Delineatio omnium orarum totius Australis partis Americae, dictae Peruvianae, à R. de la Plata, Brasiliam, Pariam,...: Afbeeldinghe van alle de Zee-custen des gheheelen Zuyderschen deels van America genaempt Peruviana....

Dublin Core


Delineatio omnium orarum totius Australis partis Americae, dictae Peruvianae, à R. de la Plata, Brasiliam, Pariam,...: Afbeeldinghe van alle de Zee-custen des gheheelen Zuyderschen deels van America genaempt Peruviana....


South America


This map of South America, “Delineato omnium orarum totius australis partis Americae, dictae Puruvia”, was originally created in 1596, engraved by Arnold Florent van Langren for Jan Huygrn van Linschoten, both Dutch cartographers. This map features an extremely detailed depiction of the Caribbean islands and the coastline of the South American continent. The continental interior is much more artfully imagined, boasting several mysterious wild animals, as well as illustrations of cannibals, inspired by earlier work by famed engraver Theodor de Bry. Based on this variation in detail, the continent seems to have quite clearly been primarily explored along rivers, rather than over land. Elaborate cartouches provide information in both Latin and Dutch. At first glance, the map is confusing to read, as it is oriented with North to the left, rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise from maps that we see typically. The countries look quite different from the ones we are used to seeing today. The overall shape of the continent is also portrayed as much wider than it truly is. Interestingly, the large region labelled “Terra del Fuego” is not, as it may seem, Antarctica, but is actually a small island off the coast of Argentina.


Langren, Arnold Florent van, 1580-1644


Linschoten, Jan Huygen van, 1563-1611. Published in Amsterdam




Spencer Williams


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at:


1 map : colour ; 39 x 55 cm. Hand coloured.


Latin, Dutch






South America

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Hand coloured map, originally printed in Linschoten's Itinerario

Physical Dimensions

39 x 55cm

Contributor's Research

The exploration of South America began in the European Age of Exploration, and was primarily carried out by the two dominant seafaring nations, Spain and Portugal. As is well known, Columbus arrived in Cuba and Hispaniola in 1492 (World Heritage Encyclopedia). This heralded a surge in colonization of the New World by European powers, a period referred to as the Age of Exploration (Kreiss 2002). He was soon followed in 1500 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, the first European to set foot in Brazil (Calman, n.d.). In response to Columbus’ discovery, the initial division of South America by European powers began in 1494 with the Treaty of Tordesillas (World Heritage Encyclopedia). This agreement between Spain and Portugal divided up the unknown world along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands: everything to discovered to the East would belong to Portugal, and anything to the West, to Spain (ibid). This meridian passed through the eastern part of Brazil, meaning that the Spain was entitled to far more land than Portugal. However, this boundary was not strictly adhered to, as Portugal expanded westward into the Amazon basin, without consequence. The two countries laid claim to the continent between them, and from this, they grew their formidable trading empires.
Interestingly, these two powers extended their reach and influence according to different priorities. The Portuguese empire was built almost exclusively on trade, rather than military conquest. They established trading outposts, but typically made little attempt to move inland (Kreis 2002). This likely explains why there are relatively few settlements indicated on the eastern portion of the map, particularly in Brazil. On the other hand, the Spanish power was based on colonization and the often violent overthrow of existing civilizations (Kreis 2002). This exploration also helps to explain the uneven geographic distribution of settlements on this map. At the time that this map was created, the once-powerful indigenous empires had collapsed at the hands of the Spanish, who had moved south from Mexico. By 1522, Hernando Cortés had defeated the Aztec Empire, and in 1531, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire, moving from Panama to Peru, where he founded the city of Lima (Kreis 2002, Bollo 1919).
As the influence of the Spanish and Portuguese waned, the Treaty of Tordesillas became outdated, and was no longer honoured by other colonial powers, such as the English, the French, and the Dutch. This map was produced at the dawn of the Dutch Golden Age, at the turn of the 17th century (de Jong 2011). It can be speculated that the Dutch interest in mapping South America at this time served as a precursor to aspirations of colonization. Beginning in the 1620s, the Dutch engaged in several conflicts with the Portuguese in Brazil, and won possession of many towns (Ramerini, n.d.). By the 1630s, they controlled much of northeastern Brazil, as well as the north coast of South America, an area known as New Holland (ibid). The Dutch power in the region was short-lived though, as the Portuguese struck back and retook the majority of New Holland by 1654, leaving the Dutch with just their northern territory, labelled “Caribana” on this map (Ramerini, n.d.).
One of the most obvious differences from this map to today’s countries is the absence of Argentina. Maps from later on referred to this region as “River Plate” which comes from Rio de la Plata (Bollo 1919). Thorough exploration of this area took place in the 1520s, and led to the establishment of Asuncion, capital of modern-day Paraguay, in 1537, and of Buenos Aires in 1580 (Stewart et al n.d.). In general, the southern piece of South America appears to have been explored much less thoroughly than the rest of the continent. One expedition of note took place in 1519, when Ferdinand Magellan passed by Cape Horn, the southern tip while completing his circumnavigation of the globe (Kreis 2002).
South American countries began to move towards independence in the 19th century. Again, this took different forms for the Spanish territories relative to the Portuguese. For both though, the move towards independence began with Napoleon. As his forces swept across Europe, Spain and Portugal’s attention was redirected away from the colonies and back to their homelands. Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807, and the Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil (Borges n.d.) After Napoleon was defeated in 1815, they returned to Portugal, except for one prince, who oversaw a peaceful transition to independence. In Spanish South America however, independence took the form of many violent years of civil wars. In 1810, Spanish colonies declared independence, with the formation of autonomous governments, called juntas (Borges n.d.). A major figure during this period was the revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar, who led the fight for independence in the north, and liberated Colombia and Ecuador from Spanish rule. At the same time, Jose de Saint-Martin was leading the war against the Spanish in the south, and successfully liberated Chile and Argentina. When these two forces came together in Peru, Saint-Martin ceded authority to Bolivar, and retired to Europe. Bolivar’s success continued, leading to the formation of Bolivia. By the end of the 1820s, the majority of South America had achieved independence, but this did not bring an end to the conflict, and as a result, national borders continued to shift (Borges n.d.). Among these conflicts was the War of the Triple Alliance in 1864, which decimated the Paraguayan population (Stewart et al, n.d.). The countries did not assume the boundaries that are consistent with modern maps until 1975, when Suriname achieved independence from the Netherlands (Kreis 2002).
In short, South America experienced a long and often turbulent association with European powers, which played a significant role in the development of the present-day countries. Countries such as Spain and Portugal, and to a lesser degree the Netherlands, have left undeniable marks of their influence, in the culture and language across the entire South American continent, which can still be felt today.


Bollo, Luis Cincinato. 1919. South America: Past and Present. New York.

Borges. N.d. Independence in Latin America – A Chronology. Dickinson College – History 131. Accessed 24 February 2016.

Calmon, Pedro. N.d. Pedro Alvares Cabral: Portuguese Explorer. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 23 February 2016.

de Jong, Joop (2011) ""The Dutch Golden Age and Globalization: History and Heritage, Legacies and Contestations,"" Macalester College International: Vol. 27, Article 7.Accessed 22 February 2016.

Kreis, Steven. 2002. Revised 2011. Lecture 2: The Age of Discovery. The History Guide: Lectures on Early Modern European History. Accessed 24 February 2016.

Ramerini, Marco. Translated by Dietrich Köster. The Dutch in Brazil. Colonial Voyage. Accessed 24 February 2016.

Stewart, Norman R. n.d. Río de la Plata: Estuary, South America. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 24 February 2016.

World Heritage Encyclopedia. Treaty of Tordesillas. World Public Library. Accessed 22 February 2016."


Langren, Arnold Florent van, 1580-1644, “Delineatio omnium orarum totius Australis partis Americae, dictae Peruvianae, à R. de la Plata, Brasiliam, Pariam,...: Afbeeldinghe van alle de Zee-custen des gheheelen Zuyderschen deels van America genaempt Peruviana....,” Omeka Testbed, accessed September 26, 2017,