Odd, curious, and fanciful maps from the holdings of the Map Collection,
Yale University Library
Real Places, Fanciful Visions
Tabulae Asiae VIII. Sebastian Munster, from an edition
of Ptolemy's Geography, c. 1540.
Legends of strange human beings have a long history, as do their depictions
on maps. Many of these representations were derived from the descriptions
given in the Natural History of the World by the elder Pliny (AD
23-79) and first printed in Latin in 1469. Pliny's ideas were absorbed
by most geographers of the 16th century, and were particularly well illustrated
in the successive editions of Ptolemy's maps published by Sebastian Munster
from 1540 onwards.
On the Ptolemaic map of Asia, a number of strange beings are placed
in Scythia or part of Northern Asia. At the top of the map Munster shows
the Anthropophagi, who feed on men's flesh and live near the North Pole.
In the margins he depicts those humans described by Pliny in Book 7:
"In India there is a kind of men with heads like dogs...who in lieu
of speech use to bark. Likewise there is a kind of people named monoscelli
that have but one leg apiece. In the hottest season of Summer they lie
along their backe and defend themselves with their foot against the Sunnes
The last tribe shown, those with their faces below their shoulders,
later reappear, as do the anthropophagi, in the New World of America,
as legends of the Old World were transferred to the unexplored continent.
Sir Walter Raleigh, in his description of Guiana, tells of the existence
of a warrior tribe with their heads below their shoulders in the Orinoco
basin and also describes the fierce Amazonian women.
Septentrionalium Partium Nova Tabula. Girolamo Ruscelli.
Mythical islands appeared on maps and charts for hundreds of years.
One of the more curious and persistent groups of false islands was placed
in the North Atlantic. Among these, Frisland is probably the best known.
In 1558, the Venetian Nicolo (the Younger) Zeno claimed to have discovered
a 14th century manuscript recording a voyage made by his ancestors Nicolo
and Antonio. According to the text, in the year 1380 a terrible storm
swept the Zenos into unknown seas where they found a group of inhabited
and hitherto unknown islands named Frisland, Estotiland, Icaria, and Drogeo.
The description of Frisland created a geographical confusion to which
numerous contemporary and later cartographers fell victim.
When Zeno published this apocryphal work in 1588, it was accompanied
by a woodcut map. The copperplate engraved version of the map, shown here,
was included in every edition of Ruscelli's Geographia from 1561
to 1599. Frisland is depicted in considerable detail, with many place
names indicated. Maps throughout the 16th century continued to show the
fictional islands, especially Frisland. The long-held assumption that
the geographic data were derived from a valid source lent credence to
Islandia. From the Theatrum
Orbis Terrarum of Abraham Ortelius. Antwerp, c. 1585.
Early map makers often recorded on their maps and charts the presence
of fabulous beasts, many of which reveal themselves as identifiable species
made grotesque by the embroidered tales of sailors and travelers. Of the
many maps depicting sea monsters, the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus
was the most influential. First printed in 1539, it showed the area of
the North Sea filled with dangerous maritime creatures. Versions of Olaus
Magnus's monsters populated the seas on charts until the mid-18th century.
Ortelius copied many of these monsters for his map of Iceland, published
in editions of his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Iceland is shown at
large scale, with its fjords, glaciers, and mountains, including an erupting
volcano, Mt. Hekla. Polar bears on icebergs can be seen at the top right,
while the ocean contains probably the most fantastic collection of sea
monsters to be seen on one engraving.
Europae Descriptio. Matthias Quad, Cologne, 1587.
Europe in the form of a woman is a well-known theme in maps representing
living creatures. First drawn by Johannes Bucius in 1537, this subject
appeared in editions of Sebastian Munster's Cosmography between
1580 and 1628, and in Bunting's Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae.
The design is oriented with west at the top of the map. Spain is the
crowned head, Italy is the right arm, and Denmark the left. Eastern Europe
forms the skirt of her dress, the hem of which runs northward from Greece.
It has been suggested that the figure is not a women, but Charles V, Holy
Roman Emperor (1519-56) and King of Spain (1516-56). The robes are sketchy
enough to be either female or imperialm and the argument is based on the
idea that Spain was at the time the 'crown of Europe.' The scepter in
the left hand, which reaches the British Isles, becomes a symbol of the
alliance between Charles V and Henry VIII.
Asia Secunda Pars Terrae in Forma Pegasir.
Die Gantze Welt in ein Kleberblat. Heinrich Bunting, c. 1590.
Among the earliest cartographic oddities are the famous maps from Heinrick
Bunting's Itinerarium Sacra Scripturae, or Travels According to
the Scriptures, first published in 1581. A description of Biblical lands,
it was a popular book that was reprinted many times. In addition to correct
maps of the Holy Land, it also contained three maps of pure fantasy: the
world in the form of a clover leaf, Europe as a robed female figure, and
Asia as Pegasus the mythical winged horse. The horse is drawn fairly realistically,
so that the shape of Asia has to be adjusted; the Caspian Sea lies horizontally
between the wings and the saddle, and modern India is the off hind leg.
The Pegasus map can be found in a number of different editions in both
woodcut (as displayed here) and more rare copperplate versions.
In Bunting's map of the world as a clover leaf, representing the Trinity,
each of the three continents of the Old World forms a section, with Jerusalem
in a circle in the center. England and Scandinavia appear separately at
the northern edge of the mpa, and the new continent of America can be
seen in the lower left corner. It has been suggested that the cloverleaf
design represents not only the Trinity, but the arms of Bunting's native
city of Hanover.
Geographical Fun. "Aleph" (William Harvey). London,
Ireland, Italy, Prussia.
These maps are from Geographical Fun, or Humorous Outlines
of Various Countries, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1869. The
author, William Harvey writing under the pseudonym Aleph, created a series
of twelve maps showing various countries as curious people in the great
tradition of English caricaturists. The idea behind the maps was taken
from sketches drawn by a fifteen year old girl wishing to amuse her sick
brother confined to bed.
Harvey states in the introduction: "It is believed that illustrations
of Geography may be rendered educational, and prove of service to young
scholars who commonly think Globes and Maps but wearisome aids to knowledge."
The maps and rhymes were thus designed to amuse children and to teach
some basic geographical concepts, rather than as political satires.
Septentrionalium Terrarum Descriptio.
Gerard Mercator, Duisburg, 1595.
This map, the first separately printed map of the Arctic, combines
antiquated, medieval geographical concepts with some of the more advanced
cartography of its day. The map, which first appeared in the posthumous
third part of Mercator's atlas of 1595, shows the 14th century notion
of the polar region with the oceans of the world flowing into a polar
sea between four huge islands. Mercator also drew upon the Inventio
Fortunata, which contained an account of the "Rumes nigra," the black
magnetic rock 33 miles in circumference beneath the Arctic pole. The map
also contains, in the upper left, a circular inset of the mythical island
of Frisland, and shows California north of the Arctic Circle, the Straits
of Anian, and the promise of a Northwest Passage.
On the other hand, this map also shows awareness of recent discoveries
of explorers John Davis and Martin Frobisher. Like other progressive men
of his age, Mercator was very interested in the northern sea passages
through America to Asia and was convinced of their navigability. His ideas
greatly influenced the prime movers of European exploration.
America, with those known parts in that unknowne worlde...
John Speed. London, 1626.
The notion that California was an island west of the continent of North
America was a product of imaginative speculation born of geographical
ignorance in the early 1600s. A credulous world seized upon the idea,
and for well over a century hundreds of maps appeared depicting California
totally separated from the mainland. One of the first maps to record California
as an island was this map of North America engraved by Abraham Goos and
first published in Speed's Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the
World in 1627.
After this pattern was established, nearly all maps of North America
followed this notion of California's geography. The island myth persisted
because it was difficult to explore the area by either land or sea. The
Jesuit Padre Eusebio Kino finally determined that California was connected
to the mainland at the mouth of the Colorado River. Since he had only
observed the connection on land, Kino's findings were disputed for over
40 years. The final proof was gathered by Ferdinand Konsag who in 1746
sailed completely around the Gulf of California to confirm the mainland
connection. This led King Ferdinand VII of Spain to issue a royal decreein
1747 declaring that "California is not an island." Map publishers apparently
took little notice and continued to depict California as an island until
Topographia Paradisi Terrestris Iuxta Mentem et Conjecturas Authoris.
Athanasius Kircher, from Arca Noe. Amsterdam, 1765.
For over 1500 years the existence of the Garden of Eden was an unquestionable
fact for most Christian believers. Its location varied, but in the early
Middle Ages it was generally thought to be at the eastern extremity of
the world, while later it was placed in the area of Mesopotamia.
Here it is located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, north of
the Persian Gulf. Assyria is to the east, Armenia on the west. Adam and
Eve, with the serpent and the tree of knowledge are shown within the garden,
whose four gates are guarded by angels. In the upper left, outside Eden,
Cain is shown killing Abel.
Maps for Learning and for Fun
Europe Embroidered map, by Lydia Smith, 1818.
This embroidered map of Europe was produced by an otherwise unknown
English woman named Lydia Smith in 1818. It is entirely sewn by hand;
none of the lines or text are printed on the cloth.
Until relatively recent times, needle skills were considered an important
part of a girl's education, whether she was taught at home by her mother
or at a young woman's academy or seminary. In these schools, in addition
to basic reading and writing and arithmetic skills and accomplishments
such as drawing, music, and languages, geography was taught because it
improved the memory. There was also much stress on needlework. Plain sewing
and darning were taught to the youngest girls and the older ones learned
fancy work. It was perhaps inevitable that instruction in basic subjects
would be combined with needlework, and samplers showing alphabets and
maps began to appear.
It appears that embroidered maps and map samplers developed in the British
Isles in the 1770s and spread to North America. They were far more common
in England than in the US, and the era of greatest popularity was from
the 1770s to the 1840s. In England these maps typically showed Britain
or Europe. In the US, embroidered maps of Europe were common, possibly
because teachers had immigrated from Britain and brought the traditions
Colton's Geographical Combination Map. J.H. Colton.
New York, 1855.
In England, printed "board-games" became popular towards the end of
the 18th century and created an appropriate background for the invention
of what we now call the jigsaw puzzle. In the 1760s John Spilsbury was
producing "dissected maps" by mounting a printed map on a thin piece of
mahogany, then cutting it up into a number of pieces so that children
might learn their geography by putting it together again.
While map table games were essentially toys, dissected maps would sometimes
be used in the schoolroom, perhaps as a light relief after some more arduous
task. The educational uses of the puzzles were stressed in advertisements.
The text on the box containing Colton's Geographic Combination Map
of the United States in this exhibit reads in part:
"The design of the Publishers has been to furnish an agreeable and attractive
method of imparting to the young a knowledge of Geography, and of blending
amusement with instruction....
"The act of combining these parts exercises and amuses the mental faculties;
and the study of Geography thus made attractive is rapid and permanent
in its results; and more knowledge of the subject is acquired in one hour
spent in this intellectual amusement than in a month of hard book-study."
Accurata Utopiae Tabula Das is Der Neu-Entdecken Schalck-Welt, oder
des so offt benannten, und doch nie erkannten, Schlaraffenlandes. Matthias
Maps of Life and Love
Schlaraffenland is the German utopia, an imaginary country of
idleness and luxury, where, as described in the 16th century satire of
Hans Sachs, chickens, geese, and pigeons fly around already cooked and
waiting to be eaten, and every house is surrounded by a hedge of sausage.
Seutter's map expands this theme considerably, and his Schlaraffenland
becomes the land of all vice with names like Mammon, Stomach Empire, Land
of Booze, Republic of Venerea, Tobacco Island, Prodigal Kingdom, etc.,
all surrounded by four others: the kingdoms of Youth and Old Age, Terra
Sancta Incognita at the top, and Tartari Regnu -- the nether regions --
at the bottom.
The geography of the various countries is worked out in great detail,
and described at length in a large book that was published at the same
time. The numerous place-names on the map are nearly all puns, such as
Alamode, Bacchanalia, and Cortisan; many of them are quite crude. To the
north is New Jerusalem, in the unknown country of the pious; to the south
is the kingdom of Hell, where all the inhabitants of Schlaraffenland will
eventually arrive. "Schlaraffenland" maps were issued in a number of atlases
by Dutch and German mapmakers between about 1700 and 1750.
A New Map of the Land of Matrimony Drawn from the Latest Surveys.
J. Johnson. London, 1772.
A typical example of a late 18th century matrimonial map showing
an English view on the matter. Here the traveler is sailing on the Ocean
of Love with the map indicating the "Track of the vessels bound to the
Land of Matrimony." The ships have to navigate past the Rocks of Jealousy
and through the Straits of Uncertainty, while avoiding Danglers Island
and Cape Shilly Shally. Their destination is Brides Bay, with its Honeymoon
Island, and the final journey past the Temple of Hymen and up the L'Amour
River into the Land of Matrimony.
Das Reich der Liebe. Johann
Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf. Leipzig, 1777.
Love and marriage have always been popular subjects for invented lands,
although the subjects have been treated in a variety of ways. J.G.I. Breitkopf's
1777 map of the kingdom of love, Das Reich der Liebe, was acoompanied
by a brief explanatory text. The pilgrim sets out from the Land of Youth,
where lie the sources of the rivers of Wishes and Joys. There are six
other lands where his travels may lead him, such as the Land of Unhappy
Love, with the Desert of Melancholy and the River of Tears, and the Land
of Desires, beyond which lies a no-man's-land containing the towns of
Separation and Hatred, and the Heath of Vexation.
Matrimonial Map. Unidentified Mss., 19th century.
This undated and unidentified manuscript matrimonial map, probably from
the early 19th century. The Great Ocean of Love is full of hazards like
the Rocks of Jealousy and the Shoals of Perplexity, and surrounded by
the Islands of Perseverance and Obstinacy, Coquette Island with its Vanity
Fort, and the dangerous Dead Lake of Indifference. An interesting site
on land is Bachelor's Fort, located near the Gulf of Self Love.
A Map of the Various Paths of Life.
B. Johnson. Philadelphia, 1805.
A wonderfully detailed guide through life, from birth through death.
The obvious best path through the maze of life leads from Parental Care
Hall at the top of the map, to Happy Old Age Hall near the Peaceful Ocean
at the bottom left. The roads run through such areas as the Exulting and
Humble Districts, cross the Indiscreet Range and Bad Mans Land, and wander
through the Poverty Maze and Distress Borough. Care must be taken on the
journey, so as not to arrive at the bottom right of the map where Agony
Whirlpool, Horror Bog, and the Bottomless Pit await.
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