Skip to main content

The Spacious Word

Cartography, Literature, and Empire in Early Modern Spain

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.

302 pages | 36 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Geography: Cartography

History: Latin American History

Latin American Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Medieval Studies


"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."

Andrew Staffell | TLS

"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."

Antonio Feros | American Historical Review

"[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."

Mark DeStephano | Renaissance Quarterly

“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.”

Caroline E. Dodds | Canadian Journal of History

“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.”

Barbara Fuchs | Modern Language Quarterly

"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."

Daniela Bleichmar | Journal of Latin American Studies

"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."

Grace E. Coolidge | Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Padrón meticulously documents the history of European cartography, exploring the intricate web composed by the ostensible relationship between cartography and written discourse."

Horacio Chiong Rivero | Sixteenth-Century Journal

"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."

Jack A. Licate | Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Table of Contents

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

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press