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Vesconte Maggiolo, detail: North America, 1527 During Mughal Emperor Babur 1526–1530

Babur 1526–1530
Stacked Wooden Logs


This planisphere is composed of two highly colored sheets on vellum, measures 170 x 60 cm (71.25 x 24 inches) and is currently preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Milan, Italy). At the extreme left on the map, in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, near a picture of the Madonna in a chait, is the inscription: Vesconte de Maiollo conposuy hanc cartan in Janua anno dny. 1587 die XX Decenbris. The author, Vesconte de Maiollo, who died in 1551, was a distinguished portolan chart maker. Fourteen of his maps are known to have survived (see also Slides #315 and #319). In 1519 Maiollo was made Magister cartarum pro navigando of the Republic of Genoa. This particular map attracted little attention until it was discovered in 1881 by Desimoni. It was determined by the learned Abbe Ceriani that the date of "1587" was, in reality, a corruption of the true original date of 1527, the original figure "2" having been obviously converted to the figure "8". The authorship is further established by a comparison of the handwriting and spelling with Maiollo's other more famous map of 1519 in the Royal Library at Munich.

The date of 1527, vice 1587, is further confirmed by such factors as the inscription of terra Incognita on Peru, which had been explored by Francisco Pizarro in the 1530's. Also the map shows no results of the Cabrillo explorations, or others, along the Mexican coast on the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California; the St. Lawrence River by Cartier in 1534; and the Philippine Islands, which were so named in 1542, appear under their earlier name of Isola De Serola.

The map is limited to the diplay of North and South America and the Pacific Ocean. It appears to be drawn as if to be read oriented with the South at the top. The two continents are shown from the Straits of Magellan in the south to 35° North latitude, with no other break than a narrow strait cut across present-day Honduras. Across this strait is the inscription: Streito dubitoso [This is a doubtful strait] , which is similar to the inscription used by Pedrarias Dairla on his map for Charles V in 1525, but the strait shown by Maiollo is placed much farther north than on the Pedrarias Spanish map. A similar strait can also be seen on the world map by Franciscus Monachus in 1526 (Slide #326A). From this strait the North American coast is depicted in the form of a narrow elbow commencing in the latitude of Mexico City and continuing its curve so as to make the country west of the Gulf of Mexico (current-day southern United States) a relatively narrow strip of land (labelled the "little necke of land" by Hakluyt), bordered on the west by the Mare Indicum. There is a small isthmus and then the northern portion fans out, all in a manner supporting the theories propossed by the accounts from the voyage by the Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazano in 1523-24 along the eastern coast of North America (Slide #333). This is further supported by the display of the French flag, the name Francesca written across the landmass and the numerous Italianized French names on the coast, nearly all of which also appear on Girolamo [Hieronymo] de Verrazano's map. The historian Henry Harrisse theorizes that this map closely represents a prototype, still unknown, on which were inscribed such Verrazanian data shortly after the return of the Florentine navigator.

Lavoradore in the northeast may be either Greenland or Labrador with an open strait to the west suggestive of a northwest passage. The discovery by the Cortereals is marked by a Portuguese flag, to the south of which on Francesca is one showing the three golden lilies of France. Off the French coast is the little island Luisa, named by Verrazano, according to his letter, in honor of the mother of Francis I (also on the Verrazano map).

The large expanse of the Pacific Ocean is recognized and also repudiates altogether the theory that America was a part of the continent of Asia. The Spanish flag is shown near the Straits of Magellan, with an inscription celebrating his passage of the strait; along with three ships shown heading for the Spice Islands (Malacha Civitas, the trade emporium of the Spice Islands), positioned on the extreme left of the map.

The Portuguese are located in Brazil; and across South America, where Verrazano has the name America, Maiollo has an inscription celebrating the discovery of Terra Nova by Christopher Columbus of Genoa, a tribute paid by one citizen of Genoa to another. In Mexico is apparently a copy of the plan of the city sent by Cortes to Charles V.

A list of new names inscribed on Maiollo's map are provided by Harrisse.

Location: Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy

Size: 170 x 60 cm; 71.25 x 24 inches


*Fite, E.D., & Freeman, A., A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History from earliest days down to the close of the Revolutionary War, p. 41

*Harrisse, H., The Discovery of North America, pp. 553-555

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Very good information.

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