- Historic Sites
Did Columbus Or Cabot See The Map?
October 1965 | Volume 16, Issue 6
It is to be understood that the reconstruction of Cabot’s line of thought in the preceding paragraph is wholly speculative and depends upon assumptions which, even if true, will probably never be verified. It does nevertheless demonstrate that the Icelandic information exemplified in the Vinland Map, had it come to John Cabot’s notice, would have seemed to him compatible with his own preconceptions, with the discoveries in the North Atlantic known to him, and with his plan for further exploration.
The Vinland Map is the only surviving graphic record of the western voyages of the Norsemen to contain any element of experience. As such, it must have exercised a potent influence on the mind of any seaman under whose eyes it came. We cannot yet point to any direct link between it and the rediscoverers of North America at the end of the fifteenth century. Yet it is conceivable that they had heard of the Viking voyages, even if in a form much less precise than the cartographic record of them in the Vinland Map, and that the example of the Norse seamen served as an incentive for their own ventures. As Nansen wrote of the Norse voyages: “For the first time explorers had set out with conscious purpose from the known world, over the surrounding seas, and had found land on the other side. By their voyages they taught the sailors of Europe the possibility of traversing the ocean.” Of this initiative the Vinland Map is a memorial.