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]

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]

A Giant Map of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

McMaster University’s Daily News has a piece on a large-scale map of Vimy Ridge—a World War I battle fought by Canadian troops that has since entered the national folklore—that reproduced from McMaster’s extensive collection of trench maps. The map, created by Canadian Geographic and 17 × 13 feet in size, is currently on display in the foyer of the university’s Mills Library, but it’s been on tour for at least the past year: the Vimy Ridge map is one of several giant floor maps produced by Canadian Geographic’s education division; each can be booked for a three-week loan period. [WMS]

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]

Australian Braille Globe Being Digitized

A rare Braille globe held by the Queensland State Library is being digitized so as to create a 3D-printed replica. The globe, invented by Richard Frank Tunley in the 1950s, is one of the last copies still in existence and is in poor physical shape—problematic for something designed to be touched. That’s where the replica comes in. It’s funded by the library foundation’s crowdfunding initiative, which will also help fund the original globe’s restoration. ABC NewsSydney Morning Herald. Media release. [ANZMapS]

Repairing and Cleaning Old New York Maps

In yesterday’s New York Times, a piece on efforts by the New York City Municipal Archives to preserve the city’s earliest maps and architectural drawings.

Inside the lab, conservators talk about the care of antique maps like a doctor discusses a patient’s condition and treatment in an intensive care unit.

Conservators will lay a given map on a table for an exam and diagnose the issue: Is it brittle or burned? Damaged by water or tape? Crumbly, delaminated or peeling? Then they record the treatment in a chart of sorts so that years later, the next caretaker will know what remedy was given.

The repair process of a map—like that for a more than 200-year-old, torn illustration of Williamsburg, Brooklyn—typically takes several hours, though sometimes the conservators will spend days working on just one.

[WMS]

The Lewis Ansbacher Map Collection

Here’s a recent piece in the Florida Times-Union introducing readers to the Lewis Ansbacher Map Collection at the Jacksonville Public Library. Ansbacher died in 2004 during negotations to donate his private collection of some 244 maps, mostly of Florida, to the library, which housed them in a dedicated space in its new main library, which opened the following year. Here’s a Times-Union piece about the collection from 2005. [Tony Campbell]

Exhibitions in the Northeast

A new exhibition at Harvard University’s Pusey Library, Manuscript Maps: Hand-Drawn Treasures of the Harvard Map Collection, “highlights the process of mapmaking by looking at maps drawn by hand.” Opened yesterday; runs until September 27.

Meanwhile, in Schenectady, New York, there’s another exhibition at Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center: Parts But Little Known: Maps of the Adirondacks from 1556 runs until September 29.

Mapping in the Enlightenment

Mapping in the Enlightenment: Science, Innovation, and the Public Sphere, an exhibition at the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library, “uses examples from the Clements Library collection to tell the story of creating, distributing, and using maps during the long 18th century. Enlightenment thinking stimulated the effort to make more accurate maps, encouraged the growth of map collecting and map use by men and women in all social classes, and expanded the role of maps in administration and decision-making throughout Europe and her overseas colonies.” Fridays from 10 to 4 through October. [History of Cartography Project]

Picturing Places and the Klencke Atlas

From the Klencke Atlas, c. 1660. British Library.

This week the British Library launched an online collection of digitized “topographical materials” (i.e., views of and writings about places) called Picturing Places. More than 500 items—paintings, prints, drawings, texts and yes, maps—so far, sorted by theme and with dozens of accompanying articles.

Picturing Places demonstrates that topography involves far more than straightforward ‘pictorial evidence’ of what a place looked like in the past. We showcase some of the Library’s most treasured topographical materials, including Tudor views collected by Robert Cotton and maps and views owned by George III. But much of this material remains uncharted, and is being brought to wider attention for the first time. The first phase of Picturing Places features over 500 collection items, most never published before, and over 100 articles providing fresh perspectives and new ideas.

One of these digitized items is one of the Library’s crown jewels: the gigantic Klencke Atlas presented to Charles II in 1660, all of the pages of which can now be viewed online. How do you digitize an atlas that is 1.76 by 2.31 metres wide when open? Not with a flatbed scanner, you don’t. Here’s how:

Previously: British Library Digitizing George III’s Map Collection.

Burmese Maps at Cambridge

Map of the Maingnyaung region, located between the Chindwin and Mu Rivers in Upper Burma, in the present-day Sagaing Region, ca. 1860. Textile map, 209 × 204 cm. Cambridge University Library Special Collections. Creative Commons licence.

Natasha Pairaudeau: “Imagine maps as big as bedsheets, and then imagine the sheets big enough for beds made wide enough to sleep extended families. Only such a double stretch of the imagination can provide the scale of the three Burmese maps in the University Library’s collection, which have recently been made available online in digital format.” [Cartophilia]