Historian Searching for Maps to Support Vietnam’s Claims to the Paracel Islands

Philippe Vandermaelen, “Partie de la Cochinchine,” Atlas universel de geographie physique, politique, statistique et mineralogique, 1827. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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.

More on the Waldseemüller Globe Gores Auction

Christie’s

When the news broke that Christie’s was auctioning a previously unknown copy of Waldseemüller’s globe gores—the sixth known to still exist—I wondered where it came from and how it was found. Christie’s has now posted an article about the globe gores that answers that question.

Waldseemüller’s set of gores was widely reproduced, yet the example to be offered at Christie’s on 13 December was never cut out—which largely explains why it has survived for hundreds of years. If it had been pasted as intended, Wilson says, ‘wear and tear would surely have seen its demise in the intervening centuries.’

Instead of being cut up, this particular map was used as scrap for bookbinding. It ended up among the belongings of the late British paper restorer Arthur Drescher, who died in 1986 and whose family recently came upon the piece.

Here’s the auction listing. The auction will take place on 13 December; the gores are expected to fetch between £600,000 and £900,000.

Previously: Sixth Waldseemüller Globe Gore to Be Auctioned Next Month.

Confederate Maps at the U.S. National Archives

Map of the Battlefield of Shiloh; Tennessee; Confederate Maps, 1861-1876; War Department Collection of Confederate Records, 1825-1927, RG 109; NACP—Cartographic (RDSC).

The Unwritten Record, a blog by staff at the U.S. National Archives’s Special Media Archives Services Division, announced last month: “Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109.  All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.” [Texas Map Society]

Miniature Maps and Minchiate

The William P. Cumming Map Society’s North Carolina Map Blog has a post looking at miniature maps of North Carolina (“miniature” is defined as less than four inches in size) and a post about minchiate, a 16th-century Florentine card game; there were were educational minchiate decks with a map on each of the 97 cards. [WMS]

An Exhibitions Roundup

Pratt Manhattan Gallery. Installation view, You Are Here NYC: Art, Information, and Mapping. Photo: Jason Mandella Photography.

Hyperallergic takes a look a the Leventhal’s current exhibition, Beneath Our Feet: Mapping the World Below, which runs until 25 February 2018. Previously: 1, 2. [Dave Smith]

Exhibits from last month’s Barry Lawrence Ruderman Conference on Cartography (previously) remain on display at Stanford’s David Rumsey Map Center until 6 April 2018, as well as online. [WMS]

You Are Here NYC: Art, Information, and Mapping, an art exhibition at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery curated by Katharine Harmon and featuring maps in a similar vein to her 2016 book You Are Here: NYC (reviewed here), closed last week (my bad for not getting to it sooner), but in the interest of posterity, here’s Gothamist’s coverage.

The Library of Congress Acquires the Codex Quetzalecatzin

Codex Quetzalecatzin, 1593. Manuscript map, 90 × 73 cm. Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress has acquired the Codex Quetzalecatzin, an extremely rare 1593 Mesoamerican indigenous manuscript that depicts, using Nahuatl hieroglyphics and pre-contact illustrative conventions as well as Latin characters, the lands and genealogy of the de Leon family. John Hessler’s blog post describes the codex and helps us understand its significance.

Like many Nahuatl codices and manuscript maps of the period it depicts a local community at an important point in their history. On the one hand, the map is a traditional Aztec cartographic history with its composition and design showing Nahuatl hieroglyphics, and typical illustrations. On the other hand, it also shows churches, some Spanish place names, and other images suggesting a community adapting to Spanish rule.  Maps and manuscripts of this kind would typically chart the community’s territory using hieroglyphic toponyms, with the community’s own place-name lying at or near the center. The present codex shows the de Leon family presiding over a large region of territory that extends from slightly north of  Mexico City, to just south of Puebla. Codices such as these are critical primary source documents, and for scholars looking into history and  ethnography during the earliest periods of contact between Europe and the peoples of the Americas,  they give important clues into how these very different cultures became integrated and adapted to each others presence.

The Codex has been in private hands for more than a century, but now that the Library of Congress has it, they’ve digitized it and made it available online. [Tony Campbell/Carla Hayden]

Yorktown Campaign Map of New York City Being Auctioned

On 5 December Christie’s will auction, as part of a lot of printed books and manuscripts, a map described as “an important manuscript map of New York City prepared by cartographers attached to Rochambeau’s forces during the Yorktown Campaign.” The 63×40-cm ink-and-watercolour map dates from 1781-1782 and is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000. Christie’s item description is quite detailed.

Horror Vacui: The Fear of Blank Spaces

Olaus Magnus, Carta Marina, 1539. Detail. James Ford Bell Library.

In an article I published in 2013, I argued that one key difference between fantasy maps and the real-world medieval and early modern maps they purport to imitate is blank spaces: fantasy maps are full of blank spaces (that which is not in the story is not on the map), whereas real-world maps were covered in cartouches, sea monsters, inset illustrations and other embellishments. One of my sources for that article was a book by Chet Van Duzer: Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps (reviewed here).

Recently Van Duzer has been giving talks on the very subject of the lack of empty spaces on old maps. Which, as you can imagine, is very relevant to my interests. In October he spoke on the subject at the Barry Lawrence Ruderman Conference on Cartography, and earlier this month he gave a similar talk at the New York Map Society. Here’s the abstract from the Ruderman Conference:

Historians of cartography occasionally refer to cartographers’ horror vacui, that is, their fear or hesitancy to leave spaces blank on maps that might be filled with decorations. Some scholars have denied that this impulse was a factor in the design of maps, but the question has never been examined carefully. In this talk I will undertake such an examination, showing that horror vacui was indeed an important factor in the design of maps, at least for some cartographers, from the sixteenth to the early eighteenth century. Some of the factors that motivated cartographers’ concern about empty spaces will also be examined, as will maps by cartographers who evidently did not experience this fear. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries maps began to be thought of as more purely scientific instruments, cartographic decoration declined generally, and cartographers managed to restrain their concern about spaces lacking decoration in the interest of presenting their work as modern and professional.​

But since I couldn’t make it to those events, all I had was that tantalizing abstract. (Publish something!) Fortunately, we now have a little more: Greg Miller has written a piece about Van Duzer’s research over on the National Geographic All Over the Map blog.

Cartografías de lo desconocido

Cartografías de lo desconocido (Cartographies of the Unknown; Google Translate) an exhibition of some two hundred maps and related pieces at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid.

Cartografías de lo desconocido persigue dos objetivos. Primero, hacer que el espectador se fije más en el mapa y menos en el territorio, pues sucede a menudo que el mapa—como cualquier buen truco de magia—suele esfumarse, tiende a borrar las convenciones visuales y espaciales sobre las que se apoya para susurrarle al espectador y mostrarle con aparente trivialidad: “Usted está aquí”, “así es la Tierra”, “este es su país”.

Sin embargo, nada es lo que parece. Por eso, en segundo lugar, queremos ofrecerle al visitante un recorrido por algunos de los recursos y los temas más frecuentes en esta historia del conocimiento y el ilusionismo, cómo han gestionado los mapas la información improbable, las novedades, los hechos inciertos, las regiones ignotas, los fenómenos invisibles.

The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018. More at El País (Google Translate). [GEHC]

Sixth Waldseemüller Globe Gore to Be Auctioned Next Month

Martin Waldseemüller (Matthias Ringmann). Globe segments, ca. 1507. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

AP reports that Christie’s will be auctioning “a previously unknown copy” of Martin Waldseemüller’s globe gores on 13 December. This would be the sixth known remaining copy of Waldseemüller’s gores, which were designed to form a small globe a few inches across when pasted onto a sphere. They’re a smaller, less-detailed version of Waldseemüller’s famous 1507 world map, and yes, the globe gores have “America” labelled as well.

No word yet on the provenance of this newly discovered sixth gore; the histories of the previous five are well known. The gores are expected to fetch between £600,000 and £900,000. [Tony Campbell]

Previously: Waldseemüller Globe Gore FoundMore About Waldseemüller.

Meridian: Old Maps, Virtual Globes

Meridian, an “experiment” from the DX Lab at the State Library of New South Wales, overlays old maps onto virtual, 3D interactive globes. Two globes have been created to date—one based on the 1706 Miranda world map (previously), the other on a set of Coronelli globe gores from 1693—with more in the works. Details here. [Cartophilia]

Blaue’s ‘Archipelagus Orientalis’ Restored

Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia. Post-restoration.

The National Library of Australia’s fragile copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (1663) has now been restored. (I told you about the fundraising campaign for its conservation, and its trip to the University of Melbourne to begin conservation work, back in May 2016.)

It took over one thousand hours for the 11 person team at the Grimwade Centre to painstakingly restore the 354-year-old map.

“Normally we’d only dedicate one or two people to a conservation project, but this was a very special object, and it was significantly more difficult to conserve than most of our projects.

“The surface was very fragile and there were a lot of complications along the way.

“We thought we were just removing varnish, but we discovered a dirty layer underneath which meant we had four passes at each square on the gridded map—of which there were around 300.”

There’s a video of the conservation process:

And if you need a reminder of what the map looked like before restoration:

Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia. Pre-restoration.

[Tony Campbell/WMS]

Canada Before Confederation

Written by Chet Van Duzer and Lauren Beck, Canada Before Confederation: Maps at the Exhibition (Vernon Press, July 2017) explores 18 maps from the 16th through the 18th century. The book accompanies an exhibition of (presumably the same) maps and a conference, Canada Before Confederation: Early Exploration and Mapping, which takes place next month, 13-14 November, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia (preliminary conference program). The back cover copy mentions that the map exhibition has travelled or is travelling to several other locations, but I haven’t been able to find any online; if anyone knows where else it’s been, let me know and I’ll update this post. [WMS]

Christopher Saxton Remembered in Leeds

Christopher Saxton, Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales, 1579. British Library.

The Yorkshire Society has erected a plaque in Tingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, to commemorate the 16th-century cartographer Christopher Saxton, the Yorkshire Evening Post reports. Saxton produced the first county maps of England and Wales; they were collected in his 1579 Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales. A major name in the history of British cartography (see this page about Saxton from the University of Glasgow Library), Saxton was born in West Yorkshire—thus the local interest. [WMS]