Jehuda Cresques

Jehudà Cresques (Catalan pronunciation: [ʒəuˈða ˈkɾeskəs], 1360-1410), also known as Jafudà Cresques, Jaume Riba, and Cresques lo Juheu ("Cresques the Jew"),[1] was a converso cartographer in the early 15th century.

Allegorical Statue of Jehuda Cresques at Palma's "Plaça del Temple"

Son of Abraham Cresques, a famous Jewish cartographer, he was born in a Jewish family in Majorca, in the Majorcan-Catalan speaking part of Crown of Aragon, in present-day Spain. Together he and his father were the probable authors of the famous Catalan Atlas of 1375.

Cresques' work was highly sought after; in 1390 John I of Aragon paid 60 livres and 8 sous for one of his maps. After the Aragonese persecutions of 1391 he was forcibly converted[1] to Christianity, at which time he took the name Jaume Riba, Jacobus Ribus, in Latin. He appears to have remained in Majorca for a considerable time and to have become known to the people there as "lo jueu buscoler", the map Jew, or "el jueu de les bruixoles", the compass Jew.

It has long been believed that Jehuda Cresques is the same person as 'Mestre Jacome', a Majorcan cartographer induced by the Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator to move to Portugal in the 1420s to train Portuguese map-makers in Majorcan-style cartography.[2] 'Jacome of Majorca' was described as the head of Henry's legendary observatory and "school" at Sagres by Samuel Purchas, though the existence of the alleged school has long been discounted.[3] The identification of "Mestre Jacome" with Jehuda Cresques" is principally due to the Catalan historian Gonzalo de Reparaz (1930).[4] However, more recent research argues that Jehuda Cresques was already dead by 1410,[5] and "Mestre Jacome" must have been someone else, identity still indeterminate; Majorca had many skilled Jewish cartographers.


  1. ^ a b "Cresques lo Juheu"
  2. ^ "Mestre Jacome" the Majorcan cartographer is first mentioned by Duarte Pacheco Pereira in his Esmeraldo de situ Orbis (c.1507, p.58). João de Barros, in his Decadas de Asia (1552: I.16 p.133) adds that he was also a master instrument-maker.
  3. ^ "He also from Majorca caused one Master James, a man skilfull (sic) in Navigation, in Maps and Sea Instruments, to be brought into Portugall, there at his charge as it were, to erect a Schoole of Marinership, and to instruct his Countreymen in that Mysterie." Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, (1625, vol. 2, pt.2 p.11) On the existence of the school, see ‘The alleged nautical school founded in the fifteenth century at Sagres by Prince Henry of Portugal, called the ‘Navigator’’, in W. G. L. Randles, Geography, cartography and nautical science in the Renaissance: the impact of the great discoveries (Aldershot, 2000), pp. 1 – 14.
  4. ^ Reparaz (1930) bases his argument on the finding that the navigational charts given to Pêro da Covilhã and Afonso de Paiva in 1487 were based on maps drafted earlier by "Mestre Moyses" and "Jaime Ribera", the latter whom Reparaz takes to be Jaume Riba or Jacobus Ribus, the New Christian name of Jehuda Cresques. Reparaz suggests he came to Portugal sometime between 1420 and 1427, thus probably already in his seventies.
  5. ^ e.g. Jaume Riera i Sans, 1977


  • Quadrado, in Boletin de la Real Academia de la Historia, xix.299, 309;
  • Hamy, in Bulletin de Géographie, 1891, pp. 218–222;
  • Meyer Kayserling, Christopher Columbus, pp. 5–8;
  • Jacobs, Story of Geographical Discovery, pp. 60–62.
  • Reparaz, Gonzalo de (1930) Mestre Jácome de Mallorca: Cartógrafo do Infante Coimbra (offprint from Biblias journal of the Faculty of Letters of Coimbra).
  • Rey Pastor and García Camarero, La Cartografía Mallorquina, 1960, pp. 56–61.
  • Riera i Sans, Jaume, "Jafudà Cresques, jueu de Mallorca", in Randa n. 5 (1977) 51-66. (English translation online)
  • Riera i Sans, Jaume - Gabriel Llompart, "Jafudà Cresques i Samuel Corcós. Més documents sobre els jueus pintors de cartes de navegar (Mallorca, s. XIV)", in Bolletí de la Societat Arqueològica Lul·liana n. 40 (1984) 341-350. (English translation online)
  •—Translation in English of the works of Riera i Sans and Gabriel Llompart on the Jewish Majorcan mapmakers of the Late Middle Ages. They include very complete biographies of Jafudà Cresques and his father Cresques Abraham.