b: 15476).


Harley and David Woodward offer a coherent summary of the definitions of maps

and mapping in “The Map and the Development of the History of Cartography.”


As Johannes Fabian reminds us, the “conventional prescriptions” given to

anthropologists include “the recommendations to use maps, charts and tables [which]

signal convictions deeply ingrained in an empirical, scientific tradition […] Such a

theory in turn encourages quantification and diagrammatic representation so that the

ability to ‘visualise’ a culture or society almost becomes synonymous for

understanding it” (1983: 106). On this topic, see also Mary Pratt’s study, Imperial

Eyes (Pratt 1992).


The definition of culture I am using is that developed by the early theoreticians of

Cultural Studies, John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson and Brian Roberts, who

“understand the word ‘culture’ to refer to that level at which social groups develop

distinct patterns of life and give expressive form to their social and material lifeexperience” (1975: 10). I also assume, as Dick Hebdige observes, that “[I]n effect, the

material (i.e., social relations) which is continually being transformed into culture

(and hence subculture) can never be completely ‘raw’. It is always mediated: inflected

by the historical context in which it is encountered; posited upon a specific ideological

field which gives it a particular life and particular meanings” (During 1999: 446).


The map was made by Martin Waldseemuller and incorporated in a collection of

travellers’ accounts. On this topic, see my “Mapping terra incognita.”


In her study of ceremonials of possession, Patricia Seed suggests that “[d]escribing

formed part of the process of laying claim to new regions […] Describing

demonstrated knowledge of a region, knowledge which could have been obtained

only by extensive exploration” (1995: 162). Seed illustrates the territorial value

attributed to cartographical description by the Dutch, which she differentiates from

the value given by other imperial powers. Seed adds that: “To the Dutch, putting a

place upon the map rendered it more than a record of ‘discovery’; it transformed the

map into a critical sign of possession” (1995: 163). Seed’s argument is a claim for

“differentiating” among European imperial powers: “Differentiation rather than

homogenising Europe enables us to examine differences as well as similarities in the

means of creating colonial authority over the New World” (1995: 3). However, in


3. Mapping the Pacific


order to achieve this “differentiation” along the lines of today’s nations Seed

generalises wildly about things such as the use of maps or, as will be seen in my next

chapter, the rituals and ceremonies of possession.


Wroth notes: “[Ptolemy’s] maps were built upon the theory that the earth was a

sphere, and that was a theory which demanded for the equilibrium of the sphere

antipodal land masses in the south and west as counterweights to Europe and Asia of

the north and east. This meant the existence of inaccessible lands and peoples

unknown to the Scriptures. Such a condition formed an effective denial of the

Master’s word that the Gospel would be preached throughout all the world and a

negation of the doctrine that all men were the fruit of a single creation, fallen through

Adam and in Christ made alive” (2001: 106).


This reproduction comes from the printed original exhibited at the Explorers’

Gallery of the National Maritime Museum. As it is very brightly coloured, it was first

thought to be a manuscript. Only two further copies of this map are known (Cf.

Shirley 1983: 28).


Despite the Ophirian aspirations of Mendaña’s expedition and the use of the title

Island of Solomon in relation to the object of the search prior to its departure, in none

of the narratives does the name Islands of Solomon occur, either in relation to the

object of the voyage or to the discoveries made. According to Jack-Hinton, the earliest

use of the name Islands of Solomon after Mendaña’s return from the Western Pacific

seems to have been in a despatch of the Licenciado Juan de Orosco in 1569 (1969: 7980).


Armando Cortesão believes this map, which showed the possibility of sailing round

the southern tip of the American continent, to have been made by Pedro Reinel and

his son, Jorge Reinel, c. 1519. This map, normally referred to as “Kuntsmann IV,”

was kept at the Armeebibliothek in Munich and disappeared during World War II

(1960: 38).


Cortesão’s research shows that there is no mention of Ribeiro among the detailed

documentation related to this journey. Cortesão dates the earliest extant map

attributed to Ribeiro in 1525 (1960: 96).



This map is preserved in the Biblioteca Reale, Turin. See Cortesão 1960: 89.

These cartographic sketches could be derived from originals executed during the

voyage. Made in the style of contemporary isolari, Pigafetta’s maps complement his

written description of how the ships of Magellan’s fleet sailed around the South

American mainland for the first time, crossing the difficult strait that today bears

Magellan’s own name. They then set foot on some South Pacific islands, including the

Marianas, which they called Los Ladrones (“Robbers”) and, after much hardship,

finally reached the Philippines, where Magellan was killed. For clear summaries of

the events in Magellan’s journey, see Spate 1979: 34-51 and Beaglehole 1966: 15-38.

For a study of the relevance of the maps and narratives of this journey, see my “Maps,

Traffic and Representation.” (2001c).

3. Mapping the Pacific




The Casa was founded in 1503 by the Reyes Católicos, Isabel and Ferdinand, with

the purpose of accumulating and standardising the knowledge acquired by the new



Boorstin dedicates a chapter of his book to what he calls “The Reign of Secrecy,”

which was practised with more or less success by all empires or aspiring powers,

including, at this time, Portugal, Spain and England (Cf. 1983: 267-71).


Turnbull further comments: “What was to count as knowledge was as much a

political and moral problem as an epistemological one, but it was also a problem that

required the implementation of social, literary and technical practices of

representation” (1996: 12).


Previous to the creation of the Casa, as Boorstin notes, “The Spanish […] kept their

official charts in a lockbox secured with two locks and two keys, one held by the

pilot-major […] the other by the cosmographer major” (1983: 268).


As Lawrence Wroth observes, “a lightly traced silver line […] indicates Magellan’s

track around the world, a thin line joining ocean to ocean and continent to continent,

demonstrating graphically the new comprehension of the world brought about by that

earliest circumnavigation” (2001: 154).


The map is known from its presence in the Paris edition of the Novus Orbis of

Simon Grynaeus (1532). Finé’s trajectory is traced and interpreted in detail in

Conley1996: 88-134.


Skelton notes this to be the first use of Terra Australis: "In the Antarctic the

southern continent, already figured by Schöner in 1515 and Francisco Monachus in

1529 [...] is extended by Finé to the tropic. Its geography is adapted to the results of

Magellan’s voyage [...] and the continent is here first named Terra Australis" (1958:

320). Shirley observes that this is one of the first uses of Magellan's name for the sea

known as Mar del Sur and Pacific Ocean: "Much of the right-hand (or southern)

cordum is taken up

with the new Terra Australis [...] Beyond the tip of South America is marked the

Mare magellanicum, one of the first uses of the navigator's name in such a context"

(1983: 73). It had also been used previously on Schöner’s planiglobe.


Mercator follows closely not only Finé’s features but also his double cordiform

projection, and shows his acquaintance with Magellan's discoveries by naming the

Pacific Mare Magellanicum. Mercator's legend also records the absence of further

information about the continent as follows: “Terra hic esse certum est sed quantas

quibus limitibus finitas incertum” (That land lies here is certain, but its size and extent

are unknown). Cf. Nebenzahl 1990: 98. Schilder observes that Mercator's “southern

continent has substantially the same shape as Finé's, but it is smaller. On Mercator's

globe of 1541 the southern continent is for the first time given the status of a fifth

continent [...] On his famous world map of 1560 [...] Mercator called the Terra

Australis the fifth and largest, but as yet unexplored continent” (1976: 15).

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