Padrão Real

The Padrão Real (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐˈðɾɐ̃w̃ ʁiˈaɫ], translated into English as Royal Pattern) was a cartographic work of Portuguese mastery produced secretly and maintained by the organization of the Portuguese Royal Court in the 16th century. The work was available to the scientific elite of the time, being exposed in the Casa da Índia (House of India). In the Padrão Real the new discoveries of the Portuguese were constantly added and mapped. The first Padrão Real was produced in the time of Henry the Navigator, even before the existence of the Casa da Índia.

The Cantino planisphere (1502), copy of the Portuguese Padrão Real

The Padrão Real of the House of India hung from the ceiling in the Division of Maps as the Portuguese masterpiece, extremely secretive and guarded of foreign spies and merchants.

The Padrão Real included the complete record of the Portuguese discoveries, public and secret. The House of India issued maps based on the Padrão Real to navigators in Royal service.

The Cantino planisphere (1502) is a copy of the Padrão Real, possibly produced by some Portuguese bribed cartographer. It is conjectured that Cantino was able to bribe a cartographer to copy the map between December 1501 and October 1502. From a letter signed by Cantino it is thought that he sent the map to the Duke of Ferrara on November 19, 1502.

The Padrão Real was lost in time. However a copy (Cantino planisphere) still exists. The Spanish counterpart of the Portuguese Padrão Real was the Padrón Real, officially established by the Spanish Monarchs in 1508, in the Casa de Contratación.


  • Note on the Castiglioni Planisphere, Armando Cortesão, Imago Mundi, Vol. 11, 1954 (1954), pp. 53–55
  • Harvey, Miles The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime. New York:Random House, 2000. ISBN 0-7679-0826-0. (Also ISBN 0-375-50151-7).