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]
Maps aren’t always named for their creators. The Gough map and the Selden map are named the people who owned them last before bequeathing them to the Bodleian Library. The Cantino planisphere, a Portuguese map of the world showing that country’s discoveries in the Americas and along the African coast, is named after the person who, ah, acquired it: in 1502 Alberto Cantino, undercover agent for the Duke of Ferrara, smuggled it out of Portugal, where maps were state secrets. Here’s an article about the Cantino planisphere from the March/April 2017 issue of National Geographic History magazine.
A Turkish filmmaker is working on a documentary about the life of Ottoman admiral and mapmaker Piri Reis, whose 1513 portolan chart, a fragment of which was rediscovered in 1929, claimed to draw upon ancient and contemporary sources, including Columbus. According to the Doğan News Agency story, the 75-minute film “will feature dramatic reconstructions starring actor Mehmet Günsur as Piri Reis, Riccardo Scamarcio as Christopher Columbus and actress Deniz Özdoğan. Can Atill will reportedly compose the music for the film.” If you can read Turkish, the website of the filmmaker, Gülsah Çeliker, is here; the movie’s website is here. The documentary is supposed to be finished by the end of the year. [WMS]
A 16th-century portolan chart is being auctioned later this month at TEFAF New York. “The map, which was created by a Genoese cartographer named Vesconte Maggiolo in 1531, is one of the first depictions of America’s eastern seaboard. It’s also the first (extant) map, ever, to show New York harbor,” Bloomberg’s James Tarmy writes. The asking price is $10 million—which would tie it with the Library of Congress’s copy of the Waldseemüller map as the most expensive map ever. The seller, Daniel Crouch Rare Books, has produced a detailed, lavishly illustrated 56-page booklet befitting a map with an eight-figure asking price. [WMS]
A Land Beyond the Stars is a major new website dedicated to Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map. Announced last week, it’s a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy; the latter institution is responsible for the multimedia presentation.
[The website] brings the map’s wealth of historical, technical, scientific and geographic data to a broader public. Interactive videos explain the sciences of cartography and astronomy and the state of navigational and geographic knowledge during the time of Waldseemüller. Developed with materials from the Library of Congress and other libraries around the world, the name of the website stems from Waldseemüller’s use of a passage from Roman poet Virgil, which can be found in the upper left corner of the 1507 map.
Later this week, the Library of Congress will host a two-day conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1516 map, Carta Marina. Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography will take place on 6-7 October in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. The conference agenda is not limited to Waldseemüller or his 1516 map; notable speakers include Kirsten Seaver, Chet Van Duzer and, with a major lecture, Dava Sobel. Free admission; no tickets or reservations required.
(The 1516 Carta Marina should not be confused with the Waldseemüller map most people mean: it’s his 1507 Universalis Cosmographia that names “America.” Nor should it be confused with Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina.)
Speaking of map monsters, here’s a piece in the Public Domain Review from 2014 that I only encountered this month. It’s a look at the sea serpents found in Olaus Magnus’s 1539 Carta Marina: “The northern seas of the marine and terrestrial map teem with fantastic sea monsters either drawn or approved by Olaus,” writes the author—none other than Joseph Nigg, who literally wrote the book on the Carta Marina’s sea monsters. [WMS]
Previously: Sea Monsters and the Carta Marina.
Earlier this month Voice of America had a short, introductory piece on Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world. Because it’s the first time the word “America” appears on a map, it’s become known as “America’s birth certificate.” It’s for that reason that the Library of Congress spent $10 million to acquire the last known copy of the map. The story of the map, however, is much more interesting than that: it’s an amalgam of classical knowledge with more recent discoveries, a curious document that tries to bridge two different ways of thinking about the world. [WMS]
Several books about the map have been published. I haven’t yet seen The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio by John W. Hessler (Giles, 2008) or Putting “America” on the Map by Seymour I. Schwartz (Prometheus, 2007), but I have read and reviewed The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester (Free Press, 2009), which wraps the map in considerable historical context (buy the book at Amazon or iBooks).
The Gallery of the Geographical Maps was a papal tour de force for its size, scope, speed and style. At 120 meters it is longer than a football field, yet the magnificent frescoes articulate the space with an elegant rhythm. The hall itself was designed by Ottaviano Mascherino for Pope Gregory XIII who wanted to link his new astronomical observatory, “The Tower of the Winds,” with the apostolic palace, so his guests would walk amidst terrestrial maps before climbing to observe the heavens.
An exhibition of 16th-century Italian maps, Quando l’Italia disegnava il mondo: Tesori Cartografici del Rinascimento Italiano (“When Italy Drew the world: Cartographic Treasures of the Italian Renaissance”) opened last Friday at the Palazzo del Podestà in Bergamo, Italy. It runs until 10 July. English summary. [Tony Campbell]
A catalogue of the correspondence of Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598), the Flemish cartographer responsible for the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, is now available. Ortelius’ letters are scattered about the world in various collections; the catalogue is just that, a catalogue, not a digital archive—where digital copies do exist there are links to them, but otherwise in-person library research is still required. (The principal researcher, Joost Depuydt, recently published an article on Ortelius’ correspondence in Imago Mundi.) [via]
The Hunt-Lenox Globe, a five-inch engraved copper globe dating from the early 1500s, is one of the earliest surviving globes, one of the earliest depictions of the New World and one of only two places where the phrase hic sunt dracones (“here be dragons”) can be found. It’s held by the New York Public Library, who are justly proud of it. They’ve received a grant to produce a 3D scan of the globe; once that’s finished, the 3D model will be available online. In the meantime, here are some other images of the Hunt-Lenox Globe from the NYPL. [via]
Hyperallergic has a review of Cities of the World (Taschen, November 2015), a reprint of colour plates from Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, which appeared in six volumes between 1572 and 1617. From Taschen: “Featuring plans, bird’s-eye views, and maps for all major cities in Europe, plus important urban centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this masterwork in urban mapping gives us a comprehensive view of city life at the turn of the 17th century.” Maps from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum can also be viewed online here and here. [via] Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)
In an article published this week in the Washington Map Society‘s journal, The Portolan, map collector Stefaan Missinne has announced the discovery of a small, engraved globe that he says is the first to depict the New World. From the WMS’s press release:
The previously-unknown globe, which is about the size of a grapefruit, was made from the lower halves of two ostrich eggs, and dates from the very early 1500s. Until now, it was thought that the oldest globe to show the New World was the “Lenox Globe” at the New York Public Library, but the author presents evidence that this Renaissance ostrich egg globe was actually used to cast the copper Lenox globe, putting its date c. 1504. The globe reflects the knowledge gleaned by Christopher Columbus and other very early European explorers including Amerigo Vespucci after whom America was named.
The Lenox Globe—also known as the Hunt-Lenox Globe—was cast in 1510; interestingly, prior to this announcement, it was the only map or globe to contain the phrase hic sunt dracones—here be dragons. This globe has the phrase as well. In the Washington Post coverage, two map experts—John Hessler and Chet Van Duzer—are quoted expressing a certain amount of skepticism (especially about the purported da Vinci connection). I also suspect caution is warranted here: the history of antique maps contains several examples of groundshaking discoveries that turn out to be dubious at best.