As the keepers of the Vinland Map, the folks at Yale’s Beinecke Library might be expected to have a few thoughts about map forgeries, seeing as the Vinland Map is arguably the best known example. In an article posted to the Beinecke Library website last July, Raymond Clemens discusses the work of Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to determine the Vinland Map’s inauthenticity, and detecting map forgeries in general. Yale seems to be making a point of studying map forgeries, to the point of adding known forgeries to their collections.
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.
Read David M. Perry and Matthew Gabriele’s long Smithsonian article on the conclusion that the Vinland Map is a modern forgery. Among other things, it places the map in the context of mythmaking around Viking history and an anti-Catholic, pro-northern-European narrative of American discovery that aimed to displace the Columbus story.
The general consensus has been for some time that the Vinland Map is a modern forgery. A battery of non-destructive tests by Yale University, which holds the map in its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, have been performed on the map, and the results of those tests have been announced: the map is a fake.
“The Vinland Map is a fake,” said Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the map. “There is no reasonable doubt here. This new analysis should put the matter to rest.”
Basically, the map’s inks contain titanium compounds first used in the 1920s, and an inscription on the parchment was altered to make it seem like the map belonged in a 15th-century bound volume.
Previously: Re-Analyzing the Vinland Map.
The general consensus is that the Vinland Map is a modern forgery, not a pre-Columbian 15th-century map showing Norse explorations of North America. That doesn’t seem to stop Yale University from continuing to study the map, which is held in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The map is being subjected to a battery of non-destructive tests to provide better and more precise physical data about its parchment and ink. The results will be published in a forthcoming book edited by Raymond Clemens, who for the record does not believe the map is authentic. (Neither do I, for what it’s worth.) [GeoLounge]
The Vinland Map is also being put on display for the first time in half a century. It’ll be at the Mystic Seaport’s R. J. Schaefer Gallery in Mystic, CT from 19 May to 30 September.
The definitive book on the Vinland Map, though it may have been overtaken by later investigations and claims, is Kristin A. Seaver’s Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map (Stanford University Press, 2004).