Category Archives: cartographic design

Mapping the Proposed Balkanization of the State California

Timothy C. Draper fondly reminisced that “I grew up in the state that was number one in education, the number one place to do business and the best place to live.”  The mental landscape that he conjured wistfully is something he argues would be recaptured by remapping the state of California into six separate states to return the state–or all of its six new states to be carved from it–to that past.  Persuading us to see the state as a set of discrete regions became a way to urge voters to realize his political strategy to divide California into six cantons of diffrent hues.  And when he rolled out the project for dividing the state–and its resources and economy–once again into three states,  one named simply “California” on the coast below San Jose to Los Angeles, bounded by the “Northern” and “Southern” California, as if in an attempt to make the map look clearer, Draper seeks to persuade voters to overlook the complex web of natural resources (like water), but huge discrepancies in public education, pension plans, transportation needs, and water management that demand resolution in coming decades–and in effect heighten the levels of inequality already permeating the state, as well as diluting its political voice.

He used an elegant map as the clarion call to generate support for his map to renewed economic prosperity–using a color scheme across the full spectrum to underscore differences between each region.  The complex scheme of dividing the state found a nice logo in six colors, presumably to reflect the parched nature of the more arid and waterless areas of the state who were left to fend for themselves, the orange Southern California and the Imperial Valley and bright red Central California’s desert.


New Map of California


Draper’s initiative to “divide” California into six California’s–six separate states–picks up the inventive cartographies of division that partition the United States into more “rational” or “reasonable” mega-regions, macro-states, or mini-countries, and betrays what little sense he has of the environmental or ecological status of the state.  His proposal stands at odds to how, back in 1837, the German-American jurist Franz Lieber famously doubted that merely altering hues of any map could affect its political economy. He doubted that “the face of our country would change” as a result, and saw little impact for changing a map’s color-scheme, and hoped that “if the engravers were able to sell their maps less boisterously painted and not as they are now, each county of each state in flaming red, bright yellow, or a flagrant orange dye arrayed, like the cover produced by the united efforts of a quilting match.”  Lieber had studied topographic mapping in Dresden before coming to America, and meant to contrast realities of political economy with the coloration of maps–probably contrasting the four-color maps of the United States to those of Prussia with his Berlin-trained mind’s eye; the flagrant color-scheme of a map, however, becomes a device for Draper to urge that we remake California into six “political entities” that most of those living in them wouldn’t actually recognize.

In treating California as a landmass whose extent is able to be parceled into six–or three–blocks, the iconic visualization presumes “California” is not a landscape bound by coastal rivers, streams, glacial ice-pack, or viaducts, but might be parsed as the graphic designer wishes, in what seems the utter alienation of map from place.  By converting California to six cantons, the hope is to remake the state as six more manageable mega-regions to bridge perceived distances between government and Californians.  Draper represents the remapping of the state as a means to reconnect its residents to a model of good government in something of an extension of the argument of states’ rights.  The graphical division of the Golden State into six entities, maxi-regions or mini-states, each emptied of local meaning and purged of cities, provides the rallying cry of the venture capitalist’s movement for the May 2016 ballot, having gained over 1.3 million signatories of in-state residents–at the time of its submission in mid-July–and of a charge that Draper hopes would open up the possibility that other states follow the lead of his movement to break into separate states as well.

Perhaps the initiative isn’t motivated by the desire to make one state in charge of border control, or break off West California [to] include much of what most Americans think of as stereotypical California – L.A.’s tangle of freeways, the movie industry, Disneyland and the surfing beaches up to Santa Barbara,” but to distance concerns that seem to address only part of the state from anyone living elsewhere by selective severing of what seem purely regional problems.  While Draper’s own “Silicon Valley” has to an extent become its own its own region since the late 1980s, assuming its own place in the mental imaginary of the country and growing to an economy of national proportions, the independence of a region within California is more akin to rural Siskiyou County’s autonomous decision to declare its secession from the state in 2013, fed up with state regulations and a desire to protect their water rights, and to join other counties in Northern California and Oregon as “our own state,” with Humboldt County and Union District, fed up with the authority of southern California in the redistribution of water and taxes.

The notion of declaring secession as a fifty-first state to preserve one’s “way of life,” as the State of Jefferson movement, meant to evoke the spirit of the founding father, went far beyond proposals for independence in Riverside County, as declaring autonomy from the state was not only a rebellion against taxation and poor fire policies, but on securing their own water rights.  The resolutions didn’t describe a  political process, but capture a sense of the separate interests of the region from the state, which spread in largely rural regions to file “petitions of independence” to the legislatures of twenty-one counties, having fashioned its own flag and seal, placing a double cross against the field of a gold mining pan to symbolize feelings of abandonment of regions in California and Oregon alike to stake their claims for sovereign independence.  Much as some of the support for Calexit–widely supported by anti-pluralist white separatist groups–the fragmentation of the state seems slightly in the identitarian realm of building legitimacy for white separatism, and the right of a hiving off of society based on the notion of parceling land to different cultural identities, and governments that more accurately reflect their racial or ethnic composition and values.


Jefferson 51st state?.jpgCalaveras County, CA (2013)


There isn’t much of actual legal basis for one-sided assertion of secession by counties, despite some historical precedent from the mid-twentieth century–but professing a libertarian ethos of not being served by the state legislature was symbolically powerful froom 2014 to 2015, and “the51s” spread like wildfire to Yuba County, Glenn County, Calaveras County, Tehama County, Sutter County, Modoc County, Lake County, and Lassen County, as signs sowed seeds for separate sovereignty as a campaign for personal freedom, in ways that were often implicitly closely tied to the retention of local water rights.

Yet even those who champion local community should be taken aback by the apparent popularity of the proposal to subdivide California as a state.  Despite continued questions as to the proposition’s legality, debate about the benefit of dividing the state–and about doing so by putting the issue up to voters to decide by California’s somewhat awfully anti-democratic proposals–has provoked a small storm in an era of widespread drought.  Despite Draper argument that his success of forecasting is revealed by his skillful investments in Tesla, Intel, LinkedIn, and more, his discernment of the “different issues important to different people in California” might overstate the divides into which he proposes to break the state to help its future growth.  The debate is framed by proponents of the cause on their website, where Draper’s initiative, energy and funds, have animated catchy graphics that animate a cartographical fantasy that seems far more satisfactory in its color design than its translation to actual experience:  the erasure of links between the states seem drawn in one region–and it’s located on the coast–as the map seems more of an expulsion and banishment than a liberation, essentially leaving four regions to fend for themselves, and treating them as if they were  equal.





Draper’s lack of success in moving attention to the agenda–despite his snazzy logo of regional division–did not let him hesitate, in the anti-government Age of Trump, to relaunch and rebrand a strikingly similar program only several years later, in a simpler cartographic logic, and with a less catchy emblem:  the “Cal3” initiative, which in 2018 stands to divide the nation into a triad of mega-local entities, has sacrificed local character and resources that Draper believes affirms support for the redesigning of the state’s tax base through “unprecedented show of support on behalf of every corner of California to create three state governments that emphasize representation, responsiveness, reliability and regional identity,” even if the notion of “regional identity” is, given the variation of proposals to split the state, not that clear.

What is at stake is the deep appeal to self-interest, however, reflected perfectly in the revised remapping of “California” as a hiving off of Silicon Valley in Cal3, a sort of rewriting of Calexit, now understood as the departure of the wealth of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and the coast in what is trending on Twitter as “CABreakup”–at least in “#NoCABreakup,” a hashtag that essentially tries to affirm that government can do a better job of assessing and addressing the problems of the state, or at least in guaranteeing a lower tax rate for many of his friends and associates.  For under the meaningless mantra of “better decision-making . . . closer to home,” the anti-government agenda of Draper was rolled out this time under the slogan “Californians deserve more”–presumably in reference to the inhabitants of the region that would be “California” in Draper’s new cartographical fiction–




The opposition movement of “OneCalifornia” stands to create a worthwhile form of resistance to the deeply anti-republican ideals Draper espouses again, opening up his wallet for yet another campaign of redrawing lines of jurisdiction to profit from an anti-big government ethos in the Age of Trump, as if banking on the fact of a reduced number of voters in different areas of the state to make the appeal to self-interest work this time round, as if to profit from the southward expansion of Silicon Valley.

The deceptive roll-out of this new age of individualism and self-interest conceals the huge divide in California’s wealth and its interconnected natural resource, but rest in their imagined enlightenment of recognizing their demographic and economic equality–


CA Cartographic FIctions


–conceals the hugely different revenues generated in each region by their population, and the different ways in which their “leading industries” are tied, rather than discrete.  The Malthusian pseudo-enlightenment foregrounding of the rough equality of their respective populations seem to suggest that Draper has found a more reasonable manner of cutting up the state into allegedly equitable sections, but conceals the hugely different economic characters.  Indeed, the faux appeal to reason and enlightenment even better conceals the deep interests at stake in such a division, that empties its “map” of California of local divides even more drastically, while asserting, in its new chromatic hues of varied blues, that the division wouldn’t actually be that bitter a pill to swallow at all, in deeply misleading ways.

The rapidly growing population of the coastal regions suggest that the hiving off of the rump “California” boasts benefits of secession.  But the bill–which, even if it fails, is a notable cartographic fiction–and the power of an imagined cartographic division, and the ridiculousness of its omission of such ties in 2018 has led to an open and entire rejection of the logic of cartographic design in the appeal to a new organic mapping of the state by the so-called “opposition” group that has mobilized against Draper’s new agenda.  The effects, OneCalifornia now notes, is one of dismemberment of an organic unity, opting out of a cartographical language entirely, and referring to the state flag–an emblem of republicanism–



–to suggest the alternative as dismemberment of a cut up bear, suggesting the divides as akin to a form of butchery, rather than following any enlightened practice of an underling logic guided by reason, and suffers the consequences of being literally drawn and quartered.


ONe CA.png



Although the poor mapping of the state into six regions was aptly foregrounded as papering over the socioeconomic units of counties and seeking to naturalize a new vision of the state’s tax base–





–the departure from a cartographical logic may indeed be a clearer way of meeting the initiative, as it resonates with the division of water rights, administration of natural resources, transportation needs, and public policy that makes California so unique.  And in an age when we need better public transportation, with Silicon Valley having developed far more speedy ways to send data over the internet or bounce streaming off satellites than to move people across an actual geography–public transit across the eighteen miles from Palo Alto to San Jose taking nearly half an hour, albeit biking also offers a speedy solution–the division of California seems more of a crash and burn strategy than a solution.  With real problems from pensions to state education lying on the front burner of future generations, as well as transit, the proposed parcelization of the state throws up one’s hands at the possibility of consensus, in the name of letting a free market reign, leaving “Southern California” in the lurch, with limited water, and boosting more power in Sacramento than it had before.




1.  Revising borderlines is certainly a great way to create distance in the name of promoting greater transparency that the initiative promotes.  The declarative finality of the map seems a great way to close debate, rather than advance it, by revealing and promoting fault-lines of which Californians weren’t even aware.  The  finality of the map that is the logo of the proposal that Draper hopes to put before voters in 2016 is, tellingly, both bleached of toponymy and of local knowledge of the regions that it separates by whitespace borders.  In indicating six districts or proto-states in which he imagined the monolith “California” might be good to divide and cantonize, the image is conveniently oblivious of what the “new borders,” for all their alleged objectivity, might in practice mean–assimilating hinterlands to major cities would surely diminish consensus and accentuate new divides; he argues the divisions reflect the “very different personalities” and economic and political priorities of the residents of each of these regions.

Indeed, the habitual carving of countries by data visualizations lends increased credibility to new parsing of provocative lines of political divisions that effectively work disrupt their symbolic unity, presenting an argument that the size of these six state offer a template to restore the good days of local government, as if that would somehow leave California both more responsive and responsible to state-wide problems.  For the proposal seeks to redress the distance at which each region’s interests have come to lie from Sacramento, and to appeal to the self-interest of voters.  For Draper’s movement, the division would respond to the balancing of the different interests of each region, although only those of Silicon Valley seem defined:   Draper has discussed, for example, how a “large group in Sacramento” grew so “very isolated” from the “very different personalities” of each region to find it impossible to prioritize such concerns as Silicon Valley’s prioritizing H-1B_visas, or Southern Californians’ concern with immigration, as if their distance in Sacramento exacerbated the problem of “trying to balance the interests of people all up and down this coast” more than partisan gridlock.

The proposed remapping of California’s coast–a landmark achievement  of environmental management–indeed seems central to the canonization his group advocates:  five coastal regions seem the template for the division of the state; names of most coastal regions include “California” as if to remind residents that they only seek to preserve the best interests of the state:  “North California,” “Central California,” and “West California,” remind residents they have the state’s best interest at stake, notwithstanding the peripheral “Jefferson” and the massive new regional”Silicon Valley,” which is expanded to include choice properties around San Francisco, as if spatially linked by the web of private commute buses not only to the Bay Area but also much further north to Mendocino.  (Perhaps this is one of the true agendas of the movement for Six Californias:  not to break up California into regions like “South California” and “Jefferson,” but to make “California” a setting in which Silicon Valley, the place where Draper lives and works, can expand to attain the sort of place on the map that it deserves.)


New Map of California


The proposal to partition the Golden Sate echoes past proposals of splitting off, hiving, or partitioning of many of the lower forty eight.  Andrew Shears of Mansfield University has taken the time to collate and synthesize many of these movements in a stunning exercise of an “alternate history”of what might have been, using a list of U.S. State Partition Proposals, that multiplies the familiar fifty states in the union to a whopping 124 proposed states–with a disclaimer about advocating such multiple proposals.


United States that Could Have Been


The similarities between the “Draperized” map of California and collapsed movements of secession that Shears mapped in the state are curious. They probably partly reflect the massive settlement of the California coast and its concentration of capital–the proposal carves “Silicon Valley” out of California’s coastline and adds both West California and North California to it.  Unlike previous calls for downsizing California that predate the announced secession of “Jefferson” in 1941, before the entry of the US into World War II, the argument is to create more responsible government, rather than that distinguishing the region of “Coastal California” would allow an ample conservative voice for denizens of the interior of the state.  The map that demonstrated the splitting of the state has, moreover, itself become a sort of rallying cry:  rather than a grass-roots phenomenon of secession from below, the disbanding of California creates a collage of cantons in which all residents will better recognize themselves.

The divisions mapped above are meant to promise “more direct contact” of the citizens with a government “now ruled by detached and isolated politicians in Sacrament,” which Draper and friends suggest splitting to six legislatures (five more), electing five more governors, and passing six separate budgets, all out of the belief that small, rather than big, is beautiful, and that local problems will be more easily resolved locally, rather than gridlock.  Of course, the habitual carving of countries by data visualizations lends increased credibility to how redrawing six states would provide a better reflection of its political divisions, as if intentionally confusing such electoral divides with the state’s actual topographic landscape. For the notion of divvying up states into red and blue does create a difficulty for California, if one’s been trying to parse the ostensible national divide in the electorate that we’ve seen on news screens from at least 2000, and that now substitute for political debate–in order to create a set of state-like sectors that would reflect voter preferences that would vote reliable, we could benefit from Draper & Co.’s design, which would individuate some new “red states” in California in the electoral mosaic.




But the initiative is not only seeking to parse blue from red.  For the map conceals the deep variations of income, taxation rates, and –all of which drive the red/blue schism of partisan divides in a blue state whose blues located dominantly on its coast.


2.  While data visualizations are great for challenging disrupting inherited symbolic forms too often burned onto the back of our retinas, does Draper’s six-color proposal really open new space for debate?  While abandoning a five-color scheme to display data, the odd choices of hues used in the “Six Californias” logo makes one wonder what is trying to be conveyed–aside from the heat of the Sierras and sandiness of the desert–save the fundamental fact that these districts should be disjoined.  Sick of charges of gerrymandering, the notion is perhaps to take both the revenues produced by Silicon Valley for its local education budget and SoCal tax franchise and keep it for oneself, and leave the Central Valley a distant poor cousin where per capita income would fall below that of the state of Mississippi; now that the reduction of property taxes have dispensed with one of the best ways of reallocating capital in California, just let the tax franchise be divided to create a spectacularly wealthy shore and poorer satellite states with minimal populations, and really big water problems, posed only to accelerate with the growing drought.

What goes on with the aqueducts, rivers, canals and reservoirs is a crucially omitted point to which the end of this post will return.  Putting aside  problems posed for the University of California system, jewel institution of the states not to mention the wide network of community colleges, the budgeting for a far-flung elementary public school system would be immense–if the Regents would have to reconsider the whole question of in-state tuition, as well as the viability of the system.  (Forget about questions of what in-state tuition would mean; would we have not only ten new senators, but six Regents?)  As one who made much money on LinkedIn, does Draper envisage online education replacing the state universities?  Although Draper has insisted that the division of the state into a region with twelve senators and six governors would cut a bloated bureaucracy, what, one might ask, about the work of the California Coastal Commission at a time of increased concern with rising ocean-levels and tsunami?

Or does the imagined legal elevation of the region of Silicon Valley to statehood–the apparent essence of Draper’s imaginary future division of the map, only seek to remove Sacramento’s oversight of its economy?  Since the basic motive behind the division seems to be to allow the newly forged state “Silicon Valley” to hire cheaper labor from Asia without restriction, it’s probable that he wouldn’t be so interested in cultivating in-state employees, anyways.  The new entity of “South California” (the amalgamated Orange and San Diego Counties, but leaving out most of Los Angeles to create a more homologous demographic) might even work to tip the balance of political representation in the US Senate, with “Central California” (the San Joaquin Valley)–assuming each of these regions would, by constitutional amendment, have two senators.  The ‘proposal’ exemplifies a pretty perverse cartographical wish-fulfillment that seems more distant from reality the more closely it’s considered, or the more closely one consideres the ways that California works.  Although the website addresses issues such as pension-retention and the future of in-state tuition, it barely conceals its deep self-interest and suggesting few questions of collective resolution–and little (if any) sense of awareness of the state’s geographic location or the increasing precariousness of its environment.  Is proponents seem to distill all problems of governance to questions of geographic proximity, and prefer to see all resolutions as springing from the fragmenting of the state’s map into six separate sectors.

To be sure, the above parsing of the state reflects the rhetorical reconstruction of the nation into mega-regions or sub-divisions that have become increasingly popular, and play out a deep anxiety that the map has changed in ways that representational government no longer reflects, or no longer does well.  Our political map needs to be redrawn, the argument goes, to better account for how the ground has changed beneath our feet.  Such newly popular maps, perhaps hastened by the eye-grabbing nature of digital web-design and computer-assisted reporting, greatly profit from the ability to convert digitized cartography into a compelling meme, take their spin and part their power from the recent division of the country’s political preferences into “red” and “blue” states in news media–no matter how mutable such divisions might be, and how the division of California into two settled poles might provide a balance–as much as an argument for separatism per se.  In Draper’s initiative, indeed, it has been remarkable how much the image of re-drawing the state has become the story, as if the map, rather than illustrating the situation on the ground, can become the basis for future debate and, even, the infographic the issue itself, now liberated from a purely illustrative function.  It even invites the question if whether the sorts of divisions that infographics have accustomed us to see reveal actual obstacles to civic consensus or debate.

Indeed, the recent re-divisions of our chorographical maps into sharply distinguished choropleths that better distinguish divides in the nation and explicate the imagined oppositions between who’s red and who’s blue in the national news seems to have generated a range of unique solutions to better parse the nation into who watches the World Cup with attention and who doesn’t.  The map provides the basis for a more eye-grabbing news story, as well as being satisfyingly direct and bare bones–spare me the time to read the paragraphs–model to consume information.  Such divisions of the country into allegedly “more accurate” cartographical parings have come to seem omnipresent signifiers that circulate in the blogosphere, removed from a storyline or caption; in elevating “place” as an object of true meaning, these divisions of demography create ghosts in the machine of the nation:  it’s not so surprising we’ve created alternative demographic divides and performed futurologies of the fragmentation to be brought by impending demographic shifts, or past signs of inevitable unbridgeable differences across regions that have not yet been sufficiently recognized in other maps.

The idea of the initiative is to bring the map into better correspondence with reality, so that the map better reflect the lost idea of an efficient and productive state.  So why not use the five-color scheme that divides the nation to divide the nation in different ways?  Creating a new national architecture for understanding our identity is not only a form of mise-en-abyme of the current rage for dividing the nation into more sensible units than that followed by the electoral college, and projecting the new sorts of urban constellations of paved earth–and the sectors of commuting they allow–that divide the nation in ways that lead one to conclude–perhaps given the recent debacles in Presidential primaries–that the state as an enitity is a thing whose time has passed, given the regional networks by which habitation, work, and priorities might be better expressed.


Emerging Megaregions


Draper might indeed be seeking to create a similar exercise of cartographical futurology, by improbably linking San Francisco to Silicon Valley, and merging San Diego with Orange County, and then parsing the rest of the current state to most appropriately divide whatever is left over.

Some have argued that such a division already exists–and might be historically back-projected to the country’s origins, perhaps in order to rectify the errors of the founding fathers who fathomed the federation in the first place, noting that several nations in fact exist, based on the research of the reporter Colin Woodward into the eleven nations that now make up our nation:


American Nations


The currency of this notion that we’d do better to just divide the nation into regions seems particularly appealing as an exit-strategy to the toxic arguments of those who continue to advocate the confused concept of “states’ rights” to advocate NIMBY policy or to resist recommendations that society might be profitably adjusted to profit those disenfranchised.  If we partition “Greater Appalachia,” the thought might also run, we get rid of a lot of other problems to affirming the unified policies of “Yankeedom.”  (Of course, it goes unspoken that the notion that such a division of a country into mini-nations seems a way to sanction a set of “just wars” about political differences, which wouldn’t have to be “civil” but just just.)  Once drawn on a chart, and hopefully in straight or straight-ish lines, the divisions of regions seem to make sense–especially if they can all be given logos that approximate new flags or a board game.


GDP map


This is by no means the only means recently advocated or devised to divide the country.  Creative parsing of the country into regions that the demographic of Facebook users seems to map into clusters of “Friendship” might be an alternative division of constituencies, if you posit the idea that regions should possess some inherent coherence or identity, measured that they be more likely to be Facebook “friends”–as if that could create consensus, or that it takes too much time to arrive at consensus by political debate, which in themselves map interestingly onto Woodward’s creative divides.


United FB regions


The data-visualizers like might also opt to divide the regions of the US into its greatest centers of population, as in this gridded cartogram that exaggerates geomorphology as weighted to number of inhabitants, in ways that reveal the increased political problem posed by the concentration of the population outside of rural regions:  the population-weighted gridded gridded cartogram of the sort that is warped by the energetic cartographer Benjamin D. Hennig posits the question of how to best distribute the political process across the country that might merit a rethinking of the role of the electoral college, to be sure, and to the notion of “super”-senators to augment the voice of specific states.


Cartogram of US popation on grid


Let’s pause to reflect on the specific gridded distribution of population  across the state the proposal would divide to six, and ask where its major centers would be–and reflect on how the distribution of population might inspire libertarian ideas of separatism within the state:


California in Gridded Cartogram


But how to parse populations into greater divisions doesn’t seem to be the most evident answer to problems of arriving at consensus, if that notion of national uniformity is what one really wants.

ESRI opted to map the country into ‘eco-regions,’ which might, as much as anything else, prove a manner of dividing the land, if it weren’t already inhabited-and if the divisions didn’t prove so irregular.  The divisions provide no basis for a political geography.  The result would be closer to the land’s geography, than the divisions the libertarian Draper put on the table–but few at ESRI would surge that these eco-regions provide aactual or effective lines of governance or of constituted economically viable units, and nor would Jefferson have endorse the solution even when we remained an agricultural state.


esri ecoregions USA


3.  But something like this seems to be going on in Draper’s somewhat immodestly self-promoted proposal to divide California voiced as a libertarian solution to the ostensibly increasing distance of current state government in Sacramento from the people’s will.  The notion that this “aims to address a variety of issues the state faces today” begins from the not so imaginative invitation “ever really think about how big California is?” that passes as a form of cartographical reflection, asking how can only one governor even be expected to look after all of its inhabitants, and resolving problems of representing Californians by the illusory simplicity of a DIY cartographical exercise that anyone should be free to weigh in upon:  “you can create your state from the ground up . . . [and] have a say in what your state becomes.”  The graphic indeed seems to drive the argument for how “Six Californias” can bridge the divides that have grown with governments that have so receded from local issues to become “further distant” from the very folks they represents them–“six smaller states with more local and more responsive government,”as the website has it.  To shift the business plan of the government, as it were, and its “parts” are spun off to spend tax dollars more effectively and responsibly–and, despite the stacked deck of the considerably large economy in California, to compete among one another, rather than be overseen by Sacramento.

Such “draw it yourself” form of libertarian cartography is particularly deceptive as a way to resolve the state’s deep problems–and seem not only create multiple problems for the state’s existing infrastructure and educational systems with the illusion that one has done something to solve them, and argues that more problems are solved by the disaggregation of the state as a powerful means to dismantle governmental control.


New Map of California


The logic underlying the project of dividing the state seems be to allow each “region” to express its own interest in the most transparent ways.

Draper’s idea that remapping six California’s would be a basis to “recreate your state” that may be on the 2016 ballot has been fittingly lampooned by the cartoonist David Horsey of the LA Times in his own revisionary map of the possible divisions of the Golden State into proto-states with their own diffident mottoes, each no doubt phrased with a suitably separatist inflection.  Horsey played much more creatively with the proposed regions’ toponymy to point up the quite interested (and urban) perspectives that animate the venture capitalist’s dismemberment of the state–taking the “more effective” map of “Six Californias,” but renaming “Jefferson” as “Weed,” for example, and using the “iState” as a designation of Silicon Valley, whose motto might now become “I’ll Google It” while “Border” has selected the simple declarative “Send ‘Em Back!”  (The mottoes reflect something of the self-interested nature of the initiative Draper sponsored in exempting Silicon Valley from the regulations that surround work-visas, which would allow Silicon Valley industries to hire the technological whizzes that it wants to hire, without inconvenient legal obstructions.)

For Draper has proposed that a belt from Marin to Tahoe as “North California,” as if to endow it with homogeneity, and greater San Diego becomes “South California.” Horsey’s remapping of the state into regions nicely reveals just how much the continuity of such regions derives from one’s perspective.  If Draper’s promise is to put voters back in touch with their representatives and destinies, the funny map into which he wants to carve the region removes the relation of the state to its major sites of agrarian production, but also to the snow packs and aquifers that until recent memory sustained much of the state, streaming down from the Sierra,  or the quandary of whether the dismembered state would be able to better deal with issues of drought.  Hollister farmer Andy Griffin of Mariquita Farms made similar concerns, and asks the deeper question, in a his own nice gloss to the below cartoon, by asking how the planned subdivision of the state remain removed from any awareness of where we are–and muddy regional awareness of even more pressing issues such as “mass transit and traffic congestion, even rental prices and housing supply”–perhaps “all regional concerns,” but ones “that need cooperation across county and city lines.”  Doesn’t the map Draper uses serve to obscure these issues, and reduce the state to the bottom level of questions of local self-interest?




Griffin’s points are hardly demanding of cartographical demonstration, but raises questions of the lack of a tabula rasa from which the division of the state into administrative entities might begin–and the alienation of such a proposal from the lay of the land.  While it looks like it might work in Photoshop, it evokes the specter of multiple desalination plants along the coastline that would presumably provide water to “Western California” and “Northern California” if they weren’t getting such a good deal from the network of reservoirs, aqueducts, Owen River, and canals that currently service not only the economy of the Central Valley, but the large cities that have grown up along the coast, let alone the sites of water storage that keep supplies of water uniform in an increasingly dry state.  (Or the question of where the SoCal amalgam of “South California,” far better named ‘Bling’, might deposit its trash, save in Border or in the Pacific.)


water storage and distribution


Just how connected Los Angeles and San Diego are to this matrix of water-transportation from the Columbia River to the Colorado River becomes apparent if one considers the map, cleansed of toponymy, of where it is that the Southland’s supply of drinking water derives–and the extent to which the SoCal watershed derives from the expanse of the entire state, in ways that would be a potential disaster of litigation to disentangle, if not  a natural disaster in the making, once one imagines the negotiation of water across multiple pseudo-state lines.

Indeed, not only do the Sierras provide over half of the total flow into the Sacramento Delta–the lynchpin of the complex system of irrigation and aqueducts that provides water to 25 million Californians and some three million acres of actively and intensively farmed agricultural land, and create a water structure that provides clean water to the state, but the linked ecosystems of the Delta and Sierras demand an increasingly collaborative policies and oversight that the very idea of division seems particularly shortsighted and would not only blindside the state but obfuscate issues.

Let’s just look a bit closer at the situation of the linked region of the Sierra-Delta at the center of the network of water that allows inhabitants of the states to live, and drives its land-based economy:





One arrives at an even more strikingly persuasive map, no doubt, by bleaching it of local toponym and topography alike, and foregrounding the web of water transport that reaches out of a thick central vein, and reaches most of the southern state that would ostensibly, in this perverse proposal, hive off as separate units, disconnected from the prime manmade surface aquifer which, albeit artificially, carries water to their residents across the very lines that the Draper-backed proposal mandates the law artificially sever, in ways that betray limited familiarity with the state’s water supplies, let alone the changes that climate change pose for the delicate balance that has historically that formed among the state’s diverse regions:


The historically built web of water supplied down the California Aqueduct and from the watershed that leads to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to the rest of the state is artificial in nature, but a web that animates the ecosystems of the farmlands around where we live.  Indeed, the web of freshwater that we have created links the state as an organism–with some 60% coming from the Sierra.  After the break-up of the region into proto-states, perhaps we can dispense with the diversion of water to the Central California’s valley to San Diego and Orange County?  In those regions, desalination plants could crowd the coastlines, at least in the short term increasing the number of local jobs if at massive cost to those new states.




It’s a good way of forgetting the ways that we are bound to the allocation of resources, and to imagine that by going back to the drawing board with the idea that it can be a tabula rasa, we might be able to better sculpt the future out of the confused state of the present, and find clarification in letting us forget where we are by remapping out sense of the present lay of the land or our responsibility to it–rather than removing us from the land.  And of the future of the state, evident in the selection of a new topographic map, from a futurist press release dated 2072, imagining the new shoreline created due to erosion and the disintegration of the arctic ice cap, created by Burrito Justice, of the remade San Francisco archipelago:




One might as well also think of the remapping of just a detail Los Angeles bay, from a more detailed map drawn by Spatialities that considered the shifts in toponymic place-names that will occur after a rise of water elevation of 260 feet:


Los Angeles Bay


As a consideration of the fragile supply of waters, the shifting of the known shoreline throws a wrench into the forward-looking rhetoric Draper uses.

Making maps that might attend more to natural resources, and less to administrative reorganization, would be a good place to start to think about our relation to the land.  Francis Lieber was particularly concerned to develop administrative solutions that would lead to good government, reflecting his dedication to questions of political economy, and no doubt might stress administration of the land as an individual responsibility:  Nullum jus sine officio, nullum officium sine jure (“No right without its duties, no duty without its rights”).  Libertarians as Draper lose sight of this, and of what responsibilities might be lost in the proposed disaggregation of the state.


California Republic

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Filed under California, cartographic design, cartographic fictions, federalism, Six Californias, Timothy Draper

Cartography, Personification, Figuration

Personification was something of an early modern topos, and a device for how to preserve unity.  When that man of letters Desiderius Erasmus singled out personification as a trope worthy of imitation in De utraque verborum ac rerum copia (1517), a primer on how to vary and embellish writing in an elegant manner.   The use among literate classes and high social orders of forms for amplifying written expression emphasized inventive models of expression, valuing the versatility in inventing and experimenting with combining varied modes of rhetorical accomplishment as illustrations of virtuosic skill and ability.  Far removed from a techne, the art of deploying tropes or figures of speech provided a tool to please one’s audience, employing figures of speech from allegory to synecdoche in order to illustrate the abundance and fertility of forms of public expression and engage one’s audience.

The adoption of standards of amplifying abundance in speech as a form of rhetorical virtuosity was not limited to oratory, but was readily transferred in interesting ways to how nations were embodied in early printed maps, whose formulaic construction lent them to the sort of combinatorial arts by which rhetorical practice had been increasingly understood, both as a form of technical writing by state secretaries and personal scribes described and provided models by which to organize formal written as well as verbal expression by virtue of their plenitude.  Indeed, if the proliferation of early modern maps is often tied purely to printing to meet cartographical demand or a taste for maps, the embellishment of chorographical city-views as well as national maps provided a canvas on which to express settlement as a form of unending abundance to provide confirmation of the nation’s actual and symbolic wealth for readers.  Maps provided particularly apt vehicles for copia, especially through the allegorical personification and amplification of the inhabited land, in ways that merged the purely quantitative tools of mapmaking with elegantly qualitative detail.

Erasmus lent currency to the figure of speech as an exemplary method of expression.  In a book often cobbled together from model passages of classical works of writing and rhetoric that served audiences as a guide throughout the sixteenth century as a model of written communication, Erasmus personified the abstract virtues of a number of ancient writers from Aristophanes to Chrysippus and Horace with attention to how the trope of personification could encompass the virtues of mythical beings–the trope served to make vividly present for the eyes of readers something absent through varied forms of expression.  The evocation of a personified form  seems to have encouraged cartographers to attribute a similar poetics of embodiment to mapped expanse, and indeed helped make such figurations of bodily unity more easily recognized by their audiences as expressions not only of virtues, but as a deeply symbolic measn to mediate surveys that augmented their coherence and power, and convert them to texts that better engaged audinces.

The trope or topos of visual personification informed terrestrial maps’ coherence and continuity has been neglected, in some unintentionally or unwittingly intentional way, however, in a story that privileged the mathematics of cartographical accuracy, and tended to marginalize more clearly allegorical maps as curiosities.  The striking popularity of these device-like images both as forms that encoded information and processed it in a recognizable graphic form was particularly popular in mid- to late-sixteenth century Europe, intersecting with emblematics as well as the quantitative sciences or mathematical learning.  These images reflected the broader currency maps had gained as sophisticated tools to process a cognitive relation to expanse that readers could readily–and almost intuitively–grasp.  Figuration augmented the power of the map as well as its coherence, and indeed served to render maps in a readily recognizable format for their viewers–even if those viewers were not practiced in the arts of surveying or intuitively able to graps the mathematics of terrestrial projection.  For personification helped cartographers use the formats of mapping to bridge the tools of transcription of place and the assertion of their cultural unity.

The corpus of regional maps of France and England alone by practices of surveying and triangulation acquired virtues of embodying national identity for cartographers who presented their maps as images of the nation that analogously rendered the abstraction of royal rule concrete:  the royal mathematician Oronce Finé’s deep pride at the national map of France he went to considerable difficulties to create in the late 1530s, studied by Lucien Gallois and more recently in a collective volume edited by Alexander Marr, extended the poetics of embodiment achieved in his cordiform (or heart-shaped) world-projections–a creative mathematical innovation of global projection departing from Ptolemaic schema, using a model first rendered in diagrammatic form by the Austrian imperial astronomer Johannes Stabius.  But the design that Fine engraved invested the form of the globe–or the surface of the heart-shaped globe–with a joint physical and symbolic presence, using a form had wide significance as a form of Christian devotion among religious reformers as a symbol of devotion and sincerity, as Giorgio Mangani suggested, imbuing the world’s map with deeply spiritual association, even as its design also served to foreground the proximity of France to the New World in an age of global discovery in ways that would delight royal audiences.   The international appeal of the embodiment of the world as a heart-shaped form rendered it an engaging site of contemplation, if not encoded the map with deep significance as a meditative form.

Finé’s elegantly harmonious cordiform projection offers a strikingly material symbolic form of terrestrial unity, organizing words as if on a plastic surface that not only foregrounded the proximity of France to the New World that would be pleasing to a French monarch at a time of global discoveries–but communicating the concrete presence of the legible surface of the globe, as if to render it by a new portrait rich with emblematic significance, framed both by an elegant cornice and armature and against a dark red field:




The map’s harmony intersected with Christian imagery of devotion–undoubtedly also underscored by the deep red field of its background–as if to treat mapping as a form of piety, as well as provide a satisfying variation of the format for ordering the map’s surface.  The organization of place-names on the curved meridians and parallels of its surface preserve a sense of its perfect smoothness, distorting Antarctica as a ˆTerra Australis” but doing so to lend the organization of what seem four large landmasses or continents far more harmonious symmetry and structural balance.

The 1538 map of France, if far less famous as a symbolization of unity, accorded embodiment to France as a nation that is particularly striking in its attention to record only the sites of population or topography within its national frontiers, which not only received a royal privilege, but was enabled by his charge to take surveying measurements by an instrument of triangulation he claimed was his own device, and which he invited each inhabitant in the nation to submit any reading that deviated from the “portrait” he set forth–adopting a language of personification for the jurisdictional boundaries of its expanse, here including part of current Switzerland:



This stunning woodcut from the Bibliothèque nationale‘s online collection presented something of an icon of national unity.  As much as providing accurate records based on new instruments, the comprehensive coverage of local detail in maps as that of Fine responded to political exigencies:  even if we can associate the determination of accurate base-lines with Cassini and Turgot, the uses of maps to refigure national unity or to imagine the nation-state that a monarch ruled was actually more of a purely Renaissance affair.  For the French mathematician sought “depingere Galliam insignorem nostrae melioris Europae regionem . . . ad vivum quantum fieri potuit figurate” in an image that knitted the  Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul into one life-like image, “pour ample et facile intelligence”–and in doing so would bridge the historical divisions in France that Caesar had described in his Gallic Wars.  While this boast was sure to attract erudites and illustrates his intended audience, the life-like notion that he sought to attribute to the map, I would argue, revealed its deeply figural properties, much as does its adoption of a language of cartographical portraiture.

The royal portrait of Elizabeth I by Maurice Gheeraerts the Younger gestured to the role of maps in providing a concrete figuration of national unity in the counterpoint that he drew between the nation as embodied by map and by monarch–the opposition of the body of the nation and the body of the king (or, as it were, queen)–in the 1592 Ditchley portrait standing astride a map of her land recently mapped in detail in Saxton’s 1579 atlas:


The Saxton atlas was crafted with royal permission to visit private lands, and is not to be opposed to narrowly to a figuration of monarchical authority.  In the portrait painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger of the queen in her sixty-second year, showing Elizabeth as leading her country into the future after a storm, the map re-figured her relation to the nation in vital ways.  The material precedent of the thirty-four highly ornamented maps that Saxton printed of the realm’s counties, issued as an atlas of 1579, afforded a model for this multi-colored map, and presented each county in differing colors, much in the Saxton’s popular county maps, in ways worth viewing in close-up detail:

England's Land


Take, for example, Saxton’s mapping of Kent in his highly ornamental, if also in part practical, colored atlas, for which he had received special royal privileges to enter villages and private properties for the purpose of conducting his surveys:




The topos of the map provided a powerful symbolic model for the figuration of monarchical identity, and for a new poetics of embodiment, less invested in the trappings of monarchical authority alone, and recognizing the extent to which national identity had become increasingly mediated in maps by the late sixteenth century.

Indeed, the master-engraver and cartographer Abraham Ortelius himself had personified the continents in the frontispiece of his authoritative collation of maps in his 1570 Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, a massively ambitious comprehensive compendium of maps of the known world which became known as the first modern “atlas”:


Ortelius' Continents-Ftspiece


–and gave pride of place to the figure of a crowned female Europe, surrounded by the artifacts of cartographical practice and knowledge distinguishing practitioners as himself, and fabricated European knowledge of non-European peoples–here represented by less regally clothed figures of Asia and Africa that theatrically gesture on both sides of the monumental classical architectural frame on its title-page.


Europe with Globes


In this context, the use of “Europa Regina” provided a new figuration of Europe’s identity when it was reprinted in Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia in 1586, and enjoyed considerable success in the reprintings of later years.  Similarly, in the cycle of maps of the Italian peninsula that was composed from surveys that the mathematician-catographer Egnazio Danti specially took of papal possessions in six regions of the peninsula that were formally included in papal lands.  The surveys provided a starting point for which the cartographer worked with a team of painters in the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Palace whcih  refigured the peninsula’s identity as a region embodied by the church, rather than a series of constituent states–and indeed cast the unification of the state by the Reform church as a historical conclusion to the conclusion of the violent civil wars by Augustus, in a symbolic analogy that was potentially fraught if powerful in the authoritative model of peninsular unity:  Augstus’ ascension to his rule was by no means peaceful, but his shoring up of state authority after the Civil Wars was a historical touchstone.

Such maps stake visual arguments about national unity.  They do so by inviting their audiences to linger on the coherence with which cartographical tools embody a coherent record of territorial extent.  The maps mediate a carefully worked record of territorial surveys to present a united field for viewers to scan in particularly pleasurable terms.   The cartographers of each employhd mathematical expertise to express political unity in particularly useful ways:  for they blur nature and culture to mediate images of nations invested with symbolic values of unity and coherence, often doing so by gesturing to the organic unity of the body.   Each map advertised its own  pictorial coherence by taking advantage of the formal unity of mapmaking.  Gheeraerts seems to have adopted this language of personification much as Saxton was engaged in refiguring English identity from the country earlier best known  from the 1564 Mercator’s maps of the country.  The national mapping of France later took on new urgency in an age of confessional divides, for example, as a generation of cartographers sought to knit its divides, and in an age of religious wars create a literal metonym for religious concord and confessional uniformity, rendered as legible in flourishing rivers, forests, and fertile plains, and praising, as Bougereau’s map of France, the many rivers that gave it nourishment.  And Claes Jansz. Visscher’s “Leo Belgicus” (1611)–or “Leo Hollandicus“–


Leo Belgicus.jpgDavid Rumsey Map Center, Stanford University Libraries


The map elegantly embodied the Netherlands as a rearing lion, restored to its symbolic unity, to mark the restoration of integrity and peace region’s liberation from Spain and the truce that brought tranquility to the region–and restored local commerce.  Is it only a coincidence that the “brain” or mind of the lion is effectively occupied by the sea, the site of the compass-rose that remained an iconic tool of orientation in nautical cartography?


HEAD of LION.png


The figuration of the region in the form of a rearing lion celebrated the region’s regained autonomy in a chorographic format of a regional map, ringed by a series of individual city-views of startling detail; situated beside the hirsute lion’s mane and legs, paired views of the peaceful countryside and of the active shipping commerce, to celebrate the benefits of the new age of peace that the treaty inaugurated.





Bucolic NL.pngDavid Rumsey Map Center, Stanford University Libraries


Indeed, if the colored 1648 Fischer map of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg is better known from postcards, the image derived from a 1583 map that stunningly figured the Netherlands in the form of a lion that the Austrian diplomat and geneologist Michael Eytzinger published in the Civitates orbis terrarium compiled by Ortelius’ friend and colleague Michael Hogenberg:




In a strikingly dense period of designing and printing maps, cartographical refiguration provided a persuasive graphic form of material personification, and something of a learned figuration of a fabricated regional identity.  As a figural image, the map became a basis to imagine the future of the region as a nation, but more compellingly to render its history and prefigure its future in vividly persuasive form.

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Filed under allegorical maps, cartographic design, copia, engraved maps

Europa Regina

The cartographical personification of Europe as a regal figure is not only figurative:  the woman whose golden gown extends across the region, hemmed along the Danube helped personifies the integrity of the new relation of the Habsburg court to Europe.  Indeed the situation of her imperial crown in Spain, suggests the investment of the house of Habsburg the head of the Christian world, her right arm holding an orb rooted in Sicily and her left scepter at the same time as European expansion brought the first age of globalism.  While comprehending all Europe, and bridging its confessions divides in an image of sovereign unity, the map celebrated the European continent as a community in an oddly retrograde if deeply evocative symbolic form–transposing the region to a single regal body, and isolating that body from the interconnected global world.

The proud personification was not mapped as a continent, but in more qualitative than quantitative ways asserted its regional unity in figural terms.  In contrast to the inhabited world mapped according to the recently rediscovered techniques proscribed by the ancient Claudius Ptolemy, the engraving provided an artistic rendering and a chorographic image analogous of Europe as if removed from a spatial continuum of surprisingly long-lasting currency and purchase as a map.  Analogously to the legible rendering of national toponyms of European states as a cohesive whole, removed from Turkish dominion and as a Christian world, if not in anthropomorphic form, the continent is symbolically removed from Asia and Africa with an oddly powerful autonomy that has persisted to attract visual interest and engage map-readers.  Indeed, if John Eliot has argued that in discovering the Americas, Europe rediscovered itself–and lent greater coherence to its cultural and religious unity as opposed to other worlds, the mapping of a triumphant figure of Europa Regina openly celebrated Europe in a coherent body, apart form two other regions of the old tripartite world–opposed to Africa and Asia–as opposed to the insularity that was characteristics of individual towns with their separate charters, constitutions and rulers or laws.

The collective community of Europe, united in the inherited political theology of a body, but now a female body of the Phoenician queen Europa, was an image that gave coherence to what was seen as a separate region of the world, bound, as Martin Waldseemüller had put it, as is “bounded on the western side by the Atlantic Ocean, on the northern side by the British Ocean, on the eastern side by the river Tanais [] ,” but shown as if it composing a good part of the inhabited world.  Sebastian Münster chose to map the insularity of Europe in his popular 1540 Cosmographia as one region–at the same time he had mapped “new islands [Novae Insulae]” of North and South Americas on a page, when he mapped Europe as a complementary large island.


Europa Munster 1550.pngfrom Sebastian  Münster, Cosmographia” (1540)


contrasted with the prominent centrality of the place that Europe occupied in the pioneering 1507 map Waldseemüller and the school of St. Die produced in a detailed world map, using a Ptolemaic projection to expand the prominence of Europe and allow it to be densely filled with a rich modern toponymy as a densely legible text.


Museo Galileo, Firenze/Institute and Museum of the History of Science


Waldseemüller, as a good humanist writing for a circle of European humanists, described how the region that “includes Spain, Gaul, Germany, Raetia, Italy, Greece, and Sarmatia . . .  is named after Europa, the daughter of King Agenor” who was “believed to have been carried off by Jupiter, who assumed the character of a snow-white bull” before “while riding on his back and he gave her name to land lying opposite that island” in his Cosmographiae introductio (1507).  In curiously post-Ptolemaic ways, “Europa Regina” similarly foregrounded the community of Europe, but as the image was transmitted and adapted in the course of the sixteenth century–and most particularly from 1580, if it compellingly obscured national boundaries, it persisted in maintaining the centrality of Europe, in ways that almost polemically distinguished the content of a ‘chorographic’ map of a community–or choros.  The ancient goegrapher had described chorographic, rather than geographic, maps as proper to artists, from the crafting of geographical maps whose terrestrial purview designed by geographers.  The peculiarity with which the woodcut exploited the encomiastic function of such local images by incorporating multiple city views within a newly unified community.  In an age of geographic mapping of the continents, the image however seemed both a gesture to an older, medieval mode of mapping the globe over the body of Christ, as a “corpus Christianorum,” and a deeply figural proclamation of geographical harmony–in ways that dispensed with the criterial to map terrestrial position by exact mathematical criteria of positions.

The harmonious organization of the continent of Europe as an isolated standing figure–almost an island–suggested the triumph of a region of the world during the mapping of terrestrial relations when the above image appeared in the early 1580s, as if a resolution of the religious wars in a figure of European clothes, customs, and models of imperial authority as much as of rulership and sovereignty understood in terms of nations or the mapping of religious difference onto sovereign lines of division.  For the image that later widely circulated as Europe as a Woman [Europa prima pars Terrae in form Virgo]” was a powerful symbolic–if post-Ptolemaic–early exercise in imperial metageography.  While retaining a symbolic role rooted in emblematic traditions of an image of sovereign integrity, the inventive powers of such a  plastic if composed image of “Europa” as a graceful figure gained purchase as an illustration able to resolve questions of cultural identity and integrity in a globalized world.   The dynamic integration of textual passages, landscape, and cartographic forms was pioneered in the Ortelian atlas, but the map Europa regina as provides a parallel story of the qualitative and symbolic figural mapping of Europe as a region which maintained its centrality in the inhabited world.

For if Europa regina emerged as a poetic conceit of the newfound coherence of Europe in the light of Turkish incursions–and the assertion of imperial authority–the popularity of the new figuration of Europe and its anthropomorphic embodiment that paralleled the recognition of its increasingly diminished prominence in the newly mapped world.  Indeed, if the region of “Europe” was placed front and center in this map of the continent, whose frame privileges the presence of its expanse at the expense of neighboring continents of Africa and Asia in the 1540 edition of Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia–at a remove from the specter of Turkish domination– “Turcica ditione“–of increased presence after the close of the Ottoman Siege of Vienna.   If the fear of “Turcica ditione” was feared on the borderlands of Hungarian nation and the margins of Ottoman rule–even if part of Hungary, although not in the Habsburg point of view, was in fact under Turkish dominion–the specter had evoked the first mapping of Europe’s integrity and coherence.  But by investing a European landscape with a geographic integrity, if without anthropomorphic unity, the region was emphasized as having cultural and historical insularity, as a large, oversized island, from the Atlantic and the Don, whose vastness ran from Spain to Constantinople, above Africa, seemed ringed by seas, cut off from Asia.



De Europa quae nostro Aevo Christianum complectitur orbem 1550.pngSebastian Münster, Cosmographia (Basel, 1550)

Although the prototype for the rendering of this map of Europe is unclear, the rich riverine landscape distinguished its fertility in geographically informative ways and celebrated it as a chosen place, or locus amoenus for cultivation, as if a new bucolic region, far from war.  The place that Europe’s anthropomorphic figuration gained decades after it was first designed, in the image known variously as Europa regina or Europa triumphans represented not only a triumphal image of the region, belying its imperial character, but retained the image of Europe’s relation to Asia and Africa–a heritage of medieval T-in-O mappaemondi–an image of far more celebratory character, whose iconic content and text existed in dynamic relation to a figural form.


Europa Munster 1550.png


The fear or Turkish dominion gave new impetus to the separate figuration of “Europa” in Münster’s work, investing it with a false integrity through the aura of imperial rule. The image may well have derived form the Bucius had dedicated to Ferdinand, “King of the Romans, Hungary, and Bohemia, and Arch-Duke of Austria,” an image of Europa as a woman that Putsch brought to Paris to be printed, but was also credited to the Sicilian historiographer to Charles V, Claudio Maria Arezzo, from Syracuse; they may have jointly presented the map, which seems a condensation of Ptolemaic geography in a new symbolic form, to Charles V in Sicily during the summer of 1535, when it redefined the distribution of places and nations in Europe as united in a Habsburg perspective–in which Spain, Hungary, and Muscovy are pictured as part of Europe, discretely removed from Ottoman or Tartar presence.


1.  The origins of this image and its Habsburg view of history reflected the remapping of European integrity in the court of Charles V.  The tension between insularity and expanse presented to the recently coronated Holy Roman Emperor by a former member of the retinue of Ferdinand I, who had studied in Italy and traveled widely to the empire’s eastern margins in Hungarian lands–the royal counsel had served as “usperemus in Hungarian secretarius.  In presenting the map to Charles V in Sicily–the old Hohenstaufen seat–it makes sense he would choose to distinguished in the map as the seat of an imperial orb, giving it clear local resonance, to proclaim an image of imperial sovereignty .  In visually transposing the legend of the Phoenician princess, Europa, whose carrying across the waves by Jove to Crete was to found a new monarchy, recounted by the poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses, the print celebrated and marked the movement of the seat of the Holy Roman Empire Charles V would unite to Spain.  Whereas Ovid described Europa as mounting the back of the God transformed to a bull, “innocent of on whom she sat” who carrier her across the seas against full tide to Crete, the figure of Europe is far more poised and composed than one might imagine Europa born across the waves.

The poised figure with her crowed head in Iberian peninsula figured Europa promise the unity of a Christianized continent, as well as a concise geopolitical statement of imperial concern:  as well as recognizing the changed political constitution of the Holy Roman Empire in its new geographical form, the courtly conceit of the image first engraved in Paris in 1537, after the imperial 1530 coronation by the Roman pontiff in Italy, and soon after Charles V had united the Habsburg territories with his native Spain, relocating the imperial capital in ways that expanded the initial core of Habsburg lands, even while cradling the imperial orb in Sicily, her body upright.  The re-imagining of Europa from a Habsburg point of view is attributed to the court counsellor and humanistically educated poet Johann Putsch, of Innsbruck, who presented the map to Charles V in the Sicilian city of Palermo, which was visited by the Holy Emperor, unlike his predecessors, as he sought to fortify its coasts and defend the Mediterranean against Turkish incursions in the Mediterranean.   For the occasion of the imperial visit, Putsch designed a map–now lost in its original, and only surviving as a woodcut–imbued with symbolic status, invested with the poetic conceits as much as cartographic skill, as if celebrating the confirmation that Sicilian residence bestowed on an emperor uniting the Habsburg lands and Kingdom of Naples with the Spanish throne with the Kingdom of Naples:  for rather than recall Europa as a victim of rape, her regal figure stood tall, in ways the images reprinted during the 1580s foreground.  Yet as well triumphal vision, the map, when paired with Putsch’s poetic anthropomorphic apostrophe, Europa lamentans, addressing Charles V to lamenting the new suffering of Europe before dangers from the Turks and Tartars, and from England as well, for being left unprotected–and exposed to violation–save in the German-speaking regions that constituted an ancestral core of the Habsburg lands of Erbland and Vorbland.

While the map of 1537 advanced the promise of its future unity, assured of holding an orb symbolized by Sicily, the image of a delicate patchwork of crests united by a regal presence:  if Crete stands in synecdochal relation to the world, for Ovid, where Europa’s son Minos was its first king and inaugurated a dynasty, at Knossos, the figure of Europa derives imperial orb in Sicily and crown from Spain–and rather than being raped, rules with a composure:  if Renaissance poets had described the abducted Europa as pained if “lovely and warm” carried on the back of a bull to Crete, her face paralyzed by fear and terrified, the composure of Europa is strikingly harmonious in the map transmitted from woodblock to copperplate over the century, her crowned looking downward at her terrestrial expanse from Spain, or at the imperial orb situated in Sicily.


Hellvettii Queen.png


Royal seat of Empire.pngParis, 1537/Basel 1580


Despite its strongly symbolic form, the arrangement of texts, emblems and expanse allow one to read the collective choreography of the empire as recording a shifting geopolitics of the relation of Emperor Charles V to Europe:  as the new emperor would effectively unite the Habsburg lands even after the transposition or migration of the seat of empire to his native Spain, the bodily unity of the region created an auspicious cartographical representation of the coronation of the new Holy Roman Emperor.  In Putsch’s organization of the map, the site of Ferdinand I’s empire in Prague appears as the pendant of a necklace, if not the heart of Europa, and the river of the the Danube doubles as Europa’s gown’s fold, or an image of the vena cava within the body politic of the Christian empire, and the Iberian peninsula the crowned head of empire symbolized a new image of Imperial integrity.  The encomiastic image was informed by Putsch’s classical studies in Italy, as an encomiastic rewriting of pan-European unity that embodied hopes for an integral mainland.

If the later iterations of the engraving from the later sixteenth century continued a similar poetics of unity which persisted in representing hopes for imperial unity during the wars of religion.  If the notion of the insularity of Europe echoed the image of Crete where Europa, mother of Minos, would dwell–“my world, my island, grove of the God Jove”–the depiction of a Europe rich with rivers suggested both a sense of insularity in such maps served as ways to process space and spatial unity, as they came to provide an image of a Europa triumphans in the face of wider geographical discoveries that dethroned the centrality of “Europe” from the inhabited ecumene.  The image was less of a satyrical map than a somewhat polemic affirmation of  the continued integrity and centrality of Europe as a community–and European manner–while a distinctly different qualitative picture of global customs, dress and globalism emerged, and might be seen as a sort of symbolic resistance as such–much as “Europa” cartographically crystallized as a unit as if in response to fears of Ottoman advance.


2.  When Europe was first mapped in the Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster from 1550 in an anthropomorphic form, Münster had already imported the poetic metaphor to define Europe apart in editions of 1542, 1544 and 1548, perhaps deriving from Putsch’s map, which lent considerable discursive identity to the coherence of the region of “Europe”:  the anthropomorphic image sought to symbolize its sustained unity as a basis for the cartographic self-representation that processed the first mapping of Europe as a region in the early sixteenth century school of St. Die, as a wall map–and, subsequently, as a region securely removed from Turkish dominion.  What Waldseemüller had described as “bounded on the western side by the Atlantic ocean, on the northern side by the British ocean, and on the eastern side by the river Tanais” was shown as cartographic unity defined by oceanic landmarks, as it was re-interpreted in graphic form at a remove from scientific or mathematical cartography.


KFHdVYLCosmographia (1542)


Hand Colored EUROPA 1552 MWCosmographia (1542)


EUROPA PRIMA NOVA Cosmographia.pngCosmographia (1542)


Munster EUROPA.colored 1552.pngCosmographia (Basel, 1552)


The addition of an elegant map of anthropomorphic design effectively embodied the conceit of an expansive peninsula unified by the Habsburg dynasty, whose performance of European identity only expanded as its inventive form of some degree of expressive plasticity that complemented   the accommodation of cultural otherness in increasing regions of the inhabited world.  The original map, which Peter Meurer has convincingly idenfied as presented to Charles V during his visit of state to Sicily in the fall of 1535, where the depiction of the continent holding the imperial orb located in Sicily, where Putsch travelled in the imperial retinue of Ferdinand I, based in Bohemia in Prague, effectively linking the Hohensatufen seat of power to the vision of the body politic of empire that reflected his own migration in the imperial court from Prague to Hungary to Spain, creating a cartographic poetics of imperial power later printed in a format of two sheets as a decorative map and statement of power that was able to be hung on a wall.  While the map presented to Charles V in Palermo does not survive in its original form, the questions of the relations between cartographic invention, embodiment, and engraving and how maps process space.

In what was to become an exquisitely inventive image in the burins of other engravers and cartographers who embodied Europe to lend greater coherence to its amalgams of toponyms, the ancient legend of Europa was re-embodied and modernized in new ways to describe the European continent whose head located in Spain, glancing down toward the regions of Greece and the Peloponnese that now lie at the hem of her skirt and across the Mediterranean to Africa, in ways that seemed to register the shifting needs to imagine the place of Europe in a remapped world.  The processing of a broad geographical expanse within a single legible emblematic form gained a distinctly elegant afterlife in generations after its 1537 Paris edition as a colored print of a less openly political, and broader cultural relevance that paralleled the expansion of images of increasing cartographical exactitude but whose choreographic form seems to have become less removed from a courtly discourse on emblematics as it was prepared for a market of cartographical prints, in which Europe’s body was as it were fleshed out in a new symbolic figurative form.

If the relations between the Bucius map to the constitution of the European Union were noted in the blogosphere and on Reddit–mostly in relation to the remove of Britain in our own post-Brexit world–the fraught tensions over the relation of modern Turkey to Europe persist, as if informed by longstanding symbolic separation of Turkey and the imagined autonomy of a European World–Turkey after all remains a candidate, as Hungary and Bulgaria potential candidates–as fears of violation by Turkish presence remains a powerful symbolic among groups that seek to animate much xenophobic resistance to Turkey’s presence in the European Union today.


pict--political-map---european-union-eu-28--candidate-countries-map.png--diagram-flowchart-exampleConceptDraw Solution Park


3.  A fault line with Turkish role was indeed far more prominent in the mental geography of map-readers than the divide between Old and New worlds.   The transformation of Europe to a new form of the imperial house offered a compellingly popular as an emblem that promoted the peace of the Habsburg dynasty, after the 1530 coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Empire:  the reconstitution of the House of Habsburg of a new sovereign body was praised and promoted through the collection of towns and town views that distinguished what was once referred to as “the continent,” in ways that recall the poetic conceit of the map as a reinvention of space–and a symbolic model to frame and enshrine the distribution of power across space–as much as a transcription of spatial relations.  Re-engraved with qualitative alterations in 1564, 1581, 1582, and 1586, whose clever anthropomorphism appealed as an icon of political integrity.  As it was reprinted in ways that parallel and seem to accommodate the growing literacy in quantitative cartographical tools, the emblem of a unified Europe that engravers continued to qualitatively embellish an image that transposed a poetic conceit fist framed in the years after the rebuff of Ottoman siege of Vienna and the separation of Henry VIII from the house of Aragon.

For the Tryolean humanist and court poet Putsch, who had travelled to the ends of the same Europe in Ferdinand I’s court as royal counselor, effectively rehabilitated the form of Europa to embody the political unity and coherence of Habsburg lands by a female form, as historian of cartography Peter Meurer has so convincingly argued, by symbolizing the integrity of Habsburg Europe’s new boundaries, but created a newly legible map as a body  that granted them newfound poetic legitimacy by its anthropomorphic form.  As much as an abstract conceit, the original 1537 map reflects a search for a poetics of coherence and integrity that took advantage of a map in service to powerful poetic claims.  The plastic form of the map gained a new integrity in prints, rooted in courtly poetry, but expanding the expressive value of the the political and jurisdictional landscape of the new body of Europa, which appears primarily as a cartographical invention, studded with the emblems of houses of rule.  The highly legible surface of the 1537 map, presented a puzzle of or rebus of the ordering of local sovereignty, in which the letters “E,” “U,” “R” knit together symbolic unity across divided terrestrial sovereign expanse, and almost no attention is given to detailing the surrounding waters:  as if Europa is content as a separate continent.



Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck (detail of upper half of map)


To be sure, the map celebrated newfound imperial coherence of lands set off from the invading Turk and with its principal court and capital removed to Spain, site of the female figure’s crowned head from which she seems to admire her own newly emerged body, as an imagined conceit reborn in the courtly circle of Ferdinand I from the island of Crete–home of Europa–to the extent of a body riddled by political divisions.  Johann Putsch cast the somewhat melancholy image as a counterpart to the Europa lamentans that the new Europa ventriloquized an only half hopeful address to both the newly coronated Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Ferdinand, his brother, King of the Romans.  Europa rhetorically asked readers, “What is going to be my destiny, which fate will put an end to the immense distress, the cruel vicissitudes and forces of providence? Which divine ordinance will finally restore a first glimmer of hope for our fallen planet?”  From a narrative of feared violation, the performance of Europe’s female body suggested new narratives of composure, containment, and triumph over the course of the century, as it seemed to unify confessional divides and defined Europe’s own integrity through her posture and decorum that belies these strains of lamentation in particularly assertive ways.

The image of Europa as triumphant increasingly distanced itself from the Petrarchan topoi of bodily violation–Europa’s rape–or the absence of protections foregrounded in how a personification of Europa addressed herself to the recently coronated Holy Roman Emperor.  The image came to connote a clear divide of cultural autonomy and regal stability, separated from the sense of distress that Putsch accentuated.  The narrative of past loss of integrity in a riven body politic of which Europa complained gained cartographical resolution in the somewhat crude map of the continent, the later transmission of the image strove for a sense of integrity in the new House of Habsburg.  For the poet Putsch invested Europa with a long colorful address, as if in an appeal for help, as much as encomiastic form.  For even as “the fertility of my soil is a handicap which attracts enemies from abroad” and even as “my head sways, oppressed by the cruel English, and the right arm which has suffered exceedingly under the Roman tyrants drops down towards earth, while the veins lose their vigor,” Europa voices hopes for a new future, and a restoration of integrity, while bemoaning the “many attacks and wars I have suffered” and “many bloody fights I did see” from the massacres of the Goths, the devastations of Gauls, and “violent rages of furious Attila,” and Ottonians before the more recent invasions of the Turks, as the Tyrolean court poet seemed particularly practiced in appropriating familiar neo-Petrarchan topoi of bodily violation from Italia mia–“che le plague mortali/che nel bel corps tuo si spesse veggio . . . . che fan qui  tante pellegrine spade?  perche’l verde terreno/del barbarico sangue si depinga?”–as poetic license for cartographically rendering the fears of the violence of Ottoman violation.  The Petrarchan strains seem implicit, but earlier fears of lost green fields recolored red by barbarian blood, by a “diluvio raccolto/ . . . per inondar i nostri dolci campi” was replaced by the vitality of the body of Europe, resistant to any of the “foreign swords” Petrarch saw as a curse to the country beloved by heaven.

As if in a counterpart to the lamentation off in Putsch’s poem that hopes for less distracted rulers, even as “we are threatened by more actions on the battlefield, to be fought with the sword” and many within Europe seem poised to “break the peace,” the map seems to offer a potential resolution of formal integrity for the region’s inhabitants.  Even if Europa lamentans voices ears for launching new wars and a ‘ “rush headlong into a new war,” heralding signs of stability from the Habsburg House, it praises the presence of  “faithful and mighty Germany alone, in the centre of my body, has energetically armed herself,” even though the seat of monarchy has moved to Spain, as the “strongest protector of [my] absolute chastity,” to face threats “by the treacherous Turk, the Arab or even the Tatar.”  The presentation of a Europe who is most protected in Germany, but not bloodied at all by incursions, is suggested to be nourished by its prominent riverine courses, many analogous–as the Danube, subject of a lost poem that Putsch had earlier penned–to the veins of the body, the Danube in striking correspondence to the vena cava and aorta already current in anatomical images of the human body’s hidden internal structures, much as Prague, seat of the court of Ferdinand I, King of the Romans, stands at Europa’s heart.

The hope for inaugurating a new “Golden Age” under the Empire overseen by Charles V provided Putsch with hopes to “curb the infatuation with war and the threat of the arms,” and would have not only symbolized the extent of the Holy Roman Empire, but heralded hopes to “give frightened humanity a lasting peace, and quietude to the inhabitants.”   This stands in contrast to the cartographical remove that the anthropomorphic map later gained as a playful conceit of the integrity of European identity, whose organization suggests the fear of the disruption of the vital lifeline of the Danube or the danger of violation from beneath a composed Europa’s skirts from the East.  The geographical expanse of Europe was an implicit theme of the map that gained new afterlife as a summary of cities and cartographical catalogue.  Putsch had not only travelled to the edges of the same Europe in the retinue of Ferdinand I, where he served as royal councilor in the Hungarian campaign of the Habsburg ruler, but wrote a poetic epic about the Danube, now lost, and the complementary geographic poems that so elegantly embodied Europe, which the map  translated to compellingly embodied cartographical form.


5.  Perhaps the way that the mathematical geographer Ptolemy distinguished local or chorographic maps that showed the organization of place or site as the charge of a painter provided  a brief for painters recognized by humanistically educated audiences.  The colored woodcut of Europe as a woman foregrounded the region’s formal integrity even in the midst of confessional divides.  The bridging of topographic divides as rivers, mountain ranges, or coasts in one bodily costume, set against a stippled sea not only naturalize a precursor of the post-Brexit European Union; the image of a regal woman, a “virgo” with her magnificently coronated head lying in Spain was an encomiastic form, as much orientational tool, comprehending the diversity and unity of Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century:  the figure of Europa embodied the hierarchy of major urban cities–situating  imperial cities of Prague, Magdeburg, Vienna, Buda, Constantinople, Naples in one form.  At a time of a profusion of maps, when the continent had been fully mapped at multiple scales and modes, a new symbolic representation and iconography of its sacro-political unity among a geographically disparate community of towns.

Indeed, rather than depict terrestrial continuity, it proclaimed territorial integrity within the relation of ruler to the region the ruler embodied in particularly elegant terms, bridging the Pyrenees that served as the basis for her ruff, and with her heart still beating in Bohemia.   The staid comportment of the crowned queen embodied clear control over local civil constitutions by the 1580s, when it was more widely reprinted, as if in a condensation of the civilizing process that seemed to conclude the religious wars.


Queen of Place.png


The image gained a large audience among the regional maps of cities in Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia from the 1550s, and is not known to have circulated earlier, as did most of the maps within the volume. More an image of delight than precision, the image was less an “upward displacement” of one’s point of view than a symbolization of the integrity of an imagined landscape.  Situated between “AFRICA” and “ASIA,” the image constituted something of a rehabilitation of the tripartite T-in-O maps centered at Jerusalem, but magnified Europe as a formed body at its center–a relation heightened by describing Europa as the “foremost region of the earth [prima pars Terrae],” gesturing to the inhabited earth’s division in medieval mappaemundi.




In an age of an abundance of world maps, indeed, the feminized figure affirmed the continuity and symbolic integrity of Europe, endowed with its own symbolic continuity and crowned with regality separate from the papacy lending prominence to the imperial cities of central Europe in its body, in ways that might be seen as an iconic polemic against a geographical map of global purview, and a new map of European empire and Christian community of a distinctly imperial pedigree.  Even as it gestured to and rehabilitated the juridical concept of the two bodies of the king’s two bodies, the imperial body of Europe crowned by Spain constituted a powerful if miniaturized political polemic about European identity in emblematic form, wresting claims for political universality from Rome’s pontiff.


crowned woman


The crown positioned in Spain studded with jewels presented an implicit rebuke to the papal tiara, as the coverage of the European landscape reminded viewers that the pontiff had invested imperial authority with a new sacred role, as much as an emblem of worldly leadership, which Philip II had hoped to claim as the premier leader able to unify the continent in an age of religious dissensus that the Roman pope no longer afforded and could no longer provide.  The assertion of the preeminence of the regal figure sought a new level of unity in the figure of the emperor–condensing a conceit of imperial succession and derived from the search for a new emblematics of rulership if not of imperial agency in the imperial court of Ferdinand I:  the tiara-like crown of “Europa in forma virginis [Europe in the Form of a Maiden]” increasingly effectively coopted the tradition of papal emblematics as it won currency in the mid- to late sixteenth century, moreover, as the figure of the Queen Europa assumed an imperial crown that substituted for a papal tiara.

The tiara-wearing figure of Europe, elegantly poised and standing tall, coopted the image of Christian integrity that the Roman pontiff had in recent years increasingly assumed as a reflection of worldly authority and magnificence.


Pius V with tiara.pngPalma il Giovane, Pius V wearing full regalia and papal tiara


dfc5b06b0ae5f56b9f39f9eabd081f55Paul III (reigned 1519-49)


The encomiastic chorography mapped “Europa” as a unity, even in a time of religious dissensus.  The map might be seen as tantamount to an investment in unity, as the Habsburg court sought to place itself as the head of Catholic Europe, even as the Wars of Religion continued in France.  Mapping provided a new mode of displaying and celebrating unity of wha might be considered a region, united by a scare-imperial authority as a space.  By placing the regal head of spaces the seat of the Habsburg throne so prominently, the map ordered the body of landscape of Europe in decisive ways that were not only an amusement or a satyrical map, unless satire is understood as adopting a set of formal conventions in new way and to new ends:  the  powerful symbolic image of terrestrial and imperial unity in a time of changing and expanding geographical horizons, and an identification of the two-court Habsburg lineage as drawing together Europe’s variety in a single body–a body celebrated as a Virgin Queen, whose heart seem to lie in Germany and Bohemia, but the variety of whose contents extended to encompass the European cities that Sebastian Münster had fairly included c. 1550 in the compilation of maps of his best-selling German-language Cosmographia, reflecting its predominant concentration on chorographic images of German-language cities, if taking Italy and Denmark as two arms, respectively holding imperial orb and scepter, as if to affirm its integrity.


Cosmography“Europe” personified as a woman from Münster (1550)


6.  The hand-colored image echoes how the ancient geographer had described the mapping of communities as the work fitting for an artist, not a geographer.  Removed from scale, coordinates, or even the pretense of cartographical precision and accuracy, the gendered map was a grander form of the genre of chorography–described in early modern treatises of geography as a qualitative rather than quantitative the map of a place or community.  The collective choreography earned national boundaries, but invested a powerful figural coherence to a landscape map that echoed choreographic as much as geographic conventions of landscape.

The image of Europe could double as a chorogaphical rendering  by the 1580s, when the image more broadly circulated than after its initial 1537 creation, redesigned as a powerful image of symbolic as much as spatial unity in 1581 by the theological commentator Heinrich Bünting in his  Itinerarium Sacrae Scriptura, and again in the imperial city of Magdeburg in 1585, shown below.  The image of Europe as an embodied image now identified as female was autonomous if legless, curiously separated from northern lands of Norway, England, Scotland, Denmark or Sweden–which floated almost globularly above, clothed by the landscape and cities of the mainland was a solidly embodied regal form, crown supported by the houses of Aragon and Navarre, facing down Africa–no longer a clear continent–and removed from Asia.


Europa . . forma VIrginis Putsch 1585 Magdeburg.pngBritish Library (1585)


The cartographical embodiment of the body politic dispensed with the conventions of geographical mapping, as an embodiment it became a powerful symbolic image of the coherence of the empire, “head” in Spain, seat of the Habsburg empire, where Philip II had transferred the seat of empire to the Escorial palace, and, since 1581 ruled Portugal as well, and confirmed the transferral of power to the Iberian peninsula.  The snapshot of political power revealed the monarch had by 1583 “completed” rule over the continent–its “chest” now in France, early seat of empire and of the imperial regalia, its “body” composed of Germans from whom the Habsburg house hailed and derived, as whose right arm was made of Italy, holding the Imperial orb in Sicily where the empire once lay, but ruled from Spain:  such was the snapshot of European rule, if one that elided or turned a blind eye to the Dutch revolt.

The map affirmed the newfound political unity of the continent, in ways that transcended his person or the Habsburg house, but provided a powerful trope of cartographical embodiment of the body politic or of a body politic dotted with cities, and of which the Danube runs down to her dress’s hem.


Body center.pngBritish Library (detail of 1585 Magdeburg impression)


What sort of unity did viewers see in the imagend the engraver Johannes Putsch, or, as he latinized his name for humanist readers, Johannes Bucius, present to readers?  While not a ‘satyrical’ map of humorous design, it was clearly metageographical in a new sense in Europe, and built on the increased literacy in cartographic symbolic forms as a model for illustrating and demonstrating the power of unifying political rule.  Bucius’ map was itself re-engraved and reproduced in Sebastian Munster’s wildly popular Cosmographia from its 1570 edition, as the first personification of the continent in its new imperial guise to be widely disseminated in Europe, and a regeneration of the social body.   The history of the reception of its cartographic form offered a popular image of European identity, more broadly than the Hapsburg court.

The embodying of Europe was a powerful metaphor to link to a crowned figure for the Spanish Habsburgs, by the time it reappeared in the 1585 Magdeburg engraving, converting the edges of the Iberian peninsula to a regal tiara or crown, as if to symbolically map the imperial network of an empire whose symbolical center had migrated, if the place of Bohemia as a pendant, and Vienna as a principal city, long remained, and Sicily became an orb, and Rome perhaps an extravagant adornment on her wrist.  Indeed, the adornment of the queen-continent seemed an occasion to map Europe’s extreme abundance, and distinguish it as such less in an exact than in an elegant symbolic form.


7.  The repetition of an identical motif of mapping from the first third of the sixteenth century, when it was first engraved as a woodcut, to a more iconic representation of imperial identity constituted an early modern imperial icon of European unity:  “Yurp,” much as Peter Sellars put it in the first days of the EU, emerged as a regal figure, imperial orb in Sicily, head in Spain (Hispania) and Hispanic in character, but heart in Bohemia–and (no doubt to the chagrin of the English), the islands reduced to a flying banner of the scepter that she holds, lending it regal attributes in its dress and crown.  The performance of such an allegorical personification is both a protection against otherness, and an image of the imperial identity of the continent’s identity.  The map suggests not only a medieval tradition of figurative geography or symbolic mapping, but a deeply allegorical reading of how Ptolemaic cartography used the correspondence of place in a uniformly continuous distribution to fashion a “community” in chorographic maps.  Indeed, despite the proliferation of various ‘chorographical’ maps of regions, often nation-states such as France, England, Switzerland, or the Netherlands by the early 16th century, the image of Europe’s imperial identity foregrounded the specific role of each place within that unity–from Iberia at its head to Bohemia at its heart to Italy as the arm holding an imperial orb.  It served as something of a hierarchical relationship of the individual European regions, and something like a memory-emblem to record the relationship within the Holy Roman Empire of varied European states.


As such, it was often re-written–or re-mapped–as a symbol of authority, the primacy alternating between European cities and counties that were centers of imperial residence.  The image is often described as “map-like,” but provides a map, if one less concerned with spatial orientation of its observer or individual reader than the coherence and unity of one specific region in an expanding ecumene.  Johannes Putsch (or Bucius) designed the original map that he entitled “Europa in forma virginis” (in the form of a maiden) have often been argued to represent an embodied leader, such as Charles V’s wife Isabella, whose progeny would unite the region that the Hapsburgs tried to effect the notion of unity with considerable popularity, but dedicated to the brother of Charles V, Ferdinand I, as a sort of allegorical land map of strikingly more schematic nature when compared to later, more life-like images.  This 1537 woodcut of two plates created an early prototype for the mapping of imperial identity, printed in Paris, and includes the elements of crown, scepter and imperial orb, all of which are presented with more detail than the quite schematic linear map, suggesting only a notional image of England or the African continent and coast–if in a far more schematic form of less clear embodiment–even if it may have existed in colored copies.


Europe as a Queen--Bucius


The point was less to map terrestrial borders, continuity, or shorelines with any accuracy than to provide a figuration of European unity that addressed audiences skilled in map-reading, or with reading the distribution of a land-map.  The popularity of its figuration of Europe lead to re-engravings and reproductions, often colored in the form of many manuscript maps–leading to their elaborations within later reproductions, as in this image at the Comenius crypt in Garden, that attests to its particular staying power as a representation of Bohemian identity, as much as European unity.


Europa Regina 2Wikimedia


Europe is shown in the map as a continent, opposed to Asia and Africa, as a new rendering of the T-in-O map, now centered not in Jerusalem, however, but based in the forest around Bohemia, stretching from Spain to Hungary, with Greece, Bulgaria, Scythia and Tartar lands at her skirt.  This image is not only far more ‘fleshed out,’ but reveals a clearer image of a landscape map, suggesting that its engraver emulated the Ortelian integration of landscape engraving and cartographical iconography with text:  prominent textual markers indeed distinguish the continent’s (or queen’s) bodily zones, even as the rectitude of the female figuration of the continent is reflected in her grave aspect and imperial regalia.


crowned woman.png


The essential dynamic of unity within and overcoming sovereign divisions is underscored in this map, which if previously an independent flysheet was re-used within the context of a popular printed book, together with multiple maps of varied provenance that were mostly characterized by their striking pictorial design.  Although broken into colored sectors of national zones, this anthropomorphization of space enobled the image of Europe, staring at Cadiz and the African coast, in ways that eerily prefigure a Europe gazing over an imaginary mountain range.


Eropa Regina


Striking strings of conical mountains are a wonderful visual metaphor in the map that appear transformed to decorative forms, as the colors national divides seem a decorative quilt:  the Pyrenees appear as a regal necklace, rather than a dividing line, decorating the worldly majesty.  After a 1587 reprinting of the image, by Matthias Quad, a cartographer of Köln who would later publish an atlas of Europe, and printed by Jan Bussemaker, now titled simply “Europae descriptio,” leading to the inclusion of another variation of the map in Münster’s best-selling Cosmographia, among a collection of maps of Europe, Africa, Asia and the New World.


The maping of European unity is often linked, as by Wiebke Franken, to the somewhat more mystical anthropomorphic mapping in 1337 of the relations of the continents of Africa and Europe by the monk Opicino de’ Canistris, who represented Africa by the figure of a monk–perhaps a self-portrait?–gazing with supreme confidence at the figure of Europe as a woman, drafted while at the papal palace in Avignon as a hopeful image of future congress or harmony, as Africa a monk-like stoic spectator of an alluring Europe of flowing hair.




Opicino’s remapping of Europe offered a mapping of Christian unity, a pictorial representation of two continental figures barely removed from one another–perhaps echoing the church’s remove from Rome.

The restoration of a united body of the feminized monarch that became invested with royal attributes as Europa Regina was a powerful statement of political unity and customs, and invested with full regalia.  The map of a supremely regal Habsburg Europe occupying center-stage and surrounded by oceanic waters focussed attention on the instruments of imperial power–the orb; the crown; the scepter, in an alternative trinity–by mapping the ascendancy of imperial power even in an age of confessional divides.  By 1590, the supremacy of Europe, of which England, Scotland, and Ireland now stood as a banner fluttering in the imagined breeze as it flew from Europe’s scepter, seemed invested with bravery, comprehending now all of the page, staring down Africa, comprehending Muscovy and Tartar lands, and with Asia reduced to something of a stub.


regfina 1590.png



Filed under Bohemia, cartographic design, Europa Regina, Holy Roman Empire, royal maps