When an exhibition held in Burgos, Spain celebrating Magellan’s voyage wanted to use the Burgos Cathedral’s copy of Pietro Martire d’Angiera’s 16th-century Legatio Babylonica, which contains the first-ever map of the Caribbean, they discovered that the map had been replaced by a fake. El País reports (in Spanish) that prosecutors have closed the case for lack of information—they don’t even know when it was stolen, much less who stole it.
Out tomorrow from Johns Hopkins University Press, Alida C. Metcalf’s Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500 explores how sixteenth-century European maps conceptualized a new, Atlantic-centred world. From the publisher: “Metcalf explains why Renaissance cosmographers first incorporated sailing charts into their maps and began to reject classical models for mapping the world. Combined with the new placement of the Atlantic, the visual imagery on Atlantic maps—which featured decorative compass roses, animals, landscapes, and native peoples—communicated the accessibility of distant places with valuable commodities. Even though individual maps became outdated quickly, Metcalf reveals, new mapmakers copied their imagery, which then repeated on map after map. Individual maps might fall out of date, be lost, discarded, or forgotten, but their geographic and visual design promoted a new way of seeing the world, with an interconnected Atlantic World at its center.” [WMS]
Mapping Memory, the exhibition of 16th-century indigenous maps at the University of Texas at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art that I told you about last month, wraps up this weekend. If you need more information to help you decide whether to visit, here are writeups from Atlas Obscura and Hyperallergic.
The Blanton Museum has also released a short video about the exhibition.
For a closer look at the Teozacualco Map (above), see this site.
Update: NPR story.
In case the Talking Maps exhibition (previously) was insufficient cause for you to visit the Bodleian Library in Oxford this year, here’s another. The Sheldon Tapestry Map of Oxfordshire, one of four tapestry maps of English counties commissioned in the late 16th century by Ralph Sheldon, is on display at the Bodleian’s Weston Library. The tapestry is partially complete—intact it would have measured 3.5 × 5.5 metres—and on display for the first time in a century, having gone through a “painstaking” restoration. BBC News, Londonist.
The Oxfordshire tapestry map replaces a display of the Worcestershire tapestry map that had been running for the past four years: both were donated to the Bodleian by Richard Gough in 1809. The Bodleian acquired a sizeable section of the Gloucestershire map in 2007 (it went on display the following year); other parts are in private hands. The fourth tapestry map, of Worcestershire, is the only one that is completely intact and not missing any pieces: it’s owned by the Warwickshire Museum, where it’s on display at the Market Hall Museum.
Mapping Memory: Space and History in 16th-century Mexico, a new exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, presents “a selection of maps, known as Mapas de las Relaciones Geográficas, created by Indigenous artists around 1580. These unique documents show some of the visual strategies used by native communities for the endurance and perseverance of their cultures throughout the so-called colonial period and well beyond.” Opened 29 June; runs until 25 August.
Seven maps from late 16th-century Mexico are the focus of a 2018 study by University of Seville researcher Manuel Morato-Moreno (Cartographica article, press release). Part of a series of maps sent back to Spain by local administrators, the maps are hand-drawn, but imitate the style of printed maps: the hatching deliberately evokes woodcuts, while the animals are reminiscent of cartouches, sea monsters and other illustrative elements. But the maps also incorporate Indigenous design elements.
Although all the maps were done in the European style, they also show some characteristics that suggest the influence of indigenous cartography, like footprints on the routes and eddies in the rivers, in which fish can also be seen on the surface of the water. Having these indigenous conventions in coexistence with European cartographic characteristics suggests an effort to adapt the two cartographic styles to each other. “The authors of these maps might have unconsciously mixed European and native conventions,” the researcher adds.
In addition, the experts have identified the influence of another renaissance practice which originated in the portolan charts: drawings of figurative scenes of indigenous people and animals of the region, like deer, rabbits, vultures and armadillos. “Possibly the disproportionate representation of these animals is a way of emphasising the animal species that were characteristic of the region, or, as in the case of the armadillo, highlighting those exotic species that were unknown in Spain.”
More at, and via, Atlas Obscura.
Writing for BBC Travel, Madhvi Ramani looks at where Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world, famous for being the first map to name “America,” came to be: the church of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. The collaboration there by Waldseemüller and Martin Ringmann is covered in detail by Toby Lester’s Fourth Part of the World, which Ramani refers to (and I review here), but this take is, well, shorter. [ICA]
Publishing pieces on the Waldseemüller map, often called “America’s birth certificate,” seems to be a thing that happens in early July: Voice of America did it in 2016. Can’t imagine why that might be.
The University of Lausanne has come across a pair of globes—one celestial, one terrestrial—made by Mercator in the 16th century. Mercator apparently had a reputation as a globemaker, and a number of his globes are still in existence today. But “not particularly rare” is not the same as “not particularly interesting,” and the globes, which first turned up on campus in 2004, are now the subject of an exhibition at the Espace Arlaud in Lausanne, which runs until 15 July, and an extensive and detailed website that talks about the globes and how they were discovered and authenticated. Digital versions of each globe have also been produced: here’s the terrestrial globe; here’s the celestial globe.
All of this, by the way, is in French. If reading French is not your thing, the Harvard Map Collection also has a pair of Mercator globes, which you can view via their (rather dated) website.
More on Urbano Monte’s 1587 world map, which, you may remember, the Rumsey Collection digitally assembled into a single map from 60 manuscript pages. Now Visionscarto has taken it a step further, with a web tool that reprojects a map into other projections, taking the map’s original polar azimuthal equidistant projection and transmogrifying it into 20 other projections. Yes, sure, the Mercator is one of them, but so are the Goode Homolosine, the Hammer—even the Dymaxion. The tool is available on both the Visioncarto and Rumsey Collection websites. [David Rumsey]
More on Urbano Monte’s 1587 world map, a copy of which the Rumsey Collection acquired last year (see previous entry). Chet Van Duzer presented his findings on the map and the mapmaker at Stanford last month, LiveScience reports. His conclusion? Monte was “both a mastermind and a copycat”—and not a very good artist, either. But the map is still very interesting. [WMS]
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.
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.