From THE FAMILIAR to THE FANTASTICAL Sanders of Oxford Antique Prints & Maps
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Maps From the Familiar to the Fantastical From Thursday 8th August 2019 to Sunday 8th March 2020.
To coincide with the Bodleian Libraryâ€™s landmark exhibition Talking Maps, Sanders of Oxford is proud to present Maps: from the Familiar to the Fantastical. This exhibition, drawing upon cartographic material from the sixteenth century to the present day, explores the way in which maps have shaped and continue to shape our perceptions of the modern world. This catalogue has been compiled as a companion to the original exhibition. For full descriptions or prices of individual items, please contact Sanders of Oxford. All printed works are available to purchase and will be on display in the gallery.
Sanders of Oxford. Antique Prints & Maps Salutation House 104 High Street Oxford OX1 4BW www.sandersofoxford.com - 01865 242590 - firstname.lastname@example.org Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm. Sundays 11am - 5pm.
Introduction: Familiar & Fantastical
Explore & Exploit
The Art of War
Worlds of Fantasy
Biographies: Cartographers, Mapmakers, & Publishers
FAMILIAR & FANTASTICAL
Maps are everywhere. They illustrate every corner of our cities, countries, oceans, planet, and beyond. Whether we are aware or not, almost all of us use maps on a daily basis, from the simple mind-maps we rely on for our morning commute to the complex algorithms that map our every move, our every action, and, increasingly, our every thought.
We can see how our hometowns have changed over time, the events that have unfolded in our countries, and the way in which the past has shaped and modelled the familiar geography of the present. More than anything they allow us to connect with our forebears, and to explore how the people of the past described, depicted, or attempted to understand our world.
From a reductive pattern drawn in the sand to the most recent smart phone app, maps have been a witness to our development as a species. The earliest maps showed the locations of food and sustenance, valuable commodities, or dangers and enemies. As human societies grew more complex, so did maps. They became a means of deﬁning and delineating people, tying us to our geography, and increasing our sense of belonging and ownership.
Some map makers take us even further outside of the known, using the recognizable format of the map to push us beyond the familiar world and into the fantastical. Sometimes this can be a playful or ideological reimagining of well-known places, transposing or warping real geography into imaginative shapes that comment or critique the foibles of peoples, nations, or empires.
At their worst, maps have been used to justify territorial expansion, limit the activities and movements of populations, govern who owns (and does not own) our planet and its resources. But at their best, maps do not imprison us in our geography, but rather oﬀer us a form of escapism, be it physical, emotional, mental, or even aesthetic.
Others invent places that could conceivably exist within our own world, like cities of gold or undiscovered islands, or that exist alongside it, invisible to the uninitiated and accessed through rabbit holes, wardrobes in spare rooms, or the platform barriers of King’s Cross Station. Some even abandon terrestrial geography all together, presenting us with a true fantasy, and a world outside of our own.
For most people, maps are instantly relatable. We can situate ourselves in a map – where are we from? Where do we live? Where do we want to go? Historical maps go even further, by showing us a diﬀerent perspective of the familiar or every day.
Maps: From the Familiar to the Fantastical features objects drawn from a period of over 400 years, from 17th century navigational aids to contemporary critiques of modern Britain, but the stories it explores speak to the full reach of human history.
EXPLORE & EXPLOIT
Hindsight has an insidious tendency to convince us that the key moments of human history were inevitable, part of a great chain of events unfolding in a manner which was gradual, methodical, and even predictable. In truth human history, like human nature, is frequently messy, violent, unpredictable, erratic, and in many cases, owes as much to serendipity and random chance as is does the brilliance or talent of its key ﬁgures. Consider Christopher Columbus, the most famous ﬁgure in the history of our planet’s geography. His actions, and the actions of other famous navigators like Magellan, de Gama, and Cook, are to a large part the genesis for the current political, social, and economic climate of our world. It would be easy to see this as evidence of the mastery of Europe over the rest of the globe, the just rewards of a Darwinian struggle for control of the planet’s resources, but the reality is not so simple.
In fact, the opening up and subsequent exploitation of the New World was the outcome of hundreds of small interactions and accidents of chance - the rediscovery of certain classical texts after the fall of Arab Spain, the introduction of the compass from China, the building of a new type of ship in Portugal, the closure of the eastern Mediterranean by the Ottoman Turks, the breakdown of the Silk Roads, the Haijin (seaban) placed on Chinese admirals, and the rapid dissemination of knowledge facilitated by the printing press. History does not remember the countless individuals who tried and failed, the expeditions that were lost at sea, the explorers killed by hostile elements in unfamiliar settings, or the missionaries who never returned home. The maps in this section stand as monuments for the great voyages of exploration, but also serve as stark reminders that history is never simple.
Mapping our spherical globe on a ﬂat map is the single biggest challenge of terrestrial cartography. Contrary to popular belief about a historically-perceived ‘ﬂat earth,’ the spherical model of our world has prevailed in the West since at least as early as the 6th century BC. Although ancient Greek geographers and cosmographers theorised about the makeup of the earth’s continents and even calculated the Earth’s circumference, the actual visual representation of the world in map form only truly hit its stride during the Renaissance, with the introduction of illustrated editions of the observations of the ancient Greek and Roman geographers.
Descrittione del Mappamondo Porro, Girolamo Venice, 1590 Copper engraved 106 x 145 mm
In Italy, one of the most proliﬁc map engravers was Girolamo Porro. Porro’s world maps, although not original creations, are an excellent indicator of some of the popular attempts to illustrate the globe with as little distortion as possible. These two examples show the favoured ‘projections’ of the founding fathers of Flemish cartography, Ortelius’ pseudo-elliptic and the rectangular Mercator.
Discorso Intorno alla Carta da Navigare Porro, Girolamo Venice, 1590 Copper engraved 104 x 140 mm
The primacy of the Italian republics in maritime exploration and trade is reﬂected in the huge number of cartographic texts printed in Italy during the ﬁfteenth and sixteenth centuries. Perhaps unsurprisingly the very ﬁrst printed book to feature engraved illustrations was an atlas, an edition of Ptolemy’s Geography published in Bologna in 1477. Over the following century, publishers across Italy, and particularly in Venice, rushed to meet the demands of a growing audience of cartographic and geographic enthusiasts.
Maidegascar, Zanzibar Bordone, Benedetto Venice, 1528 Woodcut 85 x 145 mm
The Paduan-born Benedetto Bordone (14601531) was ready and willing. His Isolario, an ethnographic and historical atlas of the islands of the world, was a cartographic masterstroke. His descriptions in Italian of myths, cultures, commodities, and geography were accompanied by simple but beautiful woodcut plans of the islands, ranging from the familiar, like Sicily, the Greek Islands, or Cyprus, to the exotic - Madagascar, Hispaniola, Japan, and Tenochtitlan.
Caloiero Bordone, Benedetto Venice, 1528 Woodcut 82 x 142 mm
The term portolan derives from an Italian word designating anything related to maritime ports. For much of the Medieval and Early Modern period, the so-called portolan chart was an important tool in a navigator’s apparatus. Unlike almost all other extant historic maps, created predominantly as aesthetic demonstrations of power or status, portolans were valued primarily for their utility. Although also items of beauty, it was their role in navigation that was paramount. Their many criss-crossed wind-lines trace the actual paths of mercantile, political, and military life in the Mediterranean. This particular example was made in 1586 by the Oliva family in Naples. Although oriented with West to the top, at the nape of the vellum sheet, the coastline is unmistakably the Mediterranean, with Sicily strongly outlined at centre. The Red Sea is shaded in red ink, Jerusalem is marked with the crosses of Christ, while the cities ‘lost’ to the Ottomans ﬂy the crescent ﬂag. [Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean] Oliva, Joan Naples, 1586 Manuscript in coloured inks on vellum, embellished with gold and silver 860 x 460 mm
Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the Americas in 1492 shattered the traditional European view of the geography of our planet. Aside from expanding physical geographic boundaries, these new developments also pushed the boundaries of Europe’s theological and philosophical world view. Much of Renaissance thought was dedicated to the concept of a perceived harmony in nature, part of God’s plan for his Creation. Working within these parameters, some of the more unusual or confronting aspects of scientiﬁc and geographic endeavour could be explained, or at least rationalised, as part of the workings of this larger plan.
Tabula Geographico-Hydrographica Kircher, Athanasius Amsterdam, 1665 Copper engraved 335 x 555 mm
This is precisely the approach taken by the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher in attempting to solve the interrelation between ocean currents, waves, storms, volcanoes, and other geophysical phenomena. His world map attempts to plot the locations of various abysses, subterranean caves that he believed controlled the ﬂow of the earth’s air, water, and ﬁre.
‘The empire on which the sun never sets…’ is one of the most famous maxims for describing the British colonial era. But the idea predates its British usage by millennia, going back at least as far as the empire of the Persian Great King Xerxes in the ﬁfth century BC. In the modern era, the ﬁrst to lay claim to this boast was Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Charles reigned for much of the ﬁrst half of the sixteenth century, almost concurrent with his British rival Henry VIII, controlling an empire that stretched from Vienna to Peru. Into this milieu of empire and worlddominance was born Sebastian Munster, a German cosmographer, theologian, and polymath. His anthropomorphic map of Europe, adapted from an earlier design by Johannes Putsch, gives weight to the idea of Habsburg Europe as ‘Queen of Nations’ and ruler of the world.
[Europa Regina] Münster, Sebastian Basel, c.1588 Woodcut 258 x 165 mm
Considering the role that Britain has played in the last three centuries of world history, we often forget that for much of human history, the British Isles have been decidedly peripheral. As one of the furthest outposts of the classical world, Britain’s representation in historic cartography is often a source of great amusement. Examples range from the comically squat to the undeniably phallic, like the celebrated Gough Map, now in the collections of the Bodleian Library here in Oxford. One of the most pervasive quirks of early Britannic cartography though is the dramatic right-angled kink often given to Scotland. This adaptation of Martin Waldseemuller’s map from his landmark edition of Ptolemy’s Geography is the perfect illustration.
[Tabu. 1. Euro.] Fries, Lorenz Strassburg, 1525 Woodcut 300 x 438 mm
The map attempts to retain as much of Ptolemy’s original classical plan as possible, giving Roman and Celtic place names instead of the modern English ones familiar to Waldseemuller’s sixteenth century audience.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the colonial nations prided themselves on the role they had played in what was seen as the inevitable victory of science and reason in the conquest of the globe. Despite these high minded ideals, certain military, political, and economic motivations still determined the way in which they conducted their business overseas. This map of the Terraqueous Globe is a grand expression of British ambition, at a time when Britain was the world’s most powerful colonial nation. Published by Samuel Dunn following Cook’s voyages in the Paciﬁc and the settlement of Australia, the map is crisscrossed with the lines of previous explorers’ journeys. Historically, the map shows us the British view of the World at a time of critical change in geographic focus. Cook’s discoveries coincided with the loss of the American colonies in the Revolutionary Wars, and marked a turning point in British concerns that moved away from the Americas in favour of India, Oceania, and the Far East.
A General Map of the World, or Terraqueous Globe Dunn, Samuel London, 1794 Copper engraved with hand colour 1040 x 1240 mm
THE ART of WAR
The borders on the map are more than just simple lines on a page. They deﬁne nations, legitimise regimes, determine ownership of resources, and control populations. It is no surprise then that these lines on a page continue to be a common cause for conﬂict, and a powerful tool in times of war. If you are asked to picture your country in your head, chances are that the ﬁrst image to appear will be its geographic shape, size, and position. Because of this, maps are an excellent platform for propaganda. They can bolster our conﬁdence or appeal to our sense of national pride whilst simultaneously belittling and ‘othering’ those seen as enemies. More signiﬁcantly, they can communicate threat or weaponize fear more immediately than almost any other art form.
These are all familiar twentieth century examples, but the concept has been in use for thousands of years. The Roman orator Cato the Elder emphasised the threat posed by Carthage by bringing fresh Carthaginian ﬁgs to the Senate, urging his peers to remember that this great enemy nation was only a short sail from Rome. Martin Luther used biblical visions of Apocalypse to emphasize the East-West divide, railing against the advances of the Ottoman Turks. In the present day, nationalists and ﬁrebrand politicians use the same tactics to stir up popular sentiment about the dangers of mass migration or perceived threats to our ‘sovereign’ borders.
Distance and proximity are the favourite tools of the propagandist. Think of the advancing and retreating arrows from the Dad’s Army theme, the ‘red peril’ spreading across southeast Asia, or the tentacles of the British Octopus enveloping the overseas territories of the Empire.
Conﬂict maps often reveal less about the geographical truths of war than they do the fears and motivations of their creators. This 1564 impression of the famous ‘Wittenberg World Map’ was created at the height of a religious and political panic in Christian Europe about the advancing armies of the Ottoman Turks. Originally designed to accompany Martin Luther’s pamphlet Vom Kriege wider die Türken, the map reinterprets the visions of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II from the Book of Daniel as a commentary on the dangers posed to Luther’s sixteenth century Europe. The four beasts of the dream, representing the Empires of the Babylonians, Medes, Alexander the Great, and the Romans, are shown spread across the map. At the point where Asia joins Europe, an army of ravening Turks can be seen. For Luther, these were no longer just a scourge sent to purify a decadent Europe, but the actual agents of the Antichrist and the heralds of the apocalyptic End of Days.
[Wittenberg World Map] Solis, Virgil and Amman, Jost Cologne, c.1564 Woodcut 115 x 155 mm
Outward projection of military force is a critical aspect of the psychology of war. In the days before television and social media, maps charting overt acts of militarism were one of the most eﬀective means of reinforcing public conﬁdence and causing consternation amongst one’s enemies. Titled in both Ottoman and French, this anonymous broadsheet map of Dardanelles fortiﬁcations is a work of domestic propaganda. Following in the wake of the Young Turks movement, it was as much a reassurance of the Ottoman state’s commitment to military defence as it was a warning to any would-be aggressors.
Carte des Dardanelles - Marmara Bosphore [Anonymous] Constantinople, c.1910 Lithograph 540 x 755 mm
Unlike the classiﬁed maps used in actual military actions, propaganda maps deliberately disseminate details of a nation’s military strength, or at least project an idealised vision of its capabilities. Barely ﬁve years after this map’s publication, the Entente powers decided to test Turkish military defence in the Gallipoli campaign. The result was a devastating loss of life for the Allied forces involved.
Invasion, resistance, and expansion are some of the most commonly used markers of national identity. Britain is no exception. Think of the Blitz speeches, Britannia ruling the waves, this sceptre isle, and the sun never setting on the British Empire. What national myth-making often forgets are the many quirks and nuances of history that have actually shaped our modern world. This map, by England’s most celebrated cartographer John Speed, shows all of the battles and invasions that have occurred in the British Isles from the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the publication date of Speed’s atlas in 1612. Far from being a peaceful Eden, a ‘Fortress built by Nature…against the hand of war,’ our island has been both victim and perpetrator of countless conﬂicts, both internal and external, for the best part of the last two thousand years.
The Invasions of England and Ireland with al their Civill Wars Speed, John London, 1676 Copper engraved with hand colour 380 x 518 mm
Maps outlining plans and details of famous victories play a critical role in the memorialization of war, broadcasting the brave deeds or ingenious strategies of a nation’s military heroes. Today, if asked to name a wartime hero, most Britons would probably think of Winston Churchill, or the heroes of the Napoleonic Wars, Nelson and Wellington. If one were to ask these men though, their answer would be Winston’s ancestor, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Marlborough’s great military achievement, co-leading the Grand Alliance victory over the French outside the Bavarian village of Blindheim, has come to be seen as a turning point in both British and European history. Queen Anne was so moved by his deeds that she gifted him Woodstock Park and the funds required to build ‘a suitable house’ – the stately Blenheim Palace – on behalf of a grateful Nation. A much more modest memorial is this separately published two-sheet map.
A Plan of the Famous Victory at Bleinem Leers, Reinier Haarlem, c.1704 Copper engraved on two plates Each sheet 635 x 890 mm
In 1870, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, the French illustrator Paul Hadol published his Carte drolatique d’Europe. The map, an ingenious mix of cartographic comedy, national stereotype, and contemporary critique, was an instant hit. Although anthropomorphic cartography was nothing new, Hadol’s application of the style to reﬂect current aﬀairs ensured the lasting role of ‘serio-comic’ maps in the visual representation of military and political conﬂict. This pirated copy in English preserves Hadol’s original view of a divided Europe, riven by the conﬂict between the Third French Republic and the Prussian-controlled North German Confederation. Bismarck drags an unconscious Austria with him, extending a hand over Holland, while France, wild-eyed, attempts to hold him oﬀ with a bayonet. Perhaps most interesting is the role of Russia. Though dismissed here as a ragged beggar on the periphery of Europe, in just one generation, the ‘Russian Octopus’ became the most common symbol of serio-comic threat.
Comic Map of Europe after Hadol, Paul c.1880 Lithograph with original hand colour 270 x 382 mm
In rare cases, conﬂict maps have no particular agenda beyond the presentation of historical or geographic information. This Civil-War era map of Oxford by Antony Wood was created for antiquarian interest, to preserve a view of the city that never fully came to fruition. The plan shows the city encircled by a series of fortiﬁcations in an aggressive zig-zagged pattern reminiscent of the fortiﬁed cities of Renaissance Italy. In October 1642, following their expulsion from London, King Charles I and the Royalist forces established themselves in Oxford. The intended defences used a network of ditches, ramparts, palisades, and gates, in addition to dams and barriers of the Isis and Cherwell rivers to ﬂood the meadows surrounding the city.
Iconographia Oxonia Wood, Anthony Oxford, 1674 Copper engraved 450 x 585 mm
Allegedly, members of the University were required to assist in building the walls for one day per week throughout the summer of 1643, or risked being ﬁned a shilling.
WORLDS of FANTASY
Maps of the unreal are in many ways more compelling, insightful, disruptive, and disquieting than those of places familiar to us. Held up as a mirror to the foibles or failings of our own world, they oﬀer the viewer not just a sense of escapism, but also an opportunity for reﬂection. They allow us to explore the unknown, to make tangible those things that we normally only dream about, or to dissect diﬃcult subjects like death, desire, or belief. One of the most important and popular categories of these ‘fantastical’ maps are those that use the idea of the ‘unexplored’ or ‘undiscovered’ to discuss idealised societies. In the ancient Western tradition, there are numerous examples. Atlantis and Plato’s Republic, Ophir and the Cities of Gold, the Isles of the Blessed and the Garden of the Hesperides, Arcadia, Elysium, Dilmun, Shambhala, Luz, and Eden all oﬀer the hope of an earthly paradise.
It is a common trope that the so-called ‘Age of Discovery,’ from the 15th to the 17th Century, put an end to all of this philosophical and theological speculation, ﬁlling in the blank spaces of the map and banishing these fantastical places to the pages of ﬁction. In fact, the Age of Discovery was the impetus for the creation of some of cartography’s most proliﬁc, pervasive, and inventive fantasies. In many ways, real world discoveries actually encouraged the belief in these long-held myths. The ﬁrst conquistadores, when confronted with the size, opulence, and complexity of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, marvelled that their own visions of paradise were nothing by comparison. It is no surprise, then, that we see these fantastical places, both sacred and profane, appearing so conﬁdently in the works of cartographers, coexisting happily alongside the most mundane of geographical features.
In the modern era, the most famous and enduring example of fantastical geography is undoubtedly Utopia, an island nation ﬁrst ‘described’ by the English polymath Sir Thomas More. More’s conceit was that this island, recently discovered in the New World, was unusual for its largely egalitarian governmental and social structures. In contrast to More’s sixteenth century Europe, Utopians owned no property, practiced tolerance and freedom of religion, preferred diplomacy and nonviolence to war, and allowed many things condemned by the sixteenth century Church, including euthanasia, divorce, and the ordination of female priests. Despite the island’s name, literally translated as ‘No-place,’ More’s Utopia is an incredibly detailed and playful construct. The name has since taken on a life of its own, and is used in contemporary parlance to represent any idealised human society.
Sir Thomas More Hans Holbein the Younger London, 1527 Oil on oak panel Frick Collection
Maps are often added to literary works as a means of increasingly their legitimacy or believability. The ﬁrst edition of More’s Utopia, written in Latin, was published in 1516. The sense of realism More had strived towards in his text was enhanced by an index of the Utopian alphabet and examples of Utopian speech, as well as a woodcut map of the island by Ambrosius Holbein. The map, showing landmarks such as the River Anydrus (‘No-water’), took on the shape of a skull, often seen as a punning reference to More’s own name, which in Latin can be read as ‘mori,’ the verb ‘to die.’ This is not the only playful use of More’s name. In the original Latin, his name is rendered as ‘Morus,’ echoing the Greek word that we still use today for a gullible idiot – moron.
Tomae Mori Opuscula More, Thomas Basel, 1563 Limp vellum octavo 170 x 110 mm
To right: Detail of p53 [Map of Utopia] after Holbein, Ambrosius Woodcut
The contrast between More’s philosophical exegesis and his playful satire is brilliantly captured in Grayson Perry’s modern take on Utopia. Perry himself becomes the landmass, his body fantastically abstracted into the familiar lines and contours of the map. Using the two contrasting readings of Utopia, as a No-place (ou-topos) and as a Good-place (eu-topos), Perry explores what it means to be a social outcast. Although a victim of isolation, rejection, and persecution, Perry has also escaped the traps of what he sees as a ‘normal life,’ allowing him to enjoy inner freedoms and alternative ways of thinking about, seeing, and involving himself in the world around him. For Perry, his No-place has in a sense become his Good-place, though this is still not without its challenges.
Map of Nowhere Perry, Grayson 2008 Etching on ﬁve plates printed on single sheet 1529 x 1130 mm
The boundaries between fact and ﬁction are not always readily apparent in the works of historical cartographers. One of the most inﬂuential ﬁgures of the so-called ‘Dutch Golden Age’ was the Flemish geographer Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). Ortelius is chieﬂy celebrated for his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, referred to as the ﬁrst ‘modern’ atlas. His approach to geography though went far beyond its signiﬁcant mercantile advantages. The diverse geographical record from which he drew encompassed the ancient and the modern, the biblical and the classical, the theological, the philosophical, and the scientiﬁc. The result was a collection of some of history’s most beautiful examples of cartographic art. Beyond their aesthetic value though, Ortelius’ maps oﬀer us an enthralling glimpse into the minds of the sixteenth century geographers. New World discoveries are juxtaposed with ancient myth cycles, and the newly mapped contours of now-familiar continents sit comfortably alongside places of fantasy and fever-dream.
Portret van Abraham Ortelius Peter Paul Rubens Antwerp, 1633 Oil on canvas Museum Plantin-Moretus
For cartographers like Ortelius, the geography of the bible was the starting point of everything. The place names of the Old and New Testaments are here positioned on a sixteenth century map of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The great cities, like Jerusalem, Rome, and Antioch are easy. But what about Ophir, a city in the Book of Kings that is so rich that its very buildings are made of gold? Across Christian Europe, orthodoxy, a Greek term meaning ‘right opinion,’ was important. The Bible was the literal Word of God. In this situation, what was a cartographer to do? Contradiction or omission risked a charge of heresy. Inclusion left him open to the ridicule of the scholarly community.
Geographia Sacra Ortelius, Abraham Antwerp, 1624 Copper engraved with hand colour 350 x 478 mm
Ortelius’ solution to this conundrum is novel. Rather than challenge the existence of Ophir, he includes an inset map suggesting its possible locations, paying particular attention to the unexplored regions of the New World, the Far East, and Southern Africa.
Sacred maps encourage us to look beyond the mundane, to focus on the spiritual above the physical, and to consider our geography through the lens of our belief. In the Christian tradition, maps were drawn as a physical reﬂection of God’s great plan in the cosmos, and hence, could be used to position human beings in the scheme of His creation. On the whole, medieval cartographers were more concerned with the theological implications of geography than its navigational or mercantile applications. Actual geographical features were given less importance than a map’s doctrinal message. This map is a combination of biblical and classical traditions. The Old World, as known to the ancients, is shown at centre. The rest of the map is made up of a series of climatic zones, a theory preserved by St Augustine of Hippo from the works of the Greek and Roman geographers.
Aevi Veteris, Typus Geographicus Ortelius, Abraham Antwerp, 1624 Copper engraved with hand colour 312 x 444 mm
Medieval travellers’ tales and biblical apocrypha abound with mythic geography. Grail legends, pious Christians sleeping for centuries in caves to escape persecution, kingdoms of gold, and dog-headed guardians of paradisiacal gardens are just some of the ﬁgures that appear on Medieval mappae mundi. One of the most enduring of these ﬁgures is Prester John, the ruler of a great Nestorian Christian kingdom somewhere beyond the reach of Europeans. A descendant of the Magi of the Nativity, Prester John was believed to reside in India or the Far East. Travel on the Silk Roads failed to ﬁnd him, so by the sixteenth century, the most popular choice of location was Africa. Ortelius’ map inserts Prester John’s Kingdom within the real-world geography of Ethiopia, home of one of the oldest Christian communities.
Presbiteri Iohannis, sive, Abissinorum Imperii Descriptio Ortelius, Abraham Antwerp, 1575 Copper engraved with hand colour 375 x 438 mm
The ruler, and his son David, are also given an armorial crest and a lengthy honoriﬁc dedication, cartographic features usually only accorded to their European counterparts.
Ortelius, like many cartographers of his era, did not always separate myth from history when approaching the ancient Greek and Roman geography. Although writers like Ptolemy, Strabo, and Mela were most highly valued, Ortelius often used their observations as a framework for popular mythological and historical events. His map of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts is the perfect example of this blending of familiar and fantastical geography. At ﬁrst glance, we see the recognisable coastlines of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea. But closer inspection shows that the map is overlaid with the geography of myth, particularly the popular Argonautica by the 3rd century BC author Apollonius of Rhodes. The famous Golden Fleece, Jason’s prize and the motivation for the epic journey, hangs in an inset cartouche at the top, guarded by a dragon and ﬂanked by the Khalkotauroi, a pair of ﬁre-breathing oxen.
Argonautica Ortelius, Abraham Antwerp, 1601 Copper engraved 340 x 490 mm
Cartographers, Mapmakers, & Publishers
Jost Amman (1539-1591) was a SwissGerman printmaker and publisher, born in Zurich, but working for the majority of his life in Nuremberg, where he was apprenticed to the woodcut artist Virgil Solis. One of the most proliﬁc woodcut artists of the sixteenth century, Amman is believed to have drawn and cut over 1500 prints. He is particularly celebrated for his numerous biblical prints, and a series of Bavarian topographical views commissioned by the cartographer and mathematician Philipp Apian. Benedetto Bordone (1460-1531) was an Italian cartographer, author, and miniaturist. Born in the university town of Padua, and active as a publisher in Venice, Bordone is chieﬂy remembered for his Isolario of 1528, a work detailing the history, geography, mythology, climate, and position of the islands of the world. The book, featuring woodcut illustrations of most of the islands mentioned in the text, was intended as a guide for sailors, and was one of the ﬁrst works to provide widely accessible details of the lands of the New World. Among the most important of Bordone’s contributions to cartography are his pre-Columbian plan of the Aztec Capital Tenochtitlan, the ﬁrst western printed map of Japan as an island, and the use of an oval-from world map.
Samuel Dunn (d.1794) was a British mathematician and astronomer. Dunn was believed to have been born in Crediton, Dorset, though the year is not known. He rose to fame in the 1750’s when he began to proliﬁcally author books, maps, and charts. Many of these works were reproduced in contemporary atlases and encyclopedias. Dunn ran an astronomical academy in Ormond House, which is where he observed the famous transit of Venus in 1761. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, and was also employed by the East India Company. His best known works were a series of wall maps of the World and Continents, published by Sayer and Laurie & Whittle, as well as his ‘New Atlas of the Mundane System.’ Lorenz Fries (c.1490-1532) was born in the Alsace region and studied variously at the universities in Pavia, Vienna, Piacenza and Montpellier. After completing his studies, Fries set himself up as a physician in Alsace, and brieﬂy in Switzerland, before ﬁnally settling in Strasbourg in 1519, by which point he had published several medical texts. It was in Strasbourg that Fries meet Johann Gruniger, an associate of the St. Die group of scholars who included Martin Waldseemüller. From 1520 to 1525 Fries worked with Gruniger as his cartographic editor, producing numerous reduced woodblock maps using the vast material of Waldseemüller’s 1513 Ptolemaic Atlas.
Paul Hadol (1835-1875) was a French caricaturist, illustrator, and satirist, best known for his political cartoons of the Boneparte family, as well as a seminal comic map of Europe depicting the nations as warring ﬁgures. An illustrator of everything from novels to theatre posters, his work was featured in many of the leading periodicals of his day, including Le Gaulois, Le Journal Amusant, Le Monde Comique, L’Eclipse, and La Vie Parisienne. Jodocus Hondius (14th October 1563 12th February 1612) was a Dutch Flemish cartographer, engraver, and publisher. Hondius is most famous for reviving the primacy of the work of Gerard Mercator, through the publication of his Atlas, and the smaller Atlas Minor, in the early seventeenth century, at a time when cartography was largely dominated by Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. The Mercator-Hondius Atlas was composed of maps pulled from plates Hondius had purchased from Mercator’s grandson, as well as thirty-six new plates Hondius commissioned, and in many cases engraved, himself. He is also believed to have been the chief engraver of the plates for John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Following his death, he was succeeded by his sons, Jodocus the Younger and Henricus, as well as his son in law Jan Jansson.
Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) was one of the leading lights of the seventeenth century’s European academic community. A German Jesuit, Kircher’s interests were many and varied, including comparative theology, geology, biology, history, philology, philosophy, ethnography (particularly Sinology and Egyptology), medicine, law, and technology. His studies championed empiricism, even to the point where, when in Italy, he was lowered into an active volcano. His most celebrated works included the Mundus Subterraneus, a treatise on the actions and interactions of ﬁre, water, and air in natural phenomena and one of the earliest works of volcanology, as well as pamphlets on magnetism, Egyptian heiroglyphics, and the Tower of Babel. Reinier Leers (1654—1714) was a Dutch publisher and bookseller. Hans Luﬀt (1495-1584) was a German printer and bookseller. Based in Wittenberg, he became one of the most prominent ﬁgures of the Reformation, due to his publishing of the ﬁrst complete edition of Luther’s Bible, as well as Luther’s subsequent theological works.
Gerard Mercator (1512 - 1594) originally a student of philosophy was one of the most renowned cosmographers and geographers of the 16th century, as well as an accomplished scientiﬁc instrument maker. He is most famous for introducing Mercators Projection, a system which allowed navigators to plot the same constant compass bearing on a ﬂat map. His ﬁrst maps were published in 1537 (Palestine), and 1538 (a map of the world), although his main occupation at this time was globe-making. He later moved to Duisburg, in Germany, where he produced his outstanding wall maps of Europe and of Britain. In 1569 he published his masterpiece, the twentyone-sheet map of the world, constructed on Mercator’s projection. His Atlas, sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi, was completed by his son Rumold and published in 1595. After Rumold’s death in 1599, the plates for the atlas were published by Gerard Jr. Following his death in 1604, the printing stock was bought at auction by Jodocus Hondius, and re-issued well into the seventeenth century.
Sebastian Münster (20th January 1488 26th May 1552) was a German cartographer, cosmographer, and theologian. A gifted scholar of Hebraic, Münster originally joined the Franciscans, but left the order in favour of the Lutheran Church. He was appointed to the University of Basel in 1529, and published a number of works in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. His most celebrated works are his Latin edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia in 1540, and the Cosmographia in 1544. The Cosmographia was the earliest German description of the world, an ambitious work of 6 volumes published in numerous editions in German, Latin, French, Italian, and Czech. Joan Oliva (ﬂ.1570-1614) was an Italian cartographer, and a scion of the Oliva family, a dynasty of mapmakers who specialised in portolan charts, cornering the market for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and running studios in Italy, Malta, Sicily, and Marseilles.
Abraham Ortelius (1527 -1598) was a Flemish cartographer, cosmographer, geographer and publisher and a contemporary of Gerard Mercator, with whom he travelled through Italy and France. Although it is Mercator who ﬁrst used the word “Atlas” as a name for a collection of maps, it is Ortelius who is remembered as the creator of the ﬁrst modern atlas. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was the ﬁrst systematically collated set of maps by diﬀerent map makers in a uniform format. Three Latin editions as well as a Dutch, French and German edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum were published by 1572 and a further 25 editions printed before Ortelius’ death in 1598. Several more were subsequently printed until around 1612. Ortelius is said to have been the ﬁrst person to pose the question of the continents once being a single land mass before separating into their current positions. Grayson Perry (b. 1960) is one of Britain’s most celebrated and inﬂuential contemporary artists. A cultural icon, Perry is known for his playful, yet incisive, critiques of pop culture and contemporary British society. He is best known for his ceramic works, though his proliﬁc output also includes printmaking, textiles (particularly tapestry and embroidery), ﬁlm, poetry, architecture, and performance art.
Girolamo Porro (c. 1520-1604) was an Italian engraver active in Venice and his native Padua, working predominantly as a map engraver for Tommaso Porcacchi, and Girolamo Ruscelli. Ptolemy (c. AD 100-170) was a Greek native of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, and a Roman citizen. Little is known about his life, but he is credited as the author of numerous works of mathematics, engineering, astronomy, astrology, philosophy, and geography. His most famous works were the Almagest, the Geography, and the Tetrabiblion, a triad that essentially formed the basis of Byzantine, Arabic, and European science for the next thousand years. The Geography in particular had a very long reach, being reprinted numerous times in the ﬁfteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its most famous advocate was Columbus, who used a manuscript of the Geography to plot his western course for Asia, in the journey that resulted in the discovery of America. The work was also a major inspiration, and cartographic resource, for Munster, Mercator, and Ortelius. Virgil Solis (1514-1562) was a German printmaker and publisher, and the scion of a large family of Nuremberg artists. Solis produced illustrations on all manner of subjects, though he is best known for his biblical and classical scenes, particularly the large number of woodcuts which appeared in numerous sixteenth century editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
John Speed (1552-1629) is the most famous of all English cartographers primarily as a result of The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the ﬁrst atlas of the British Isles. The maps from this atlas are the best known and most sought-after of all county maps. The maps were derived mainly from the earlier prototypes of Christopher Saxton and Robert Morden but with notable improvements including parish “Hundreds” and county boundaries, town plans and embellishments such as the coats of arms of local Earls, Dukes, and the Royal Household. The maps are famed for their borders consisting of local inhabitants in national costume and panoramic vignette views of major cities and towns. An added feature is that regular atlas copies have English text printed on the reverse, giving a charming description of life in the early seventeenth century of the region. The overall eﬀect produced very decorative, attractive and informative maps. For the publication of this prestigious atlas Speed turned to the most successful London print-sellers of the day, John Sudbury and George Humble. William Camden introduced the leading Flemish engraver, Jodocus Hondius Sr. to John Speed in 1607 because ﬁrst choice engraver William Rogers had died a few years earlier. Work commenced with the printed proofs being sent back and forth between London and Amsterdam for correction and was ﬁnally sent to London in 1611 for publication. 60
The work was an immediate success and the maps themselves being printed for the next 150 years. Speed was born in 1552 at Farndon, Cheshire. Like his father before him he was a tailor by trade, but around 1582 he moved to London. During his spare time Speed pursued his interests of history and cartography and in 1595 his ﬁrst map of Canaan was published in the “Biblical Times”. This raised his proﬁle and he soon came to the attention of poet and dramatist Sir Fulke Greville a prominent ﬁgure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Greville as Treasurer of the Royal Navy gave Speed an appointment in the Customs Service giving him a steady income and time to pursue cartography. Through his work he became a member of such learned societies as the Society of Antiquaries and associated with the likes of William Camden Robert Cotton and William Lambarde. He died in 1629 at the age of seventy-seven. Jan van Vianen (1660 - 1726) was a Dutch engraver, painter and draftsman working in Haarlem, Amsterdam and Utrecht. Vianen specialized in historical and topographical subjects. In 1703 he became a member of the Guild of St Luke, near the city of Haarlem.
Martin Waldseemüller (11th September, 1470 - 16th March, 1520) was a German author, cartographer, and publisher, and one of the most signiﬁcant ﬁgures in the history of cartography. His most celebrated achievement was the publication in 1507 of his Universalis Cosmographia, a monumental twelve-panel map of the world making use of the discoveries of Columbus and Vespucci, and being the ﬁrst recorded use of the title ‘America’ to describe the New World. In addition to this, Waldseemuller’s appendix to his Ptolemaic atlas featured some of the very ﬁrst individual maps of European discoveries in the New World, East Indies, and Western and Southern Africa. Anthony Wood (1632-1695) was an Oxford antiquarian, best known for his Historia, et antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis, published in 1674. Born in Oxford, and educated at Trinity College by his elder brother Edward, and later at Merton, he devoted the majority of his life to studying and researching the history of Oxford University and its colleges. His History, though ﬂawed, has proven to be an invaluable source for later scholars of Oxford’s history and was originally intended to include David Loggan’s landmark engravings of the Colleges and Public Buildings of the University, which were published separately in 1675. Later in life, he published the Athenae Oxoniensis, a catalogue of the University’s alumni.
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