CARTA ESFÉRICA DE LAS COSTAS DE LA PENÍNSULA DE ESPAÑA. Construida en la Dirección Hidrográfica. 1801.

Mercator chart of the Spanish Peninsula coasts, those of France and Italy until Venere Cape, and corresponding areas of Mediterranean African coasts. Islands and Skerries of this part of the sea are included.
AUTHOR The chart was drawn by Juan Ferrer, who joined the Spanish Hydrographic Office since its foundation specifically for the creation of maps1. He was ensign and pilot of the Spanish Navy. Since this chart is a compilation map made from other original charts with larger scale, Juan Ferrer can be considered as its main author.
PUBLISHER Spanish Hydrographic Office (Dirección Hidrográfica). At this map date of edition, the Office was headed by his first Director, José de Espinosa y Tello, who had founded it in 1797 from the initial chart storehouse known as Hydrographic Deposit (Depósito Hidrográfico)2.
SUPPORTING AUTHORS Vicente Tofiño, whose Maritime Atlas’ notes and operations were used as source data for the Spanish coasts.
Engraver: Fernando Selma
SCALE AND UNITS The scale is not numerically shown and there is no graphic scale either although the western side of the frame is divided in 20 league divisions per degree. They are the traditional marine leagues of 1/20 of meridian degree. The numerical scale, based on the document size, is around 1:1 900.000
REPRESENTED AREA Iberian peninsula and southern France shores, northern Italy and northern Africa coasts that close the western Mediterranean Sea until Corsica and Sardinia islands, this latter incomplete.
SHEET DISTRIBUTION The whole map is one sheet. It is the first chart of the three that contained the Mediterranean Sea3.
General chart that compiles, for the Spanish coasts, the information from the major scale charts included in the Tofiño’s Maritime Atlas.
ORIGINAL DOCUMENT TYPE Single ink paper chalcography.
ORIGINAL SIZE 60 x 92 cm.
CARTOGRAPHIC ELEMENTS AND SYMBOLOGY The information included in this chart is restricted to the maritime and coastal area. The main represented element is the coastline including the main river mouths.
On both sides of the coastline elements of interest for navigation and coastal defence are represented. On the shore side: cities and fortified towns, watch-towers and castles, visible mountains, marshes, rivers and coastal lagoons. On the sea side: sounder dephts in Spanish fathoms, islets, skerries, shoals, sunken rocks and sand banks. Skerries and shoals are cartographied in open sea too. The included toponymy is referred to the represented elements and the coastal features: capes, points, coves, sea inlets and others. By the use of roman and italic fonts a hierarchy is introduced: the first one is used for the main elements, and the second one for the rest. It also contains the names of the old provinces in which the Spanish coast was divided as well as the names of the French departments.
This is the first general mercator chart of the Iberian peninsula and the Balearic Islands published by the Spanish Hydrographic Office. It collects the information that Vicente Tofiño used for the partial charts in his 1789 ‘Maritime Atlas of Spain’. For the further Mediterranean zones, several French charts from 1744 to 1791 were consulted. See the ‘Positioning methods and information sources’ section.
ORIGINAL PROJECTION SYSTEM Being a ‘spheric chart’, it uses the Cylindrical Mercator projection. This is described in the introduction of the two Pilots4 annexed to the ‘Maritime Atlas of Spain’ (see its documentation included in this viewer). This projection is still used in the current nautical charts.
DATUM/SHAPE OF THE EARTH Not specified. Considering the way data were collected and reflected in the charts during the campaign for the elaboration of the ‘Maritime Atlas of Spain’5, it can be inferred that it is neither an ellipsoid nor a mathematical shape. The charts collect geographic coordinates directly observed on the earth surface (geoid) instead of geodesic coordinates referred to an ellipsoid.
GRATICULE AND GRID FRAME. PRIME MERIDIAN Rhumblines network (or lines of course network). It may only try to follow the old nautical charts appearance, although it might also be a reference to charts of the farthest Mediterranean areas, prior to Tofiño’s.
One degree divisions frame with one and five minutes subdivisions. Latitude and longitude with origin at the Equator and the Cadiz Meridian respectively. The old Cádiz meridian was placed on the Marine Guards Academy in the old city castle, not on the new San Fernando observatory6. Its geographic longitude (6º17’14,025” west of Greenwich) can be calculated from its former longitude referred to Paris Meridian, averaged, balanced and established by José Espinosa y Tello in the 1790s, using measurements of the most renowned XVIIIc Navy officers and astronomers7.
The western side of the frame is graduated with 20 leagues per degree divisions, with one and five league subdivisions. The North is marked with a Fleur-de-lis over a line of course.
POSITIONING METHODS AND SOURCES OF INFORMATION A note states that for Spanish coasts “this chart contains important rectifications, taken from the logbooks and the original operations from Vicente Tofiño on the Peninsula coasts.” The best methods of positioning, data collection and charts making were used, based on astronomical observations and geodetic triangulations. This methodology is explained in his ‘Derrotero de las costas de España en el Mediterráneo’ (Mediterranean Spanish coasts Pilot) 8 annexed to Tofiño’s Maritime Atlas, also summarised in the report from the General’s Board validating the work, that can be found in the Pilot opening pages:

“[...] the work is performed by a non interrupted series of astronomic and geometric operations that support it: latitudes have been observed simultaneously and separately by many individuals with excellent sextants; the coast shape and turns have been scrupulously measured with different theodolites in fixed points, or with Azimuthal compasses in the sea; and the longitudes have been calculated with very accurate chronometers, that were frequently checked, resulting in short differences [...]; and in many places longitudes have been established with the eclipses of the first and second Jupiter satellites too, requesting and finally obtaining similar observations simultaneously made in Paris. The results matched the ones measured with the chronometers, which, considering the fact that they were taken by two so different methods, was an incontestable evidence of the righteousness of the longitudes inferred by the clocks9.”

On top of the peninsula and Spanish coasts comprised in the Tofiño campaigns, “good astronomic observations have been used: those executed by Spanish Navy officers as well as anything published abroad.” In contrast to the methods used for the Spanish coasts, in the farthest areas from the Peninsula, neither triangulation nor geodetic basis were used, being their data extracted from previous cartographic sources with diverse precision and dates.
In his ‘Memories About the Astronomic Observations Made by the Spanish Navy in Different Earth Places’ published in 1809, Espinosa y Tello, with its usual thoroughness, lists the foreign maps used to complete Tofiño’s data: the Triangulation Map of France (1744-1789) by Giovanni Domenico Maraldi and Cesar-Françoise Cassini, the two sheet ‘Carte de la Mer Mediterranée‘ (1785) by Louis André Dupuis and the ‘Carte des Triangles de la Corse’ (1791) by Jean Joseph Tranchot. These charts were adjusted with the information gathered by Brigadier Gabriel Ciscar on 1796 throughout his hydrographic commission along the Mediterranean coast on board of frigate ‘Soledad’. He carried an Arnold chronometer and his observations partly comprised Sardinia, Sicily and Trípoli.
The Spanish Hydrographic Office had the power to request from the different Navy authorities the execution of hydrographic works, sending instructions to make hydrographic commissions: cartographic expeditions entrusted to particular officers, who combined them with the naval military service10. Through these commisions, information was gathered for the numerous charts published by the Spanish Hydrographic Office, at that time formed by five or six officers in charge of the development and drawing of the charts, four engravers and the needed administrative personnel (a secretary, a librarian, an amanuensis, two comptrollers and a concierge) 11.
DOCUMENT ORIGIN Biblioteca Nacional de España. Biblioteca Digital Hispánica.
(Spanish National Library. Spanish Digital Library)
Downloaded from:
DIGITALIZATION Biblioteca Digital Hispánica.(Spanish Digital Library)
Format: JPEG.
Digitalization date: unknown, downloaded at 23/02/2015.
Resolution: 150 dpi.
Color mode: RGB.
CARTOGRAPHIC DIGITAL EDITION Universidad Autónoma de Madrid Cartographic Service
- No adjustment to correct paper deformation or scanning distortion was needed.
- One degree meridians and parallels were traced on the chart using the graduated frame. This map lacks meridians and parallels, but they are easy to draw considering they are straight lines in Mercator projection.
-Mercator projection georeferencing: Using WGS84 major auxiliary sphere as earth shape (any old sphere, since no ellipsoid seem to be used to make the original map nor to refer its surveys), and old Cadiz meridian as latitude of origin (6,28722916666666620 decimal degrees west of Greenwich); 8 control points were placed at well distributed meridian and parallel intersections, followed by a second order polynomial transformation. The resulting RMS error (341,79 m) is really good for such a low scale map.
-The georeferenced file is adjusted by triangulation to a numerically generated theoretical meridian and parallel grid that match the one from the map.
-Transformation into ETRS89 / UTM zone 30N reference system.
-Final image compression to ECW format.
Terrain resolution
434,211712 m.
Color adjustments:
Unsharp mask: 200% quantity – 3,1 px radius – 5 level threshold over a file with resolution increased up to 100 m.

Preliminary comment and evaluation

Labelled as chart number one from those the Spanish Navy Hydrographic Administration published. Number two and three complete the whole Mediterranean coasts until Near East, and were published on 1803 based on Alcalá Galiano hydrographic works1. Another Mercator charts about American and Philippines islands coasts were published by the Hydrographic Office2, proving a cartographic plan that covered the most interesting areas of Spanish maritime traffic.

Spanish coasts on this nautical chart were constructed from the data and Mercator charts that Vicente Tofiño made for his 1789 Maritime Atlas. This latter didn’t include any general chart of all Iberian Peninsula but higher scale charts that represented it as a whole. This gap was solved by the publication of this chart in 1801 by the newly created Hydrographic Office.

The monumental Tofiño’s Atlas was among the best nautical cartography of the time and, already then, received the highest consideration. It was the first Spanish map made according to the new scientific cartography procedures, using the most modern techniques and instruments, geodetic basis and rigorous geometric surveys. Unfortunately, this work had no parallel in the inland cartography of the country3.

The progress of hydrographic cartography was the result of the enlightened government support on Spanish Royal Navy started by ‘Marqués de la Ensenada’ by mid XVIIIc. The new cartography required new and expensive instrumental. The first nautical chronometers, which solved the longitude calculation issue, had an equivalent cost to fourth of a ship. Their maintenance, the theodolites and other sophisticated optical material needed heavy investments and their handling required highly trained personnel. Chart creation and engraving procedures also demanded strong expertise. This enterprise could only be undertaken by official bodies with strong government support and long term work planning. The model was the Depôt de Cartes et plans from France Navy founded in 1720, which had the monopoly on French nautical charts since 1773. Other relevant hydrographic services were the Danish Sokort-Arkivet or the British Hydrographic office, founded in 1784 and 1795 respectively4.

In Spain, Jorge Juan (1713-1773) presented a project to create a Navy Hydrographic Office in 1770 that didn’t materialise5. The creation of the Hydrographic Administration took place in 1797 based on the first store of copper plates and printed sheets from Tofiño’s Atlas and other chart production of the Spanish Navy6. The demand for new nautical printed cartography had significantly increased due to the maritime traffic growth, motivated by the market liberalizing politics of king Carlos III enlightened governments, manifested itself in the 1765 America Free Market Decree and the 1773 Spain and Indies Free Market Regulation. With these politics, the Casa de Contratación (Colonial Regulation Agency) lost its competencies, until its disappearance on 1790, when it became a mere Indies Archive. Already from XVIIc Spanish pilots were rather using the printed Dutch or English nautical charts than the secret and handwritten copies from the Casa de Contratación. Even the ‘Piloto Mayor’ position (head of chartmaking in Casa de Contratación) had disappeared on 1709, after the death of Manuel Salvador Barreto 7.

Surprinsingly, this chart maintains the old nautical charts course-lines grid as reference system, despite being a true Mercator chart with most of its data coming from modern Tofiño’s Atlas hydrographic campaigns. It was maybe used to complete the map area by assembling others, like the two sheets Mediterranean Sea Chart made by André Dupuis in 17858, which had this traditional reference system.

Correction of a significant error

The rigorous methodology used by Tofiño for the Martime Atlas did not prevent errors. The most relevant one is probably that the entire north-western coast is moved towards the east, because the longitude of the reference point used in that Peninsula zone, the Ferrol observatory, was miscalculated9. This 1801 chart corrects this error placing the north of Galicia in a more accurate position, but takes the Rías Baixas coast too much into the west. Anyway, in this and other zones we can verify that this Mercator chart is not a direct reduction from Tofiño’s Maritime Atlas, whose data was checked and adjusted with the new observations sorted by the Spanish Hydrographic Office.

Carlos Almonacid Ramiro.
Universidad autónoma de Madrid Cartographic Service.

Armada Española. (2015). Reseña histórica – Instituto Hidrográfico de la Marina. Consultado el 12/03/2015, en

Artola, M. (1999). La España de Fernando VII. Madrid, S.L.U. Espasa Libros, 808 pp.

Cano, J.M. (2003). La Dirección de Trabajos Hidrográficos (1797 - 1908), Tomo II: "Catálogo de las cartas publicadas". Madrid, Lunwerg Editores – Ministerio de Defensa. Secretaría General Técnica – Ministerio de Fomento. CNIG, 424 pp.

Espiago, J. (2008). Tierra y naturaleza: cartografía del mundo. En: Artola, M. (Dir.). Historia de Europa (pp. 853-942). Madrid, Espasa Calpe

Espinosa y Tello, J. (1809). Memorias sobre las observaciones astronómicas hechas por los navegantes españoles en distintos lugares del globo. 2 tomos, Madrid, Imprenta Real

González, F.J. y Martín-Meras, L. (2003).La Dirección de Trabajos Hidrográficos (1797 - 1908), Tomo I: "Historia de la Cartografía Náutica en la España del siglo XIX". Madrid, Lunwerg Editores – Ministerio de Defensa. Secretaría General Técnica – Ministerio de Fomento. CNIG, 252 pp.

M. Hugenin (1970). French cartography of Corsica. En: Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography, Volume 24, Issue 1, 1970

Lafuente, A. y Selles, M. (1988).El Observatorio de Cádiz (1753-1831).Madrid, Ministerio de Defensa, Secretaría General Técnica, 469 pp.

Lara Coira, M. y López Moratalla, T. (2004). Dos siglos de cálculos del Almanaque Náutico (1792-2002): primera época. En: Español, L., Escribano J.J., Martínez, M.A. (coords.). Historia de las ciencias y de las técnicas (pp. 419-432). Universidad de La Rioja

Loeb-Laroque, B. Corsica Ilustrata. Relevé illustré non exhaustif de cartes et vues concernant la Corse. Consultado el 06/07/2015 en

Martín Bermúdez, J. (2014). El Meridiano de Cádiz. Consultado el 08/04/2015, en Diario de Cádiz

Martín Merás, L. (1993). Cartografía Marítima Hispana: La imagen de América. Madrid, Lunwerg, CNIG, IGME y CSIC, 257 pp.

Martín-Merás, L. y Rivera, B. (1990). Catálogo de cartografía histórica de España en el museo naval. Museo Naval-Ministerio de Defensa.

Martínez y Guanter, A.L. (2011). Biografía de Don Felipe Bauzá y Cañas.Revista General de Marina,diciembre 2011, pp. 855-864.

Morgat, A. (2005). Du Neptune Françoise au Pilote Françoise: Les Atlas Nautiques en France avant 1850. En A. Charon-Parent,T. Claerr y F. Moureau Eds. Le livre maritime au siècle des Lumières: édition et diffusion des connaissances maritimes (1750-1850), (pp. 149-162). Paris, Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne.

Tofiño de San Miguel, V. (1787).Derrotero de las costas de España en el Mediterráneo y su correspondiente de Africa, para inteligéncia y uso de las cartas esféricas.Madrid, Imprenta Real.

Tofiño de San Miguel, V. (1789).Derrotero de las costas de España en el Océano Atlántico, y de las Islas Azores ó Terceras, para inteligéncia y uso de las cartas esféricas.Madrid, Imprenta Real.