Mapping the world

Posted on 14 octobre 2010

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Mapping the world, in modern parlance or drawing it to be more accurate ; this provides a conceptual representation of space and human interactions with the environment be it geographical, political or economic. Thanks to Europeana.eu, linking many highly valuable heritage institutions across Europe such as museums, archives and even research libraries, an increasing number of documents is available in a digital format with a special care paid to the caption, the references and what serious historiography requires.

A quick glance through the maps from institutions across Europe reveals some of the reasons why maps are so intriguing (…).

More than just navigational aids, maps often boast intricate illustrations and can become works of art in themselves that reflect the beliefs, artistic styles and political trends over the centuries. This world map from the late 1500s, for example, shows the globe surrounded by allegorical figures of the continents and astrological symbols.

Dozens of the maps on Europeana can be traced back to classical antiquity and Ptolemy – the most influential geographer, astronomer and mathematician of his time. Ptolemy’s works included Geographica: a description of the world based on the knowledge of previous generations of Greek scholars. Europeana holds many maps based on Ptolemy’s work, including this drawing of the world.

« The Geographia, also known as the Cosmographia, contained instructions on how to construct maps using projections to ‘flatten’ the image of the Earth and co-ordinates to place geographical features and towns, » according to records from the British Library.

An illuminated manuscript with a miniature map of the world, a global map from 1540 – unique because it was based on first-hand experience, rather than a religious purpose – and a detailed depiction of the coastline of Spain, France and Italy from 1792 are also included among the many notable examples of maps on Europeana.

Some maps can include social information as well, such as education levels across Europe in the 1870s. Still others offer multiple views of the same subject, like this 18th century depiction of Gibraltar. It depicts the topography, fortifications and views of Gibraltar from various angles.

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