A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

MS. Douce 390

Summary Catalogue no.: 21965

Portolan charts ('The Douce Atlas'); Venice, early 15th century


Seven charts and two miniatures, drawn and written on parchment bifolia pasted onto wooden boards.

Language(s): Italian

1. fols. 1v–2r
Maestro della Parousia

Full-sheet watercolour miniature of the Annunciation

2. fols. 2v–3r
Chart of the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov and Sea of Marmara
3. fols. 3v–4r
Eastern Mediterranean, including the Greek archipelago, Levant, and Egypt
4. fols. 4v–5r
Mid-Eastern Mediterranean, including the Peloponnese, Crete, parts of the Adriatic Sea including southern Albania and Italy, Sicily, Libya and eastern Tunisia
5. fols. 5v–6r
Adriatic and Ionian Sea, western Peloponnese, Sicily, and the Tyrrhenian Sea
6. fols. 6v–7r
Mid-Western Mediterranean, including the Ionian, Tyrrhenian, Franco-Spanish coasts, and the coasts of western Libya, Tunisia and Algeria
7. fols. 7v–8r
Western Mediterranean, including parts of Spain and the coasts of Algeria and Morocco
8. fols. 8v–9r
Atlantic Ocean, including Portugal, England, and parts of Scotland and Ireland
9. fols. 9v–10r
Maestro della Parousia

Watercolour miniature of St Mark and St Paul, standing in niches, with angels above playing stringed instruments.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment sheets pasted onto boards and into wooden covers
Extent: 10 leaves (9 sheets)
Dimensions (leaf): 292 × 145 mm.


Gothic hybrida


The collection opens and closes with full-sheet miniatures (Pächt and Alexander ii. 448, pl. XLIV). Attributed to the Maestro della Parousia

Charts with coasts shaded in green.

Each chart has a geometric border.

Rumb lines and more important locations in red.


Wooden boards, slightly thicker than those to which the vellum leaves of the manuscript are glued. 292 × 145 × 36 mm.

Each cover is delicately ornamented with inlays of white and green-stained ivory, with other inlays of pale brown, dark brown, and black woods, forming geometric patterns as in Italian tesselated pavements. A chevron border is often found on charts of the first half of the fourteenth century.

The atlas was kept within a wooden carrying case (MS. Douce 390*) covered with leather. This was formerly furnished with straps to fold the lid on and allow the case to be slung from the shoulder. The box is made of thin wood, lined inside with parchment stained pink. 299 × 183 × 52 mm.

The outside is covered in leather with 'cuir-ciselé' ornamentation, by which a sharp tool was used to emboss floral decoration and inscriptions in relief against a dotted background. The lid, similarly ornamented, bears three inscriptions in gothic lettering: ‘In dio haver ben’ (on top), ‘par bon amor’, and ‘per bone respecto’.


Origin: 15th century, beginning ; Italian, Venice

Provenance and Acquisition

Francis Douce, 1757–1834; his notes giving identifications and comparisons to other cartographic sources enclosed (MS. Douce 390**).

Bequeathed to the Bodleian with Douce's other books, manuscripts, prints, and drawings on his death in 1834.

Record Sources

Description by Andrew Dunning (Dec. 2020), with thanks to Cristina Dondi. Previously described in the Summary Catalogue (1897).


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Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (20 images from 35mm slides)
Cabinet (3D model of book box)


Last Substantive Revision

2020-12-01: Andrew Dunning New description.