Southeast Asia Historical Maps

Mercator, Insulæ Indiæ orientalis præcipuæ, 1606
Mercator, Insulæ Indiæ orientalis præcipuæ, 1606.

The Digital Historical Maps of Singapore and Southeast Asia project, hosted by (the soon-to-be-defunct) Yale-NUS College in Singapore, curates a collection of pre-1900 maps of southeast Asia. The maps are drawn from the Bodleian, Beinecke and Leiden libraries, as well as Singapore’s National Library Board. [Maps Mania]

The Idea of North

Thony Christie explores the question of why north is at the top of modern maps by looking in detail at medieval and early modern maps, which had no consensus. “I think that the re-emergence of the Ptolemaic world map at the beginning of the fifteenth century and the development of modern cartography that it triggered which eventually led to the dominance of north orientation in mapmaking, perhaps combined with the increased use of the magnetic compass.”

The Gough Map and the Lost Islands of Cardigan Bay

Gough MapA paper in Atlantic Geoscience is basically arguing that the Gough Map offers evidence that the Welsh legend of the sunken kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod —a sort of Welsh Atlantis—is real. Actually, no. Not quite. That’s clickbait—and the headline for the BBC News story about the study.

In their paper, the complete text of which is available online, physical geographer Simon Haslett and professor of Celtic David Willis are trying to reconstruct the post-glacial evolution of Wales’s Cardigan Bay using historical and folklore sources as well as bathymetric data and geological evidence. (It’s pretty obvious which author contributed what.) The Gough Map shows two islands that don’t correlate to any real island in Cardigan Bay; the study suggests that the islands may have in fact existed and have since been lost to flooding, erosion and other post-glacial changes to the shorelines. There are several submarine highs in the bay that may match up with the lost islands. The paper hypothesizes that the Cantre’r Gwaelod legend is a folk memory from when the coast was much different: that there were islands in Cardigan Bay, that they disappeared during the human era, and this legend is one of their traces.

In other words, a bit different from taking an old map at entirely too much face value (which, to be sure, has been enough of a thing that it was first to mind when I saw the story). They’re using the map and the legend to try and figure out the shoreline’s history—not using the map to prove the legend.

The World in Maps: New Exhibition at Yale’s Beinecke Library

An exhibition at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library opens this Friday: The World in Maps, 1400-1600.

This exhibition presents many of the most historically significant manuscript maps from the late medieval and early modern period from the Beinecke Library’s vast collection of maps. It is focused on portolan charts—large, colorful charts that showed the shoreline of the Mediterranean, and were used by sailors to navigate from port to port. These maps were crucial to the expansion of European trade in the fiftieth and sixteenth century. Yale University Library has one of the most significant map collections of this period and owns some unique items not found in any other collection. […]

This exhibition presents maps from several different historical groups and demonstrates how maps functioned to place people within a larger world context. While primarily focusing on European maps, it also includes Middle Eastern and Asian world maps to illustrate common elements and also highlight significant differences. In addition, the exhibition presents some map forgeries and how they were determined to be fakes using scientific and historic analysis.

On that last point, yes, the Vinland Map will be a highlight of the exhibition, as will the Aguiar and Beccari portolan charts, the Martellus world map, and the Abenzara map.

The exhibition runs until 8 January 2023. Lectures will be taking place in the fall.

Allegorical, Dissected and Spiritual

Writing in Commonplace, Janet Moore Lindman looks at the use of spiritual maps in early America, focusing in particular on a curious 1794 combination of dissected map (a jigsaw-like map puzzle) and allegorical map (where  virtues or vices or other abstract ideals are depicted as countries on a map) produced for the education of Quaker children.

The production of Dillwyn’s allegorical map was unusual for Friends who disdained the visual arts as worldly and pernicious. Quaker abhorrence of art makes this image singular at the same time it demonstrates their adaptability to a new mode of educational instruction. Yet Quaker plainness was retained. Dillwyn’s map made use of little color, had few illustrations, contained no human figures, and relied heavily on the written word to convey meaning.

[WMS]

Pictorial St. Louis

Pictorial St. Louis (Plate 2)
Richard J. Compton and Camille N. Dry, Pictorial St. Louis (1876), plate 2. Library of Congress.

On the Library of Congress’s map blog, World’s Revealed, Julie Stoner takes a look at a rather unusual example of a bird’s-eye (or panoramic) city map. “The Geography and Map Division has over 1,700 of these beautiful panoramic maps in the collection, but one item stands out above all the others as one of the crowning achievements of the art, Camille N. Dry’s 1875 atlas, Pictorial St. Louis; The Great Metropolis of the Mississippi Valley. A visually stunning atlas, instead of only one sheet, it was produced on 110 plates, which if trimmed and assembled creates a panorama of the city measuring about 9 by 24 feet.”

The Gough Map and Its Ghostly Predecessor

The Gough Map
The Gough Map. Wikimedia Commons

An update on the Gough Map Project from Bill Shannon. “The Gough Map Project has reached that ‘interesting’ stage where we are moving from either sitting on the fence and making no decisions, or making lots, but then rejecting them all. It is now time to reach some firm conclusions, and start writing.”

Among other things, the Gough Map appears to be a copy of, and updated from, an earlier (“ghost”) map:

And so, we now have still more questions as we turn over the possible scenarios. If the copying was done in the early years of Henry IV, when was the Predecessor made? And where? And why? And why was our copy madeand where? And, what about that shipwreck? And, especially, what about those red lines previously interpreted as “roads”: it seems quite clear that these were not on the Predecessor, which means it never was a road map. Indeed, as we have progressed, we have realised those red lines are, at best, routes. […] But one thing we feel sure of: Mr Gough’s map was never a high-quality, show-piece display object; it was a back-room, practical, work-a-day thing.

Previously: Understanding the Gough Map.

Het Grote Kaartenboek (The Great Book of Maps)

Out today from WBooks: Het Grote Kaartenboek: Vijf eeuwen cartografie [The Great Book of Maps: Five Centuries of Cartography] a book collecting 500 years of maps from the National Archives of the Netherlands. Edited by Ron Guleij, it also features eight essays by guest authors. (In Dutch, naturally.) We’ve seen other map books that focus on the holdings of a specific library or archive: I’m thinking specifically of Debbie Hall’s Treasures from the Map Room (2016), which presented maps from the Bodleian Library, and Tom Harper’s Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library (2018). This one seems to be taking a look behind the curtain, with material on collection management (assuming Google Translate is not deceiving me).

Previously: The History of the Netherlands in 100 Old Maps.

The Fitz Globe

Fitz Globe (Library of Congress)Last month on the Library of Congress’s map blog, Worlds Revealed, Julie Stoner shared the story of an educational globe with a unique mount invented by author and teacher Ellen Eliza Fitz. “While working as a governess, Fitz imagined a new globe mounting technique, as seen in the globe above, that would facilitate students’ understanding of the Earth’s daily rotation and annual revolution. In 1875, she was granted a patent for her invention. A copy of the patent with a sketch of the design, which can be seen below, is held in the Ellen Eliza Fitz papers at the Watertown Free Public Library in Massachusetts.” Read the rest at Worlds Revealed.

Crossings: An Exhibition at the Newberry Library

Crossings: Mapping American Journeys, is an exhibition at Chicago’s Newberry Library that explores cross-country journeys of various kinds.

Maps, guidebooks, travelogues, postcards, and more from the Newberry’s collection recreate travelers’ experiences along the northern and southern borders of the US, across the continent’s interior, and up and down the Mississippi River.

These cross-country paths have been in use for centuries whether by water, railroad, car, or airplane. And they’ve remained remarkably consistent despite changes in transportation, commerce, and the people who’ve used them.

But not everyone has experienced travel and mobility equally. The same paths meant “discovery” to the European explorer, freedom to the enslaved, and loss and removal for Indigenous nations.

Crossings shows how centuries of movement—from the Lewis and Clark expedition to the American road trip—have forged deep relationships between people and places that survive to this day.

Crossings opened on February 25 and runs until June 25. Free admission; masks required.

Ortelius Online at the National Library of the Netherlands

World map from Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Koninklijke Bibliotheek

The National Library of the Netherlands has an online version of Ortelius’s 16th-century atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. In Dutch only. (From what I understand it’s not the only digitization of this work available online: see the atlas’s Wikipedia page for links to additional sites.) [Maps Mania]

Hardyng’s Map of Scotland On Display

John Hardyng's map of Scotland (British Library)
John Hardyng’s map of Scotland. Lansdowne MS 204, ff. 226v–227r, British Library.

John Hardyng’s map of Scotland is now on display at the University of St. Andrews’s Wardlaw Museum. The 15th-century map was the first to show Scotland in any detail; it was included in Hardyng’s 1457 chronicle, in which he hoped to make the case for an English invasion of Scotland. Held by the British Library, the map is being made available via the Library’s Treasures on Tour program. It’s at the Wardlaw Museum until 3 July 2022. More from the University’s press release and the British Library.

William Clark Implicated in Land Grab by Map Re-Attributed to Him

William Clark, Map of Extent of Settlement in Mississippi Valley (1816)A new historical study reattributes a rough sketch of treaty lines in what is now Missouri to William Clark (of “Lewis and” fame), implicating the legendary explorer in the dispossession of some 10.5 million acres of land assigned by treaty to indigenous peoples. The article by Cambridge historian Robert Lee, who studies Indigenous dispossession in the 19th century and discovered the map misfiled in another fonds, appears in the latest issue of William and Mary Quarterly. The DOI doesn’t appear to work yet, nor is the article available online at this point, but here’s the abstract and the press release.

David Rumsey Map Collection: More Than Just Digitization

Urbano Monte 1587 World Map, digitally assembled (David Rumsey Map Collection)
David Rumsey Map Collection

The David Rumsey Map Collection has a blog post that explains that they do more than just scan old maps.

When we digitize historical maps we create copies that can be shared and used by all. But we also create the potential to repurpose these copies to advance understanding of the original maps. To do this, we create composite maps, georeferenced maps, composite views, interactive globes, composite texts and other types of digital versions that expand map interpretation and enhance use. Below are some examples of these interpretive maps that we have created over the past 20 years. To date we have created 1,674 interpretive composite maps, views, and texts as well as over 56,000 georeferenced maps.

Examples at the blog post—some of which we’ve already seen, including the digital assembly of Urbano Monte’s 1587 world map (above).