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Mapping the Presence of Rome’s Pasts

We now map mega-regions that extend far beyond the former boundaries of cities, along roads and through suburbs lack clear bounds.  These maps reflect the experience of their environments as networks more than sites, to be sure.  But place is increasingly important,and indeed perhaps especially to render, given the dramatically increased mobility of the world.  In tracing the extension of extra-urban areas along distended networks of often uninhabited paved space, the form of such cities seem removed from historical time or erase the familiar palimpsestic relation to space of the well-worn streets and built structures of older cities, or the city as a space for walking, rather than driving or moving on mass transit lines.  Rather than viewing Rome as a center of transit, however, the sense of presence of the antique by which the city has long been appreciated and understood runs against the grain of such visualizations, challenging the notion of motion as defining the city, or place as being impermanent.

Attracted by the multiple presences that seem to coexist within Rome’s space, in ways an archeological map cannot do complete justice, as knows any visitor challenged to grasp and orient themselves to the abundance of its underlying pasts present in its ruins.  Freud famously described how the “historical past is preserved in historical sites like Rome” that contain within its presence copious testimonies of the past, alongside and parallel to its actual human habitation.  As a psychical entity with a “long and copious past” as much as a physical entity or plant, Freud allowed himself a “flight of imagination” in treating it as a metaphor for the human unconscious in one of the most expansively literary passages of Civilization and its Discontents, as a site where one might imagine that “nothing that has come into existence will have [ever] passed away, and all earlier phases of development continue to survive and coexist [simultaneously] alongside the most recent.”  It was perhaps no coincidence that Sigmund Freud seized on the city of Rome–and the plan of its archeological figures–as evidence of the ability to “bring to light” the past through what he termed “memory-traces,” which long survive, and which he imagines–while noting the insufficiency of such a visual image to represent the mind or mental states–to express how a visitor “equipped with the most complete historical and topographical knowledge,” can grasp even in the present the form of the Rome of earlier times, which retain its integrity–as does the individual–but which can be  mapped as it existed across different historical periods at the same time, despite “all the transformations during the periods of the Republic and the early Caesars.”

If the problem of mastering the historical discontinuity of the political epochs of Roman civilization were a problem of gymnasium education that would be very well known to the readers Freud sought to address, and indeed to Freud himself provided something of a basis for understanding human history from the work of the German classical historian Barthold Neibuhr, if not the verification of scientific methods of historical investigation of Leopold von Ranke, for later periods, the prospect transcended the mastery of the past based on archival written sources.  For Freud seems to have been inspired by the hope of creating continuity by confronting parallel maps of the Rome’s physical plant as a stratigraphy of sedimented layers was not only archeological in nature, for all his allowance of the inadequacy of any visual analogy for the human unconscious; his rhetoric and formulation was deeply cartographical in its visual layering of pasts in both the historical, antiquarian, and tourist maps of late-nineteenth and early twentieth- century Rome.  Indeed, the unique form of map literacy seemed to propose a powerful project of mapping a cognitive relation to the past.

We are today far less concerned with streets or walking since we’re less concerned with such maps as guides of habitation, and hope to trace guides to the spatial futures of metropoles:  such maps’ scope capture the order of lived space, but obscure the individual neighborhoods that once occupied space, or lent them coherence.  Maps of ancient Rome, in contrast, excavate a formerly inhabited space, providing images of study to come to terms with the past habitation of the ancient world–an idealized urban space, removed from the present.  Indeed, coherence is less a quality of the visual accuracy of the “maps” of Rome from glorious mosaics of cloud-free satellite images, which, while providing a level of spatial comprehensiveness, but beg questions of their coherence or presence, since they offer viewers few cognitive guides, so much as they trumpet their own documentary abilities.  Yet they recall the older use of city maps of questions  as objects of study, and the value of the map as sites of observation.  In the new views of modern cities as Rome, the image of the metropole is super-imposed over the image of the ancient city.


Cloud Free Rome Centro Storico.pngPlanet Labs 


It’s all the more jarring when the ancient city of Rome is mapped as lying at the center of a spatial web of roads, that privileges motion across an undifferentiated uniform space–at a scale that seems to ignore the material presence of the city that has so compulsively been mapped, to reduce it to knowledge, and to excavate its presence.  For rather than map the city as a network of monumental arches, public squares, civic buildings, temples and arenas, the presence of what has always been taken as public spaces are evident in a network of roads that seem to lead, as if organically, to the city that is situated mid-way down the peninsula, marked “Italy,” as if to place it at the center of the space of Europe.


roads-to-rome.jpgRoads to Rome


Such a network-based envisioning of Rome at the center of European web runs in a sense against our conceptions of what a map of Rome does.  It seems a retrograde version of the world wide web, indeed, foregrounding the conceit of mapping Europe as a brachiated network based in a geolocated Rome familiar from a format of Google Maps rather than a map of the ancient city’s space.  But it is in ways quite a contemporary translation of the measure of roads by a milestone located in Rome erected in ancient times by the Roman Emperor Augustus, whose measure of the milestone of the Milliarium Aureum provided a a reference point to travel through the Empire, to which it was believed all roads led:  and so when moovel Labs undertook to link the streets of Europe to confirm all roads truly lead to Rome today, the image of the  50,000 miles of highways that were constructed in the Roman empire by slave labor gain new form in the Google Maps template that seems curiously removed from work, and from the material presence of the ancient monuments that have lead cartographic imaginations to return to the ancient city to reconstruct from its ruins a palpable record of its past.  Such a record makes fewer demands of study on viewers, since we are not assembling an image so that we can possess or own it, but as they present something like a resource that we can consult.

For the material presence of the past in Rome was celebrated and foregrounded in maps by a different iconography that situate viewers not only in relation to a place, but present a space able to be internalized.  For maps of Rome not only situated its mythic monuments, and the built space of the ancient city, effectively immersing viewers in multiple layers of its past.  Such maps enticingly invite viewers to grasp an elusive physical present of the past, rendered tangible, and carry the promise ability to investigate its space, and navigate the ancient organization of the city’s space and monumental public fora or squares as if they existed.

The tools of surveying provided tools to access ancient Rome in maps, manufacturing a pleasure in presence as maps.  The city also existed in one’s head, and could be poured over in a map, as if to order the temporal layers and perspectives on architecture which Isaac Babel, visiting Rome with Gorky in May of 1933, confessed himself both “dizzy with al these Coliseums, Forums, Sistine Chapels, Raphaels, Pantheons” from which at the same time “I can’t tear myself away” without knowing “when I’ll get to come back here” to “see all the things about which I’ve read hundreds of books since my childhood”:  if Rome existed in the minds of visitors who suddenly became able to access its buildings–and did so more concretely than other cities–maps were turned to to order these impressions in a coherent form.  Much as the translation of many of the operative terms in Sigmund Freud’s work were argued in the 1980’s to have been diminished by their latinate rendering, the power of Freud’s use of a language of mapping and of archeological recovery of the past might be better grasped by situating and rooting them in his experience of Rome’s pasts.


1. The sense of the monumentality of that past was communicated in maps.  For maps of Rome recreated the scope and compass of maps and their pleasure as images that excavated the elegance of its ancient architecture–and iconic images of the past–to capture as well as pose the challenge of comprehending that relation to an only partly lost monumental past.  The maps did double or triple duty:  for the traces that they preserved of the ancient past became a guide to its present structure, and the place of the ancient city retained within the present city of Rome or Roman cities, and in the pasts of its multiple visitors..  And it in such a sense that Sigmund Freud, remembering his travels to Rome, returned to the figure of an imaginary map of the physical stratigraphy of Rome to describe the formation of memory in the human mind.

Despite the value of creating an immersive relation to that presence–which so famously makes cognitive demands on most of its visitors–we depend on maps not only to do orient us to space, but to do unique cognitive work of discriminating its different pasts and the material encrustation of its different layers.  Only in the process of discriminating relations between these layers, and the different levels of places of worship, inhabitation, and monumentality within the city can we crate a personal relation to place.  Rome’s construction has been long commemorated its civic order–first as a capital of the ancient world, later rebuilt and designed repeatedly as a new site of triumphalism and power–whose mapping posed unique problems of mapping both its spatial organization, and proposing new ways of commemorating, celebrating, and orienting viewers to its built space, in ways that created a unique pleasure in post-Renaissance maps of celebrating its order–of “re-membering” the city–and placing past patterns of habitation on view.

As much as trace spatial relations, maps of the buildings of Rome are powerful sites of memory that most urban maps of place balance qualitative content with schematic design. They offer their viewers amateur archeological searches of identification, and even spatial excavation of the layers of how space was occupied in the city, each map including echoes of the past habitation of the city’s physical plant, as if in a game of memory or amateur archeology, staking out both how a monumental urban space was built and how it revised the historical space on which it was configured.  Despite the prominence of the ancient plan of the city in its Republican and Imperial identity, efforts to create a persuasive record of ordered space in maps amp up their cognitive work, as it were, to organize the multiple temporal layers of the city’s occupation of built space–from the walls that once contained urban areas to changing footprints of the city over time.  And it is in many senses not surprising that as Freud was searching for a new metaphor to express his theory of the mind, increasingly uncomfortable with rooting psychic processes entirely specific material processes, by locating memory in a neural network capable of storing the impact of external stimuli, he turned to the mapping of sedimented historical pasts in Rome to describe the mind’s organization and map memories.  In a sense, rather than retain the model of the conservation of neural energy to describe memory, he sought a common touchstone of organizing the past’s temporal succession in how maps offered an objective means to encode and organize multiple pasts, which echo the objective record of synchronous coexistence of multiple pasts that existed in archeological maps of Rome, which clarified past physical plants of Rome for their readers in ways that magically gave material existence to imagined buildings in the modern landscape.


Roma Erklärung.pngHistory Blog, G. Droysens Allgemeiner Historischer Handatlas (1886)/ Wikimedia Commons


The powerful clarification of coexistent ancient structures in the layered city that Freud frequently visited provided a powerful means for navigating the past, which could be analytically and empirically experienced, and indeed represented with a fitting objectivity:  in the map, one might say, the past becomes a coherent territory.

The encompassing of such a burgeoning spectrum of spatial inhabitation is both the promise and daunting topic of maps of Rome from the Renaissance, and from the mid-eighteenth century–a proliferation of maps whose increasingly plastic design expanded the cognitive work maps did as tools to refine viewers’ relation to its pasts, in ways that reflected the mechanical possibilities to create a material record to the past.


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Filed under ancient Rome, ancient world, archeological maps, Rome, Sigmund Freud

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

Up in the Air

Guy Lussac en Ballon

The balloonist Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac, who set a record for ballooning of 7,016 meters in 1804, beside the Himalayas in a balloon, in Andriveau-Goujon’s 1834 Tableaux Comparatif et Figuré (Paris, 1834).  The ballooning record Guy-Lussac set long endured and was only broken in 1862.


The crisp condensation of an array of multiple mountains and rivers by their magnitudes in a uniform scale and imagined plane represents an image of the coherence of scientific knowledge by its transformation of nature into a single reference tool.   The etched “comparative map” reveals an exquisite conflation of legibility and the cartographic surface: it contains not only a database of Humboldtian proportions, but information about the nature of the world’s tallest mountain ranges, volcanic eruptions, longest rivers, and even some waterfalls in Peru–although not the waterfalls in Yosemite, which were not yet discovered or surveyed, or Andes.  Containing, and finding a unique way of dominating the increased expanse of the natural world, the popular comparative chart of rivers, mountains, and waterfalls of the world first printed by Bulla & Fontana in 1828– based on Darton’s far more stodgily titled “New and Improved View of the Comparative Heights of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers of the World” (1823)–offers more than an episode of cartographical entertainment.

As it was redesigned to accommodate increased information and encompass a greater global purview in its qualitative imagery, the map became something of an assertion of the unboundedness of post-Napoleonic levels of global knowledge, and a celebration of data.  Encyclopedically growing through the complex 1834 chart of Andriveau and Goujon celebrated the addition of new claims of knowledge as a domestication of the natural world by indices of scale, even if it abandoned the orientation of the viewer to their geographic locations or spatial relations in a purely idealized record of the mastery of global proportions–the illusion of a growing global mastery illustrated by the comprehending a proliferation of local qualitative detail in its frame.


bulla and fontanaBulla & Fontana, Tableau Comparatif


The terribly successful genre of mapmaking essentially offered an elegant compilation of human achievements as well as of the natural world–from the pyramids, to the tallest buildings in cities, and highest ascension made by a voyage in a helium balloon.  Despite its encyclopedic scope and the range of data it processed, the “table” is human-sized, a large wall-map abel to be readily scanned, in order to digest spatial immensity to a scale designed at a human dimension for exploring a virtual record of the natural world that seemed to distill a global atlas to one sheet:  the findings it collated derive from first-hand observations, each concretized in a clearly pictorial fashion so that it can be immediately recognized and understood.  If the aerial triumph of ballooning as a transcendence of the everyday was well-known from the late eighteenth-century aerial flight over the English channel by a French-American team, accomplished in 1785, the flight of the hot-air balloon was an emblem of the national transcendence offered in the comprehensive map.


1785 British Channel crossed by balloon.png

The most striking single detail that dates the map is the place it accords Gay-Lassac’s recent triumphant ascent to 7000 meters in a hot-air balloon of 1808, noted in the sky of the Tableaux, just above the mountain range of the Himalayas.  Perhaps more importantly for readers, the height of the balloon was just above the highest elevation that Humboldt himself had climbed (5914 feet), as well as the highest levels at which vegetative life–for lichen, 5488.  As it rises above this barrier of living vegetation, and beyond the furthest height of the German explorer, the lone balloon is a triumph of the modern world, and an exploration of the unknown that was great as the ascension of peaks or waterfalls.  The balloonist suggests a sort of French victory in the transcendence of previous bounds of knowledge, and a sign of national pride for the Andriveau-Goujon workshop (fl. 1805-94).

Readers of the map could not only recognize the transcendent flight of Gay-Lussac, but could project themselves into a range of comparable adventures.  The map is not in any familiar sense a projection–or a uniform transference of a conformal expanse to fixed bounds.  There’s not even a pretense of uniformity in the map, because the assembled landscape discards usual cartographical operations that ensure continuity, fix orientation, establish directionality, or claim exact measures of adjacency.  All are sacrificed for one criteria of scale–height–that provides a lens by which the cartographer’s fantasia of representing how space can be viewed.

The notion of such a mental transcendence of space-and idealization of the basis of knowledge–was of deeply Humboldtian spin, and rested on his neo-Kantian comparative categorization of the relative height at which he scaled Mt. Chimborazo to place it in the context of the scaling of Mt. Blanc, Vesuvius, and the elevation of Quito.


Unlike Humboldt, however, the atmospheric ascension of the balloonist implies an imagined prospective of an actual landscape, where the pictorial embraces, domesticities, and processes the comparative, and presents a pictorial unity of comprehensive scope–in ways that echoed how the prospect of ballooning was long associated with maps.

The synthesis is truly cartographical because of how it “writes” space against uniform indices to offer a domestication of geographic diversity and variety within the inhabited world–even while abandoning actual inter-relationships.  A fantasy of mapping, stripped of coordinates, enlists the familiar repertory of cartographic conventions of accuracy to offer a compendium of statistical knowledge.  The cartographer abandons the usual cartographical conventions of noting spatial orientation, directionality, or adjacency, as well as cartographical signs, but transfers statistical measurements to a pictorial view in which heights can be viewed in relation to one another.  This popular format of mapping uses our familiarity with mapped space to sacrifice the need to record or establish location to fashion a comparative collation of known topographic variations.  Optimistically, it shows the world as a unity and unified landscape, without divisions of nationality, in a project in which knowledge about the world is curiously disembodied (in numbers) and re-embodied in a single tableaux.

Although there are no recognizable cartographic indices in the, the Tableaux comparatif reveals a familiarity with the collation of information in mapped space, rising above the range of important cities that formed points of spatial orientation on most maps–including, but by no means limited to, Paris, Rome, London, Geneva, Mexico, Bogota, and Quito, among others, that were noted prominently in the various maps and pocket atlases that its printers also produced, Whereas most maps map itineraries, routes, pathways, or memorable sites of human interaction, the Tableaux is a compendium that draws from different human experiences, correlated with one another in a space that does not exist, but assembled in a single whole.  It is a sort of surrogate for the totality of what we know about the inhabited world and its bounds, and the victory of the diffusion of a form of cartographic writing:  its readers were able to place each of the world’s greatest rivers in their geographic situation, but now afforded a chance to measure (or rank) the Nile beside the far longer Amazon and Mississippi, in order to decontextualize and historicize the limits of global knowledge.  As the ascension of the balloonist occupies a crucial pride of place in the 1834 map, verticality is the implicit theme of the map, which registers heights and lengths, to be sure, but focussed on the collation of knowledge by elevations, including forest lines, barometric readings of the elevations of cities, and heights of mountain ascents to make it a repeated object of visual curiosity.


The Tableaux stands as the culmination of known science, and the triumph of the map–and Geography–as a subject able to comprehend the physical sciences.  One might take the map may be a final redaction of the Ortelian ecumene (the inhabited world),  which it processes for the mind’s eye, but takes the idiom of a pictorial landscape to decontextualize the abstracted record of geographical knowledge.  And also to the observer’s eye:  for the data accumulated and synthesized is clearly both “figured” and “represented” to be readily recognized by viewers familiar with maps. The synoptic register of mountains, rivers, waterfalls and rivers that exploited the four-color potential of maps.  The image was based on a map first assembled in Paris during the 1820s, before being widely reprinted in schoolbooks or atlases through the century as a compendium.

Inscribing the landscape with remarks on vegetation and marking the turning points of ports on rivers, which the cartographer has straightened for adequate comparison as if from a laundry line, the picture is a representation of the use of the inhabited world as well as of the limits of its inhabitability.

bulla and fontana




The collage-like landscape, if an impossible landscape, to be sure, boasted its accuracy and transparency in the manner of a geographic map.  Indeed, rather than use a directional frame, the Tableaux is strikingly framed by statistical tables that serve as the basis for its ordering of space–an imaginary space, that compiles locations in relation to one another, without correspondence to actual directionality or adjacency.  Adjacency and orientation are sacrificed in the hope of registering human measurements and achievements of measurement, conducted “après les observation des plus savants voyageurs” with the truth-claims familiar from geographic maps, but by expanding its level of synthetic view and the scope and range of its qualitative content o a degree that few earlier geographic maps had ever dared.  By collating these measurements in a truly utopic map, the cartographer transformed these multiple observations into a single scene that viewers could readily survey–in a supremely confident of compendium of collective observations that demand our trust, and promise to enlighten ourselves about the world’s entire form.  The arrangement of these observations in a map allow us to measure distances in ways that were not possible, moreover, in a simple map:  in a map, we see a river, like the Nile, as difficult to measure given its many twists and turns to its source, but all–even the Amazon–are now laid out in their relative lengths for easy measurement.  This format of mapping, both for its synthetic scope and pedagogic utility, was extremely popular.

The genre was so popular as a synthetic view of space that it was widely imitated–if without the detail of the French balloonist.  An undated German reprinting grouped ranges of mountains not only by size, but actual geographic location in continents, as if the map was somehow an image of the members of different continental families:



The imagined landscape of global topography, newly indexed for ready consultation, imagined the landscape as a library catalogue.  A contemporary Russian chart comparing rivers expanded on the genre in its own manner, displaying rivers as if their estuaries lined up to open to a contiguous body of water, to facilitate their comparison:

Russian Rivers

More often, this variety of map disembodied rivers or topographic markers from its surrounding landscape, oddly tracing the outlines of aqueous bodies alone:



All are exemplify a recognized cartographical imaginary; the geographical compendia became popular tools to synthesize information for schoolchildren at their fingertips.

To be sure, John Thompson’s earlier undated “Comparative View of the Heights of the Principal Mountains and other Elevations in the World,” dated to 1817, presented a composite prospect of mountain tops from different hemispheres, in something of a cartographic collage that took advantage of the aesthetics of landscape to abandon the principles of coherence or spatial proximity that paramount in most geographical maps.  Thompson, a Scottish cartographer, united the relative heights of the mountain tops of the eastern and western hemispheres, comparing the presence of buildings, cities, vegetation limits, and even fauna in an aestheticization of empirical observations that bridged Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, beside which flies an Andean Condor at an altitude of 21,000 feet, and figured Alexander von Humboldt himself scaling the peak, as well as Lake Toluca, Quito, Caracas, and Mexico City, in the same frame as Nepal’s Dhaulagiri, 27,677 feet–promising a global prospect if without either the Chilean peaks or Himalayas. 



If the map of mountains echoes Humboldt’s maps of mountains, Thompson had issued the first comparative atlas of rivers–“A Comparative View of the Lengths of the Principal Rivers of Scotland” which had a purely choreographic intent, in 1822, in one of the first comparative river chart of the century, just after his inclusion of the comparative chart showing the height of global mountains for the 1817 edition of his “New General Atlas” (Edinburgh), which built on Humboldt’s 1805 work–and also acknowledged that dependence by including Humboldt in his map, scaling Mt. Chimborazo.  The map of Scotland’s rivers offered an even more pictorial rendition of the many rivers that watered Scotland’s heaths–and is striking for representing the same sort of Kantian transcendence that inspired Humboldt’s own work.


Comparative Veiw oft he Lengths of the Principle Rivers of Schotland

“Comparative View of the Lengths of the Principal Rivers of Scotland” (1822) (Courtesy Rumsey Associates)


But the esthetic appeal of the composite map’s original designers and cartographers, Bulla and Fontana, had designed it in the 1820s as a landscape for viewers to enter and explore in ways that Thompson did not fully exploit, so careful was he to preserve and synthesize the newly arrived data of naturalists.  The slightly later Bulla and Fontana Tableaux comparatif retains the four-color format of printed maps; the original Bulla and Fontana from 1826 was exquisitely hand-colored in a range of manners that spectacularly heighten its coherence as a landscape that is inviting to the eye:  the warmth of these hand-painted colors is hard to ignore, and contributed to how the map was cast as a landscape picture.

The set of impressive rivers that emerge from the upper edge of the Tableaux extend, for example, from a grassy region near their mouths, the waterfalls are thunderously crashing with white spray, the snowy peaks with their blueish hues imposingly weigh heavily upon the stoney landscape beneath them:  the mountain ranges indeed fill up the yellow frame of measured indices, which serves as a pictorial frame for the scene, unlike the neo-classical border that frames a band of white in the later Tableaux.   In Bulla and Fontana’s map, the icy light-green valley underneath the mountain ranges invites eyes,and suggests a reserve of ice from which one can believe the set of lengthening waterfalls contain the freezing cold run-off of icy plateaux.  It seems that this wonderful post-Enlightenment map not only synthesizes measurements, but presented to the post-Napoleonic Europe the harmony of a state of total geographic knowledge as another green world, in true Renaissance fashion, in a sort of bucolic land that was both richly irrigated, filled with waters indicated by the synecdoche of waterfalls,and ready to be cultivated by man, even as Europe had been dissolved by wars and the migrations of soldiers and military campaigns planned in military maps.



Comparatif, 1836.png

Goujon and Andriveau, Tableau Comparatif et Figure de la Hauteur des Principales Montagnes et du Cours des Principaux Fleuves du Monde (1836)


The 1836 expansion of the comparative chart of mountains, rivers, and waterfalls engraved was produced by the prolific cartographic partnership Goujon and Andriveau, and proved particularly popular–meeting a clear demand for the investigation of natural spectacles such as volcanos, whose synchronized explosions are rendered on the visual center of the map that claims one’s visual attention in almost all of its parts, echoing the memory of the global influence of the eruption of Mount Tambora during the Napoleonic Wars, perhaps illustrating a sense of the climatological inter-relations even in a map that abandoned the rendering of accurate geographical relations:  volcanoes almost provided an acknowledgment, almost, of knowledge of the ecological complexity, after actual inter-relations had been abandoned in the name of the economy of map-engraving.




Both include the easily overlooked detail of the balloonist who surveys the landscape. The balloonist seems to be something of the hero of this scene, who has not only entered into the picture but, in one’s imagination, is able to survey the entire expanse that lies below.  His view would be what would look more like a map, even though what we see reflects the range of geographic knowledge that we can collate through our own unsurpassed cartographical abilities.

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Filed under fluvial maps, Gay Lussac, Humboldt, mapping nature, natural history, Tableaux Comparatif, Tableaux Comparatif et Comparé