A Florida businessman’s private map collection is the subject of an exhibition at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. 100 Maps That Changed the World: Discovery of the Americas and the Establishment of the United States, featuring maps from the 15th through the 18th centuries owned by the Asbury family, runs until 31 January at the Alvin Sherman Library. The Sun-Sentinel has a profile of Neal Asbury, whose map collecting jones hit in his 20s. [WMS]
Today is the 90th birthday of Seymour Schwartz, surgeon, map collector and author of books of map history (The Mismapping of America and Putting “America” on the Map, among others). It’s a milestone noted by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which gives considerable attention to his long medical career—a side of him that those of us into maps may know less about. [WMS]
Previously: Seymour Schwartz’s Hidden Passion.
Two items on books about nonexistent places on maps and other map errors, each of which we’ve heard of before:
- The Santa Fe New Mexican has a piece on The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching, which came out in the U.K. in late 2016 (previously); that edition is available via Amazon on the U.S. and Canada, but a separate U.S. edition is coming in April from Chronicle. [WMS]
- Meanwhile, at National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog, Greg Miller takes a look at The Un-Discovered Islands, Malachy Tallack’s book about phantom islands: places once thought real, but later proven nonexistent. Like The Phantom Atlas, it first saw publication in 2016; its U.S. edition came out last November (previously). Miller’s piece includes examples of such nonexistent places on maps from the Osher Map Library.
In the real world, Urbano Monte’s 1587 map of the world exists as a series of 60 manuscript sheets designed to be assembled into a large world map—one that would be, at 10 feet square, the largest early world map known to exist.1 As the David Rumsey Map Collection explains, “the whole map was to be stuck on a wooden panel 5 and a half brachia square (about ten feet) so that it could be revolved around a central pivot or pin through the north pole.”
But with only two copies known to exist, that ain’t happening. So what the Rumsey Collection has done, with the copy they recently acquired via Barry Ruderman, is to do it virtually, creating a digital edition of the map as a single image (see above). The digital Monte map was apparently revealed at the Ruderman Conference last October (previously).
The Rumsey Collection’s blog post has lots of images of the individual sheets, and explains how digitizing the map explains Monte’s choice of projection:
Monte wanted to show the entire earth as close as possible to a three-dimensional sphere using a two-dimensional surface. His projection does just that, notwithstanding the distortions around the south pole. Those same distortions exist in the Mercator’s world map, and by their outsized prominence on Monte’s map they gave him a vast area to indulge in all the speculations about Antarctica that proliferated in geographical descriptions in the 16th century. While Mercator’s projection became standard in years to come due to its ability to accurately measure distance and bearing, Monte’s polar projection gave a better view of the relationships of the continents and oceans.
The Mercator version of Monte’s map is here. A Google Earth KMZ file of the map as a digital globe is here. For background on Monte’s map, see the accompanying essay by Katherine Parker, “A Mind at Work” (PDF). For more coverage, see All Over the Map’s blog post.
It seems like everyone who evaluated the Waldseemüller globe gores is going to get a profile. The recently discovered gores were going to be auctioned by Christie’s last month until experts found evidence that they were carefully faked copies. That was, as I said at the time, a bombshell. Since then we’ve seen profiles of the experts at the James Bell Ford Library and Michal and Lindsay Peichl; now add to the list Alex Clausen, the gallery director of Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps in La Jolla, California, whose work on the globe gores got profiled this week in the La Jolla Light. The article is a bit breathless in tone, but goes into much more detail than some of the others and is worth your time. Some key points:
- Clausen guesses that the forgery was done in the 1940s or 1950s (“The prime forgery suspect is Carl Schweidler, whom Clausen calls ‘probably the best paper restorer of the 20th century.’”);
- The reason why Christie’s was led astray was that one of the reference gores—the Bavarian State Library’s—was also a fake (that latter fact has already come out, but this article doesn’t gloss over its importance); and
- Barry Ruderman, Clausen’s boss, guesses that this is only the tip of the forgery iceberg.
Last November the Library of Congress’s map blog, Worlds Revealed, published Cynthia Smith’s interesting piece on Michael Servetus, a Renaissance theologian who, in 1553, Calvin had burned at the stake, along with his books, for heresy. One of those books was a 1535 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, and while that book was not one that got him into trouble in the first place, it was used against him at his trial.
A map of the Holy Land is shown on Plate 41, seen below, while the text on the verso, below the map, describes it as an “inhospitable and barren land,” which was considered by the religious authorities to be blasphemous. Servetus was arrested and underwent trial in Geneva for his other religious writings but this text was used as evidence at his trial. Calvin asserted that the text had contradicted the description of the Holy Land in the Book of Exodus as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” […] Ironically, the controversial passage was not original to Servetus but was simply copied by him from previous editions of Ptolemy’s Geography which were published in 1522 and 1525 by another physician named Laurent Fries.
Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake
A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake by Christian J. Koot, out last month from NYU Press, is an exploration of an iconic map—Virginia and Maryland as it is planted and inhabited this present year 1670 (see above)—and the mapmaker behind it, Augustine Herrman. “[T]he map pictures the Mid-Atlantic in breathtaking detail, capturing its waterways, coastlines, and communities. Herrman spent three decades travelling between Dutch New Amsterdam and the English Chesapeake before eventually settling in Maryland and making this map. Although the map has been reproduced widely, the history of how it became one of the most famous images of the Chesapeake has never been told.”
Monsters on the Map
Surekha Davies’s Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge University Press) came out in June 2016 (see previous entry). In this podcast episode, Davies speaks with host Michael Robinson about the nature of monsters on old maps, and what they meant to contemporary map readers. Runs 28 minutes and is fascinating listening.
New Books in January 2018
Out this month:
- Jeremy Black’s Geographies of an Imperial Power: The British World, 1688-1815 (Indiana University Press), an exploration of “the interconnected roles of power and geography in the creation of a global empire.”
- Caren Kaplan’s Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above (Duke University Press), a book about the military uses of aerial imagery that explores “how aerial views operate as a form of world-making tied to the times and places of war.”
- The Clyde: Mapping the River by John Moore (Birlinn), a book of maps of “arguably the most evocative of Scottish rivers,” came out in the U.K. last October but is available in North America as of this month.
Map Books of 2018
Finally, the Map Books of 2018 page is now live. This is the page I list all the books scheduled to come out this year. It’s constantly in flux as publication dates change and new books are brought to my attention. If there’s a book coming out in 2018 that should be on this page, let me know.
Still more coverage of the cancelled auction of the Waldseemüller globe gores that were later identified as fakes, this time from the Houston Chronicle, which pursues the local-interest angle by talking to Michal and and Lindsay Peichl, restorers from Clear Lake, Texas (their firm is Paper Restoration Studio) who were brought in to examine the gores along with other experts. Michal says it didn’t take him long to figure it out:
“My first reaction when I saw the picture was, ‘Oh my God, this is a fake,'” said Michal. “You could tell this was a sheet of paper pulled from a book binding board.
“It was printed on a piece of paper that used to be glued on the back of book and that was a red flag to me because as a forger, if you want to make a fake, that’s where you would go to get a clean sheet of paper.”
Previously: How the James Ford Bell Library Fingered the Fake Waldseemüller Globe Gores; Waldseemüller Auction Cancelled After Experts Suspect Fakery; More on the Waldseemüller Globe Gores Auction; Sixth Waldseemüller Globe Gore to Be Auctioned Next Month.
Atlas Obscura has the odd and fascinating story of how a Venetian named Nicolò Zeno created an island in the middle of the North Atlantic called Frisland, in an apparent attempt to claim that Venetian explorers had discovered the New World. After it appeared on Zeno’s 1558 map, it persisted on other maps for a century afterward (it was even claimed for England in 1580), and the existence of Frisland itself was not fully debunked for a long time after that. “The answer to Zeno’s enduring success lies not with his works, but with his audience. For centuries, people believed Zeno because they wanted to believe him. That was Zeno’s true stroke of genius. He created a story too tantalizing for people to ignore.”
The Routledge Handbook
Out last month, the expensive, 600-page Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography (Routledge). Edited by Alexander J. Kent (who co-wrote The Red Atlas) and Peter Vujakovic, the book “draws on the wealth of new scholarship and practice in this emerging field, from the latest conceptual developments in mapping and advances in map-making technology to reflections on the role of maps in society. It brings together 43 engaging chapters on a diverse range of topics, including the history of cartography, map use and user issues, cartographic design, remote sensing, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and map art.” [The History of Cartography Project]
New Academic Books
New academic books on maps and cartography published over the past couple of months include:
- The Social Life of Maps in America, 1750-1860 (University of North Carolina Press), the latest work by the historian of early American map literacy Martin Brückner;
- Paul Robert Magocsi’s Carpathian Rus’: A Historical Atlas (University of Toronto Press), a cartographic look at a strategic borderland in central Europe;
- Jasper Van Putten’s Networked Nation: Mapping German Cities in Sebastian Munster’s ‘Cosmographia’ (Brill), a study of city views in Renaissance Europe; and
- Claire Reddleman’s Cartographic Abstraction in Contemporary Art: Seeing with Maps (Routledge), an extremely theoretical study of modern map art.
More on Books We’ve Heard of Before
Related: Map Books of 2017.
More on the cancelled auction of the Waldseemüller globe gores from Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station KARE, which looks at the work by the James Ford Bell Library that raised questions about the authenticity of the gores that Christie’s was set to auction last week. And a seriously buried lede: another set of Waldseemüller globe gores may not be authentic either: “During this process, experts also discovered that a copy at the Bavarian State Library in Germany may not be authentic, as well. Ragnow said that copy matches closely with the 2017 Christie’s one.” [WMS]
This is a bombshell. Christie’s has cancelled its upcoming auction of a (supposedly) newly discovered copy of Waldseemüller’s globe gores. Experts found evidence suggesting that the gores were a carefully faked copy of the gores found in the James Ford Bell Library. In today’s New York Times, Michael Blanding (who wrote a book on the Forbes Smiley affair) has the scoop on how the red flags were raised. The auction was supposed to take place on Wednesday; the gores were expected to fetch between £600,000 and £900,000.
A lecture by independent historian John Cloud about indigenous contributions to early American mapmaking and surveys of the newly acquired territory of Alaska is now online. The lecture, titled “The Treaty of Cession, as Seen through the Lenses of Art, Cartography, and Photography,” is 80 minutes long and full of interesting stuff about the early history of Alaska. Cloud gave the talk on 15 November at the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau, as part of the institute’s Native American Heritage Month. Local public radio station KTOO had a short article on the talk last month. [Tony Campbell]
“A huge colored map of the Silk Road from a royal court of the mid-Ming Dynasty was officially welcomed home at the Forbidden City in Beijing on Thursday,” China Daily reports. “The 30-meter-long by 59-centimeter-wide scroll, named the Landscape Map of the Silk Road, is painted on silk. It depicts trade routes starting at Jiayuguan—at the western end of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)—through Central and West Asia to the Middle East.” The map had been purchased by a Japanese collector in the 1930s; it passed through several Chinese collectors’ hands in the 2000s until Hong Kong real estate magnate Hui Wing Mau paid $20 million for it earlier this year before donating it to the Palace Museum. [Tony Campbell]
Using old maps as “proof” of one side’s claim over disputed territory, or a disputed place name, is something we’ve seen many times before. It’s happening with the Paracel Islands as well. They’re claimed (and occupied) by China as part of their claim on the South China Sea (the Nine-Dash Line); Vietnam considers the islands as part of Đà Nẵng province. While the central Vietnamese government has been somewhat careful regarding its boundary dispute with China, the same cannot be said for Đà Nẵng’s government, which has asked a local historian, Tran Duc Anh Son, to collect old maps and documents supporting Vietnam’s claims to the islands (which it calls the Hoàng Sa Archipelago). The New York Times has the story. [WMS]
Previously: Vietnam Objects to Map World’s Boundaries.