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Mapping by Questionnaire: An Early Spanish Attempt to Determine New World Geographical Positions

Clinton R. Edwards
Imago Mundi
Vol. 23 (1969), pp. 17-28
Published by: Imago Mundi, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1150498
Page Count: 12
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Mapping by Questionnaire: An Early Spanish Attempt to Determine New World Geographical Positions
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Abstract

During the latter part of the sixteenth century Spain made a concerted effort to determine precisely the geographical positions of cities, towns, and villages in her growing New World empire. Methods using celestial observations, known only to trained cosmographers, were translated into simple language and techniques so that untrained observers could provide map information for use by experts in Spain. Instructions and questionnaires were distributed widely, requiring observations of noon sun, Polaris, and lunar eclipses; determination of direction and distance; and sketch maps. On the whole, the responses to the instructions for celestial observations were inadequate for mapping purposes, but the records yield information on early methods of determining positions. Better results were obtained through a questionnaire that included items on directions and distances among settlements.

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