Atlas Insurance has presented funds to Heritage Malta’s Malta Maritime Museum to acquire to acquire an 18th century Portulan. This Portulan atlas is now the second artefact of its kind found within the National Collection.
The Malta Maritime Museum hosted a number of Atlas Insurance employees that toured the museum led by its Curator Liam Gauci. The tour provided details on Malta’s prosperous maritime past, especially the rich heritage one finds in regards to sea going families. A delicious historical lunch based on food that would have been served aboard 18th century ships, was then enjoyed by all Atlas staff and their families. This lunch was sponsored by the Atlas Social Club.
“Atlas was very pleased to be able to assist the Malta Maritime Museum in this acquisition, not least because of the company’s origins in the surveying and insurance of Malta’s booming maritime trade of the early 20th century,” said Matthew von Brockdorff, Atlas’ deputy Managing Director.
The tour also focused on certain personalities, such as Juan Azzopardo who set up the Argentinean Navy, Guglielmo Lorenzi who was knighted by Catherine the Great of Russia, and Tommaso Cassia who saved the Maltese fleet at Djerba. These are only a few examples of great men of the sea who lived and worked at sea, using Malta as their spur. These men left various artefacts behind them of which some are currently found within private collections, while others are kept at the Malta Maritime Museum.
Portulan Atlases came into being around the fourteenth century, probably originating in Catalonia or Italy. At first such portulans consisted of single maps of the coastal areas. Emphasis was given to shoals and reefs, and the coastline was accurately depicted, while the interior of the country was neglected altogether. Later such maps were augmented with descriptions of good anchorages, the presence of fresh water, and prevailing winds in the area.
The National Collection, managed by Heritage Malta, is constantly being enriched via similar donations that contribute invaluable awareness on Malta’s vast cultural history.