The Spacious Word

Cartography, Literature, and Empire in Early Modern Spain

Ricardo Padrón

The Spacious Word

Ricardo Padrón

302 pages | 36 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2004
Cloth $46.00 ISBN: 9780226644332 Published February 2004
The Spacious Word explores the history of Iberian expansion into the Americas as seen through maps and cartographic literature, and considers the relationship between early Spanish ideas of the world and the origins of European colonialism. Spanish mapmakers and writers, as Padrón shows, clung to a much older idea of space that was based on the itineraries of travel narratives and medieval navigational techniques.

Padrón contends too that maps and geographic writings heavily influenced the Spanish imperial imagination. During the early modern period, the idea of "America" was still something being invented in the minds of Europeans. Maps of the New World, letters from explorers of indigenous civilizations, and poems dramatizing the conquest of distant lands, then, helped Spain to redefine itself both geographically and imaginatively as an Atlantic and even global empire. In turn, such literature had a profound influence on Spanish ideas of nationhood, most significantly its own.

Elegantly conceived and meticulously researched, The Spacious Word will be of enormous interest to historians of Spain, early modern literature, and cartography.
List of Illustrations
The Invention of America and the Invention of the Map
Tracking Space
Mapping New Spain
Charting an Insular Empire
Between Scylla and Charybdis
Works Cited
Review Quotes
Andrew Staffell | TLS

"Padr[5]on is an incisive critic. . . . The Spacious Word focuses a dynamic picture of the ideologies at play in the long and complicated ’invention’ of America."

Antonio Feros | American Historical Review

"This book is an intelligent and sophisticated unraveling of contemporary cartographic literature. . . . Through his close reading of maps and other iconographic literature, Padr[5]on demonstrates that a variety of perceptions of space existed among European polities as well as among various authors within a single empire."

Mark DeStephano | Renaissance Quarterly
"[The author] carefully establishes his case that cartography and empire are inseparable, by showing how the work of sixteenth-century Spanish intellectuals in numerous fields contributes to the construction and mapping of ’America’ in the Spanish consciousness. . . . A meticulously researched study that makes an intriguing area of inquiry accessible to both generalists and specialists alike. The clarity of his presentation will also facilitate the use of his valuable findings by scholars in numerous fields."
Caroline E. Dodds | Canadian Journal of History
“Abundantly and helpfully illustrated, The Spacious Word skillfully weaves the analysis of images and text to explore the subtle and complex interactions between the different models and concepts of space and . . . the selected texts demonstrate the manner in which imperial ideals, aspirations and realities shaped and were served by different forms and traditions of cartography. . . . The Spacious Word is an insightful and undoubtedly original book, which provides an illuminating new perspective on the development of the Spanish imperial imagination and its associated understandings of space.”
Barbara Fuchs | Modern Language Quarterly
“In this groundbreaking study Ricardo Padrón brings to bear on early modern Hispanic studies the burgeoning field of critical geography. . . . Nuanced, learned, and original, mapping for us an entirely new way of reading the lay of the land.”
Daniela Bleichmar | Journal of Latin American Studies
"An ambitious and accomplished combination of literature, history and geography. Its most successful passages are those where [the author] zeroes in on literary works, demonstrating his sharp and imaginative skills at analysing and interpreting texts and situating them historically."
Grace E. Coolidge | Journal of Interdisciplinary History
"As [the author] moves from studying cartographers and their art through conquistadors, historians, and poets, he portrays a rich Renaissance discourse about empire and uses literary, historical, and geographical methods to present a compelling picture of a multilayered society able to draw on literature, history, and geography to assimilate and conquer new lands."
Horacio Chiong Rivero | Sixteenth-Century Journal
"Padrón meticulously documents the history of European cartography, exploring the intricate web composed by the ostensible relationship between cartography and written discourse."
Jack A. Licate | Annals of the Association of American Geographers
"Padrón’s interpretation of the rich store of geographical writings left  by Spaniards of the early modern period opens new vistas for Latin American historical geography. . . . Here a visitor to the field shows geographers how to expertly interpret sources and raise for readers in all disciplines the level of awareness of the major impact geography has had."
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