Rutter. Making the Earth Global
Early modern nautical rutters (sailing directions) are the earliest Western documents that testify to the stable and regular lived experience of traversing the earth’s oceans on a global, planetary scale.
Nautical rutters (and ship’s logbooks) are technical documents that collect and analyse critical information for the successful accomplishment of oceanic navigation. This includes elements of strict nautical nature (courses, distances, and latitudes), as well as information on oceanography (currents and tides), meteorology (winds and storms), geography, geophysics (magnetic declination) and the natural world.
Their unique value lies not only in the fact that they are exceptional historical repositories of information about the world on a planetary scale but, more importantly, that they document the emergence of global concepts about the earth. In fact, no earlier documents contain information about the earth on a comparable worldwide scale. Thus, their historical value is peerless.
Using these exceptional, yet poorly known sources, the main objective of this project is to write a narrative of the scaling up of a scientific description of the earth in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from the lived experience of travelling and observing the earth in long-distance sea voyages. As a preliminary task, a systematic search, identification and classification of the information contained in early modern Iberian rutters and ship’s logbooks will be performed. This will be followed by an extensive multidisciplinary study aiming at radically improving our present knowledge of the historical process that led to the formation of global concepts about the earth.