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Archive for the ‘Illustrated Maps in History’ Category

Maps In History: The Psalter Map

 :: Posted by admin on 10-24-2012

Modern interactive maps can be pretty boring – lines of blue and yellow, with street names, road names, and barely decipherable icons representing “Points of Interest” and tourist spots. However, maps haven’t always been that way. Throughout history, many cartographers have managed to turn their maps into works of art; sometimes of more artistic value than geographical value.
One such example is the Psalter Map – one of the few surviving examples of what is known as a medieval Mappa Mundi. This map is an illustrated map of the known world. It’s very small – barely 10cm across, and it was drawn on animal skin. The map, and the book that it was bound into, is now preserved in the British Library, and has managed to survive for many centuries whilst remaining in incredibly good condition.
The map shows the world as a round disc, with just three land masses on it. Those land masses are Asia, Europe, and “East”. Unlike the modern convention of placing Northern territories at the top of the map, the mapper placed “East” at the top, in keeping with the religious convention of the time.
Geography is a factor in this map, however the dominating factors are biblical belief, and myths and legends. Prominent features of the map include the Red Sea and Jerusalem. Christ stands above the disc, holding an orb in his hand. Some other features of this map are highlighted using gold-leaf paint.
It is not known who created this map. Some historians believe that the map is based on another map which was owned by Henry III, and was hung in his bedroom in Westminster Palace. Henry III’s map predates this one by 50 years, and it’s hard to confirm if someone saw that map and used it as inspiration to create another one.

Illustrated Maps In History – Desceliers’ Map

 :: Posted by admin on 09-24-2012

Continuing our series about Illustrated Maps in History, let’s take a look at Desceliers’ World Map. This map dates back to the mid 16th century. It was drawn in a style similar to the sea charts of the time, with compass directions and navigational lines being prominent features, but the map itself is not designed to be used as a sea map.
Desceliers’ World Map was created as a display piece for King Henri II of France. It was intended to be shown off on a table in his library, or stored in his curiosities cabinet. The navigational value of the map may be questionable, but as a piece of art it is definitely fit for a king. The map was created in 1550, and King Henri died just nine years later. It’s fortunate that his heirs chose to preserve this map, as it preserves both the knowledge, the artistic style, and the attitudes of the era in which it was created with amazing detail.
This illustrated map of the world was drawn by hand by Pierre Desceliers of the Dieppe School of Cartography. It is a rather large piece, and drawing it with the tools available at the time would have been a challenging undertaking.
The coastal lines on this map are surprisingly accurate for the time period in which it was created, and are a testament to Decelier’s knowledge of navigation and geography. Once you move in-land, the geography is slightly less sound, however. The map paints a picture of the world based partly on observation, and partly on classical sources.
It’s this blend of knowledge and classical geography that makes this map so beautiful. It’s a true insight into a different time period and it stands alone as a Renaissance artwork.

Illustrated Maps in History – Constantinople

 :: Posted by admin on 08-05-2012

In 1572, a group of cartographers unveiled the first volume in their collection of settlement plans. The cartographers; Georg Braun, Franz Hogenberg and Joris Hoefnagel put together six atlas volumes over the course of 46 years. These illustrated maps changed the way that we viewed the world.
In the volume called “Cities of The World” was a map of Constantinople. This illustrated map melds together geography and illustrations so that a casual viewer can more clearly understand what they are looking at.
Constantinople, as it is shown in this map, is a city that has just been reinvented by the Ottoman Empire. The evolution is clear in the picture, which shows the city and immediate surrounding area in its full glory.
The map features precise, clean lines, which were made possible by the copperplate printing process which had just recently become available. Colours were applied to the map after the printing process was done. This meant that cartography was still a labour intensive process, but it was quicker and easier than it had been in previous decades, and as such maps were far more affordable and were accessible to a much wider range of people.
This map, and the others in the “Cities of The World” volume took three people to produce – a cartographer, an artist, and an engraver. As far as historians are aware, none of those people actually been to Constantinople. All of the details in this particular illustration can be found in older maps, or old written accounts of visits to the city.
The idea of cartographers basing their maps on hearsay and old illustrations might seem alien to people today, but in the 16th century only a select few got to actually travel the world, so careful and meticulous research was the only option that most cartographers had.