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For centuries, the cartography of Cantabria has been represented on occasions together with other territories, sometimes only in partial detail and, since the end of the 18th century as an independent entity. Since the chart published by Iaillot (Paris, 1693) and the map of G. Cantelli and D. de Rossi (Rome, 1696) the term province or country of the four towns begins to be reflected in some documents, making reference to the small towns of Castro, Laredo, Santander and San Vicente, the “Four Towns of the Sea Coast”. During greater part of 18th century this denomination is used by publishers and cartographers like Nolin, De Fer, Vaugondy, Bellin, Bonne, Philippe -all of them established in Paris- and also in charts of Mortier and Van Keulen from Amsterdam. Tomás López, in his map published in Madrid in 1757, talks about “las cuatro villas que llaman de las montañas de Burgos que tiene su corregimiento a parte, la primera es Laredo, Santander la segunda, Castro Urdiales y San Vicente son las otras dos”.
Later, the editor Von Reilly from Viena also publishes two maps that include the terms “Distrikt la Costa de las Montanas de Burgos” and “Distrikt las Montanas de Burgos”, which delimit the north and south of Cantabria. Also Zatta (Venice, 1776) talks about the mountains of Burgos. The term “Montagna” also appears on the maps by Passini Carli from Siena and Borghi from Florencia and “Montana” is used in the cartography by Gustav Klint (Stockholm, 1798) and Mentelle & Chanlaire (Paris, 1806).
The maps collection commences with the Flemish cartography of the 16th and 17th centuries, which is an ample section. It starts with a map by Metellus (Colonia, 1595) and continues with the great editors from the 17th century: Mercator-Hondius, Merula-Bertius, Janssonius, De Witt, Danckerts, Visser, the Italians Cantelli and De Rossi and the Frenchmen Briet and Sanson.

Moreover, the collection contains the maps from the beginning of the 18th century printed in Paris by Nicolás de Fer and Jean Baptiste Nolin. The names of highly reputed figures like Van der Aa, Ottens, Vaugondy, López, Philippe, Zatta, Bonne, Von Reilly, Carli or Cassini, amongst others, appear on them. As for the 19th century, we can highlight the works by Borghi, Dauty-Malo, Vandermaelen or Lavigne as well as those by some Spanish editors like Miñano, Gaspar y Roig, Coello, Rubio, Boronat or Valverde.

The nautical charts sometimes reflect a part of the North Atlantic, which covers the space between the entry to the English Channel, near the French Finisterre and Gibraltar.

In the first printed nautical atlas, Sphiegel der Zeevaert (Leiden, 1583) by Lucas Jansz Waghenaer, the Cantabrian coast is represented in two of the twenty three maps that are part of it. In the first of them, this coast starts in Llanes and ends in Laredo; in the second one, it starts in Castro and ends in Arcachón. Since the publication of these first documents, the nautical cartography put out during

the 17th century improves enormously, and that is basically thanks to the work done by Dutchmen like the above mentioned Waghenaer or Blaeu, Janssonium, Doncker, Goos, Theunisz, Colom, Van Keulen, De Witt and Mortier -all of them based in Amsterdam- and by others like Dudley -in Florence, Seller -in London- or Iaillot -in Paris.

In the 18th and 19th centuries and following a certain chronological order, we can highlight Renard, Bellin, Mount & Page, Tofiño, Depot General de la Marine in Paris, Herault-Bouclet, Gustav Klint, Faden, the Hydrographical Office in London, Doral, the Hydrographical Office in Madrid, Robiquet or Potter, amongst others.

This compilation of nautical charts is complemented with a series of rutters from the end of the 17th century to 1900. These rutters (derrotero in Spanish; routier in French; roteiro, in Portuguese) were written for navigators and were the main guide for pilots who had to steer ships. Sailors from northern Europe depended on them until the 15th century. From the 16th century on, they extended their information in a graphic and systematic way, including views of the coast, just as it was seen from the sea. Sometimes, they also included small maps of the area covered by them to facilitate navigation.

Le petit flambeau de la mer, by René Bougard (Le Havre, 1694) is a navigation book which contains sixty seven charts. It was widely used in the Navigation Schools from 1684 to 1817. This work gets its name from the title of the nautical atlas published by Blaeu and Ianssonius. Arte de navegar … e Roteiro (Lisboa, 1712), a later work by Manoel Pimentel, is divided into two parts. While the first one is more theoretical, the second one is larger and devoted to a series of sea-routes of different parts of the world. In this collection we can also find Derrotero de las costas de España en el Océano Atlántico y de las islas Azores o Terceras, para inteligencia y uso de las cartas esféricas (Madrid, 1789), by Vicente Tofiño (cited above).

In the 19th century, the number of publications of this kind of works increases rapidly: Sailing directions for the bay of Biscay including the coasts of France & Spain from Ushant to Cape Finisterre (Londres, 1847), by the famous British hydrographer J. W. Norie or Derrotero de la costa septentrional de España desde el puerto de La Coruña hasta el río Bidasoa, published by the Madrid Hydrographic Section of the Naval Ministry Printing Works.