Medina, Pedro De
MEDINA, PEDRO DE
(b. Seville [?], Spain, 1493; (d. Seville, 1576)
Little is known about the life of Medina, who wrote both literary and navigational works during Spain’s golden age. He was a cleric, and may have graduated from the University of Seville. It is certain that for part of his career he was librarian to the duke of Medina-Sidonia, for whom he composed a family chronicle that was published in 1561. His other philosophical and historical works date from the same period of his life.
Medina was also a teacher of mathematics and a founder of marine science. King Charles I gave him a warrant (dated Toledo, 20 December 1538) to draw charts and prepare pilot books and other devices necessary to navigation to the Indies. In 1549 he was named “cosmógrafo de honor.” In addition to charts and sailing directions, Medina made astrolabes, quadrants, mariner’s compasses, forestaffs, and other navigational instruments; it is possible that he himself performed some actual practical navigation.
Medina’s first navigational book was the Arte de navegar, which is supposed to have inspired Bernardino Baldi’s great didactic poem “Nautica.” Medina’s work contains two fundamental errors, however, in that he failed to recognize the exactness of the plane chart (Mercator’s projection of the world was made in 1569) and posited the constancy of the magnetic declination (although his sailing directions do take account of the variation of the magnetic pole).
Medina further became active in the professional argument between cosmographers and pilots, maintaining that the existing instructions for the determination of altitude and use of the mariner’s compass prepared by the Seville school of cosmographers contained a number of serious errors. His “Suma de Cosmografia” was never published; it is preserved in the Biblioteca Capitular Colombina in Seville, and contains material on astrology, Philosophy, and navigation.
II. Original Works. Medina’s literary works include Libro de verdad (Valladolid, 1545; repr. Málaga, 1620); Libro de las grandezas y cosas memorables de España (Seville, 1548 and 1549; repr. Alcalá de Henares, 1566); and Crónica breve de España (Seville, 1548), which was commissioned by Queen Isabella I before her death in 1504.
His navigational writings comprise El arte de navegar (Seville-Valladolid, 1545; Seville, 1548), with trans, into German, French, English, and Italian; Tabulae Hispaniae geographica (Seville, 1560); “Suma de Cosmografia,” an unpublished work of 1561 (MS in Biblioteca Capitular Colombina, Seville); and Regimiento de navegación (Seville, 1563).
II. Secondary Literature. On Medina and his work, see Diccionario Encictopédico Hispano-Americano, XII (Barcelona, 1893), 692–693. See also Angel Gonzalez Palencia, La primera guia de la España Imperial (Madrid, 1940); Rafael Pardo de Figueroa, Pedro de Medina y su “Libro de las Grandezas” (Madrid, 1927); Regimiento de navegación de Medina 1563 (Cadiz, 1867); Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, Biblioteca maritima española (Madrid, 1851); and Dissertación sobre la historia de la naútica (Madrid, 1846).
J. M. LÓpez de Azcona