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Monuments in New Worlds: Mapping Columbus in America

Christopher Columbus’ transatlantic voyages assume problematic status as part of a “discourse of discovery.” For rather than markers of the fifteenth century narratives, they serve to frame a range of narratives of discovery that promote the fifteenth-century navigator as an icon of nationhood that were foreign to the fifteenth century. In making claims for the foundational role that the navigator’s transatlantic voyage, they create a new narrative of nation, particularly powerful for its ability to occlude and obscure other narratives, and indeed the presence of local inhabitants in a region, so that they assume the deracinating violence of a map: as claims of possession, and indeed mastery over space, they dislodge nativist presence in a region, much as Columbus did as a royal agent, and glorify the acts of renaming, and taking possession of, the new world, in ways that ally the viewers with the heroism of the Genoese navigator.

The questioning of continued Columbian commemoration within national identity has led to the questioning of commemorative Colombian statutary, that have proliferated across the United States, from Columbus, Ohio to San Francisco to Kenosha, WI, to Miami, as they have been dislodged from an Italian-American community–as many once were in New Haven, Boston, and Philadelphia as well as New York City–or a frame for a narrative of nation that needs to be told, or wants to be told. And attracted by a remarkable burst of creative iconoclastic energy, San Francisco’s City Arts Commission recently preemptively monument to Columbus somewhat preposterously overlooking the Pacific to be removed from its monumental pedestal–a statue long defaced in recent years–before it was defaced. The deposition of the 4,000 pound statue, with a violence that would repeat and channel the rejection of the figure of Columbus whose monuments were already deposed in Boston, St. Paul, Minnesota; Camden, NJ; Richmond, VA, and other cities in New York state, one of which was beheaded–if long after the statue to the navigator was ceremoniously pushed into the ocean in 1986, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a placard “Foreigners out of Haiti!”

Owen Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle

Indeed, the San Francisco’s 4,000 pound commemorative statue of Columbus, often defaced as a symbol of enslavement and subjugation in recent years, was removed by a crane and as a call to dump it into the Bay was circulating, on Thursday, June 18, removing it from a scenic site by the Pacific beside Coit Tower, leaving an empty pedestal, perhaps to reduce the need to clean up a statue that had been repeatedly defaced in recent weeks but also to show consensus about lack of interest in defending a symbol of oppression, enslavement, and colonial violence, and public outbreaks around the call to depose the statue off Pier 31, not as a symbol of colonial resistance, but an expunging of the navigator from national history. All of a sudden the dismantling of the public memories of Columbus were in the national news, a divisive issue of political tussling, professed shock for besmirching American history, and a reassessment of the values of public statuary, as somehow battling Italian-Americans Nancy Pelosi was set up to fight Christopher Columbus on FOX.

It was as if the spontaneous prominence across the nation of memorials to George Floyd, proliferating on street walls in full color, and in haunting offset likenesses, provoked introspection demanded introspection of what sort of memorials we identified with and wanted to see the nation, placing on the front burner of all the question of commemoration in terms that had long been glossed over and tacitly accepted. The commemoration of Floyd’s murder was a rebuke of police violence, throwing into relief discriminatory monuments that left the few defenders of the monument to ask us to consider Columbus more broadly in history, rather than focus on “some of his acts, which nobody would support,” without addressing the framing of the logic of “discovery'” in imperial narratives.

For the navigator embodied an imperial relation to space and terrestrial expanse, discounting the inhabitants of regions, and affirming the abstract authority of sovereign claims and sovereign expanse, however improbably early maps placed the islands in the Caribbean–later called Hispaniola–based on his conviction that the Atlantic Ocean was able to be traversed, enabling transatlantic voyages for which Spain was well poised to expand commerce far beyond the coast of Africa and the Mediterranean for economic ends in an “Enterprise of the Indies” that Columbus proposed to John II of Portugal, before he set out to claim the new lands for Ferdinand and Isabella. The longstanding embedded nature of Columbus in a discourse of claiming land–a discourse from which he was not only inseparable, but embedded maps in claims of the administration and supervision of lands far removed from seats of terrestrial power, a map-trick that has been celebrated since as a form of inscribing territorial claims on a piece of paper or globe.

And if Columbus had no actual idea of the form of North America, the persuasiveness of fictive reimagining of his mastery over space–a mastery cast almost uniformly in intellectual terms, rather than in military terms of disenfranchisement or enslavement–provided a logic that is aestheticized in the monument as a mode for the possession and persuasion of possession over terrestrial space.

The origins of these reframing are perhaps obscure, but lionizing Columbus was always about rewriting the American narrative, and distancing one race of immigrants–the Italian migrant–from the very native inhabitants that the story of Columbus displaced. The navigator was promoted actively as a figure of national unity in the post-Civil War centenary of 1892, in which Columbus assumed new currency as a national figure, a map on silver able to enter broad circulation as a memory for how a three-masted caravel mastered terrestrial expanse, resting above a hemispheric map of global oceanic expanse. The anachronistic map suggests as much a modern triumph of hemispheric cartography–the coastline of the United States was surveyed by geodetic terms and that established the role of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in producing maps of uniform toponymy and hydrographic accuracy had only recently set standards of coastal surveying that unified triangulation, physical geodesy, leveling, and magnetic of authority within the US Navy to produce coastal maps of the nation extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Alaskan shoreline.

The imperious gaze of the limp-haired navigator seems the first self-made man as he gazes with gruff determination on the coin’s face, almost entirely filing the surface of the first American coin bearing human likeness. Columbus was an icon it identified with how the hemispheric map took charge over a continent, and gave a sense of predestination to the recently settled question of continental integrity–and a territorial bounds that new no frontier up to Alaska, whose coast had been recently surveyed, and much of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Its design for the Chicago Word Exposition suggest a hemispheric dominance reflecting the growth of Rand McNally in Chicago, a map-publisher for America, as well as the self-assertion the United States as a hemispheric power, as much as the Genoese navigator about whom so many meanings have encrusted.

The striking hemispheric map of global navigability on the obverse of the coin circulated in Chicago’s World Exposition was global, but would also mimic the claims of hemispheric dominance that the hemispheric projection recalled, prefigured the Pan Am logo, in its global in reach.

In 1893, the point was made as replicas of the Nino, Pinto, and Santa Maria sailed in Lake Michigan during the Centennary, for which the U.S. Congress approved the printing of the first commemorative coin of an individual, beer flowed on tap at what was celebrated as a “blueprint of America’s future,” foregrounding the technological supremacy of the West and America. Ehe figure of Columbus was assimilated to the new technologies of transportation and conquest in a new center commerce where railroads open onto the west, in a condensation of a national celebration that cast Columbus as a figure of the destiny of western expansion, indulging in an American hyperbole of incandescent lighting, the championing of new technologies, in which the replicas of the Pino, Nina, and Santa Maria that had sailed from Spain were again sailing on a landlocked Lake Michigan were exhibited to foreground, Gokstad Viking ships sailed the flooded Midway, beside the mock-Venetian crafts of gondoliers.

Such global mariners provided a flourish within a World Exposition whose stage sets and soundstages, P.T. Barnum like, celebrated transit, transport, and mobility to astound visitors and silence all questions of not presuming to celebrate four centuries of progress; the neoclassical facades of buildings as the Administrative Building, Palace of Fine Arts, Agricultural Building, and Court of Honor, were iterations of the Crystal Palace that were precursors to Las Vegas, proclaimed the birth of a “White City” at the World Exposition that promoted the figure of Columbus and was under-written by the federal government and corporate America, recasting the shady city of vice as the “White City.”

Chicago Tribune

The claiming of Columbus as a national figure in the rebranding of the World’s Exposition set in neoclassical buildings as the site to celebrate Columbus recreated the l’Enfant architecture of the District of Columbia, and elevated the city as “white” in some of the very issues that make the continued celebration of Columbus Day so fraught in a pluralistic society: Peter van Der Krogt has surveyed in striking detail some four hundred monuments to Columbus that were erected after what was called the “World’s Columbian Exposition” in 1892-3, a century after the first monument to Columbus was built in Baltimore, in 1792, what it meant to identify Columbus as American, if not name the nation “Columbia”–the popularity of these monuments in New Jersey (32), Connecticut (15), and New York (24) suggests the clear lack of uniformity of enthusiasm of celebrating the navigator’s equivalence with the nation.

Peter van der Krogt

The fraught question of celebrating the Genoese navigator became a hot-button topic for Donald Trump to rally red state voters–“to me, it will always be Columbus Day!”–and to serve as clickbait as part of the new, perpetually churning culture wars. In an October state meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Trump was pleased to note that while “some people don’t like” the continued commemoration of Columbus’ transatlantic voyage, “I do”, as if that should be sufficient for the nation. Prime MinisterMattarella’s state visit became an occasion to espouse public disdain for the renaming of the national holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day, if not Native Americans Day, in over 130 cities across 34 states. For President Trump, doing so seemed designed not to impress Mattarella, but define a wedge in a deeper cultural urban-rural divide– a yawning divide of economic opportunities, the knowledge economy, and the shifting horizons of economic expectations, more than political belief. The nature of this poorly mapped landscape, the thin substrate of uneven economies and cultural disjunctions and divides, that passes as a political in a datamap of the district-by-district voting preferences that rips a red continuity all but from its bordering blue frame.

Mark Neumann/Red State-Blue State Divide

The national discontinuities reveal an impoverished geographic sense of meaning, one that makes all but ironical the prestige placed on the legibility of the map by the legendary figure of Columbus, who never set foot in the continental landmass now known as the United States, but was, in an era of increased hemispheric dominance of the quatrocentennary nearly engraved map–a reflection of the prominent role Rand McNally played in the organization of the Exposition of 1892, promoting the prominent place that the mapmaking company had gained in the design, dissemination and marketing of instructional printed maps in the later nineteenth century, just a decade after the Chicago-based printshop primarily producing train time-tables expanded its role in a growing educational market for globes and printed wall maps, using its engraving methods emblematized in its dramatic bird’s-eye view of the exposition.

And although it did not design the commemorative silver half dollar that included a caravel of the Santa Maria moving on creating ocean waves above the very anachronistic map that suggests the continental expanse of North and South America–as if Columbus’ guidance of the historic transnational voyage in three caravels he captained was based on a mastery of modern cartographic knowledge. The clear-sightedness of the navigator below the legend “United States of America” linked fearless scrutiny of the global expanse to the foundation of a nation, as the coin designed by the U.S. Mint sough to give circulate a discourse of national unity in the first coin printed in the United States to include the likeness of an actual individual, after hopes to copy a Renaissance portrait by Lorenzo Lotto were replaced by an austere profile suggesting intellectual grasp of space to be sold as souvenirs to visitors of the national fair. Yet the notion of hemispheric dominance was not far off: the explosion of the American naval frigate in the port of Havana led to charges to attack Spain in the press to exercise dominance ridiculed in the Spanish press–

The hint at hemispheric dominance in these maps mirror a push in the 1890s against how “the self-imposed isolation in the matter of markets . . . coincided singularly with an actual remoteness of this continent from the life of the rest of the world,” as a shift in global governance and prominence; the earlier celebration of the continental expansion of the United States to an area “equal to the entire circumference of the earth, and with a domain within these lines far wider than those of the Romans in the proudest days of their conquest and renown.”

Casting nationalism in such cartographic terms mirrored the embedding of Columbus in legacies of nationalism and colonization,–the coin that gave the navigator currency, if it silenced the recognition of the other, presenting Columbus as emblematic of a conquest of space. At a time when Italians were regarded as of different status from other whites, the figure of the Genoese navigator became a lens to project the “white” essence of the territorial United States in quadricentennial celebrations of 1892, recasting the navigator as an unlikely and implausible hero of the white race at the culmination of claiming native lands within the bloody landscape of Indian Wars–roughly, from 1860 to 1877–and to erase the violence of the seizure of these lands to crate the new map of the West, remapping the western lands “as” legible Anglophone and American, and the province of the White Man. Was Columbus the improbable hero of such whiteness and the claims of whiteness in the quadricentennary celebrations that led the nation to celebrate a “white” Italian, as a figure of the whiteness of the nation?

If we are realizing the loaded nature of the erasure of earlier inhabitants in the celebration of arrival in ‘America’ as a prefiguration of the nation, the condensation of this genealogy in the coin of the quadricentennial was a celebration of the witness of the national nd legibility of the new continental map map.

For as ethnicity was understood in sectorial and distinct terms of labor in the late nineteenth century–erased by the notion of an “end of ethnicity” and melting pot of the late twentieth century–the image of Columbus as a “white” hero, the image of the discoverer was purified of his own ethnic origins, at a time when negroes and Italians were excluded from social orders, and lived in Chicago sequestered in enclaves like Little Sicily, or Five Points in New York City, President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 promoted Columbus Day as a “one-time national celebration” to quell international tensions after lynching of Italian-Americans in New Orleans’ Little Palermo between Italy and the United States: the image on the commemorative coin of a pacified globe of continental unity as if it were included in Columbus’ fashioning of his own prophetic identity affirmed Columbus’ whiteness, as it erased the identity of indigenous subjects and silenced the other.

Columbus was promoted eagerly to claim whiteness for Italian-Americans, as well as to define a non-indigenous figure of the nation and national pride. Long before Italian-Americans adopted the festivities of Columbus Day as a regular celebration to incorporate their centrality in a civic record of national identity, as New York Times editorialist Brent Staples has put it, purged of racial connotations that continued in the popular press, only after the celebration of Columbus Day opened a pathway to integration in the face of racialist slurs. As those Sicilians who segregated in their dwellings in New Orleans were seen as targets of racial persecution, and as northern newspapers used stereotypes continued to magnify charges of poor hygiene and linguistic differences, casting Italians as vermin unfit for public schooling, Columbus provided a figure to flee from dispersion as a “Dago”: as immigration from Italy faced official restrictions by 1920, and Italian immigrants were subject to at the start of the first great Age of Mass Migration, as Calvin Coolidge barred “dysgenic” Italian-Americans from entering the country.

In the very years wen immigrants were both sectorized and accorded new status as “whites” who were eugenically suspect, and rates of immigration were slowed under the banner of eugenics, the figure of Columbus proved an able image to launch a powerful agenda of alternative immigration reform: in the very regions where the share of population of Italian origin was most pronounced by 1920, in those very counties the erection of Columbus monuments grew. They appeared in interesting fasion from the eastern seaboard inland to the Great Lakes, into the Chicago area on Lake Michigan, to the Texas and Lousiana seaboards, and San Francisco area in northern California: the dispersion of Columbus monuments across the nation below lacks dates,–

Statues and Monuments to Columbus/Peter van der Krogt

–it is a striking reflection of what U.S. Census records reveal about the relative proportional concentration of Americans of Italian parentage in the United States in 1920, when the Census tabulated those identifying as of Italian parentage as a category.

The increased transatlantic migration that occurred around the 1920s could recast the topos of overseas arrival as embodied by Columbus. The figure of Columbus as an intellectual, a civil servant, and of the statue as a monument of civic pride all encouraged the appearance of the navigator in public monuments. Of course, they recuperate the image of the placement of the flag of authority overseas, as much as vanquishing native one of the first global maps, planting the flag of authority overseas.

Was a reckoning of sorts apparent in the opposition between Columbus and Nancy Pelosi as two vision of Italian-American heritage–cast as loyalty and some sort of betrayal–that was broadcast on FOX News? “If the community doesn’t want it, it shouldn’t be there,” Nancy Pelosi responded to the toppling of a statue of Columbus in her native Baltimore, attempting to remove pride in her Italian-American heritage from a statue, but the war of statuary increasingly became about orienting one’s place in the world, and the effectiveness of Eurocentric notions of “discovery” as a way of gaining bearings on the diverse population of the United States.

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Filed under American history, Columbus, commemoration, Voyage of Discovery, whiteness

Ink-Jet Wonders and Other Printed Curiosities

The appeal that was exercised by a newly discovered set of gores that arrived at Christie’s announced was considerable.  The map constituted one of the first mappings to show the place of America on the globe–and indeed to map the globe as a globe.  The considerable attention that the gores slated to go to auction in mid-December attracted must have lain not only in their rarity, but the cult of priority of the naming of place.  The gores exemplified the declarative role of mapping to designate place, as well as a geometric organization of global continuity shortly after the discovery of the new world, but it was hard to imagine that the appeal of the gores in our increasingly pixelated, pointillistic, and fragmented mediated sense of space was not in the solidity with which they seemed to embody “America,” both on the map and on a globe.

The gores were highly valued as the first image that mapped America–and assigned it a name–whose almost cultic prestige had grown allowed viewers view a watery western hemisphere, since described by antiquarians as the “birth certificate” of America, in an ahistorical but nineteenth-century fashion, for bestowing the name of the European navigator Vespucci on the continent that he had described in a set of letters that widely circulated in Europe from 1503, and provided a written account that oriented readers to to the New World, describing a vicarious sort of witnessing the unknown that expanded the demand for global maps as they were widely reprinted.   Amerigo Vespucci described the long shorelines of a New World  that allowed a distinctively modern way to view a rapidly expanded image of the inhabited world, and allowed Waldseemüller–even if the humanist cosmographer who had trained as a theologian rarely travelled beyond his town of St. Die, near Strasbourg, but exploited the printing press to reconcile Vespucci’s findings with precepts of map projection derived from cutting edge cartographic tools.  And when he adopted the format of the mathematician Apian to render the world on gores, he used the graphic techniques of projection to lend solidity to the first narrations of the New World.  So it was quite surprising that the forged copy of gores that almost made it to auction in 2017 belonged to the same visual culture of online images–the culture of image capture and digital reproductions–as what seemed a worm-eaten sheet of printed paper was found to be created by tools of digital photographic reproduction, with little human trace of an engraver’s hand, although they seemed strikingly similar to the long unknown image of a material rendering of the post-Colomban world.


MUNICH WALDSEEMULER in Peckham, 1504:1510pngUniversity Library of Munich, ULM Cim. 107#2. Courtesy of University Library of Munich

Indeed, the similarity between the online diffusion of the image and the reproduction of the fake seems a modern rewriting of the intense attention that Waldseemüller and his circle of geographers in St. Die embraced the tools of early modern engraving to design multiple woodcut maps in the first decades of the sixteenth century, in order to meet a fast-growing market for globes that lent legibility to the world.  But the new forms of legibility that the online reproductions prized–so distinct from the printed images of the early sixteenth century–seem something like a moral fable of the different levels of spatial legibility of different ages, if not two period eyes.  The gores that cosmographer Martin Waldseemüller and his St. Die circle had designed were printed in 1507 had been long prized as the earliest example of an identification of the New World as America, in honor of Vespucci.  In an elegant description of the entire surface of an earth as yet not fully known, but able to be mapped in a woodblock form, the gores adopt and incorporate aspects of recent engraved maps and nautical charts in a synoptic visual digest.  The gores form part of a distinctly cosmographic project of rendering the world on a graticule of parallels and meridians, and vaunting the adoption of an ancient global geometry for transposing the curvature of the inhabited surface of the globe to a sectional globe of two dimensions, despite their limited toponymy, and balance their comprehensive coverage with the treatment of the map as a canvas to advertise the new naming of America, expanding the map’s surface far beyond the manuscript tradition of Ptolemaic maps and orienting viewers to the predominantly watery surface of the world.




The single sheet that seemed early modern map gores for a short bit of time seemed to belong to the first records naming the continent after the navigator, and clearly gained their value as such as a piece of paper:  the announcement of a new discovery of the sectional rendering of the world’s surface by regular intervals of thirty degrees appeared to offer an early geographic primer modernizing Ptoleamic geography, based on the first nautical charts of the new world.  The attempt to chart global space for Renaissance readers who remained in Europe were long associated with the cosmographer Martin Waldseemüller, the mathematically-trained theologian and cartographer known for creating several global maps, and for writing one of the first treatises of cosmography to adopt Ptolemaic principles to explain and describe the principles for mapping the New World.  By announcing the adoption of a new set of tools as a new descriptive framework in a manner similar to his 1507 cosmographic wall-map, which unified the nautical charts of America Vespucci with a Ptolemaic framework of world-mapping; the sheet of map gores supersede traditional nautical charts in a form of world-making.

Indeed, the single sheet seemed to seek to promote universal geometric tools to unify an expanded global expanse:  the new sense of the “cumene” would not be recognized by Ptolemy or ancient mappers, and gave an expansive portion of its surface to oceanic expanse, registering a new conception of a terraqueous world.  The graphic image following Ptolemaic principles of projection incorporated Vespucci’s accounts and nautical maps in a new model of cosmographic knowledge, inviting readers to experience vicariously his travels to the New World, and to understand the greater value that he attributed to maps and cosmographical knowledge to arrive at this site across the ocean in another world:  much as Carlos Fuentes has recently offered an indelible picture of the epistemic paralysis of the monarch Don Felipe, a barely disguised version of Philip II, as a semi- autistic ruler doubting the existence of a new world that was not comprehended in the palace to which he has withdrawn in Terra Nostra (1975), a massive novel whose literary structure mirrored the tripartite structure of the palace Philip II commissioned to include maps of all the Spanish possessions, the embodiment of the globe on a set of twelve elegant map gores would condense and rebut such the imperial stance of utter disregard to the new world that possessed Fuentes in his novel.  The careful construction of the globe’s surface onto indices offer a global purview that might be called the first age of globalism.


1. Waldseemüller’s single sheet map condensed the cosmographic principles the he had followed in series of elegant wall-maps that foregrounded the artifice and difficulty of the composition of the world map.   Waldseemüller and his circle had actively promoted standards of global legibility, using Ptolemaic precepts in a triumphal manner to celebrate the power of naming, charting, and mapping new lands for European audiences that invited ways of telling, describing and narrating Europeans’ spatial relation to a new world.  The large wall-maps that he produced in over a thousand copies promoted modes of reading globalist relations  facilitated by copious textual cartouches and inventive decoration, that underscore its cosmographical nature as a product of writing, drawing, and design to affirm the growth of oceanic expanse that defined the continents.  The wall map was hardly free of what Edward Tufte might call “chart junk” on its exuberant margins, but conveyed tthe excitement of heralding a new graphic synthesis of a global map over which Vespucci presided in one lunette, adding continents of a new hemisphere to the known globe, offered a cartographic solution to a problem of ordering terrestrial space.


Vespucii On Map

Waldseemuller-Map-631Martin Waldseemüller, Universalis Cosmographia secundum Ptolomei Traditionem . . . . / Library of Congress



The image is no less than celebration of the new status of cosmographical arts that elevate the medium of engraved images to tools of global description.  If the twelve-sheet c wall maps Waldseemüller’s school composed, designed, and whose engraving they closely supervised set a new standard for the elevation of cartographical skill from a technical craft to a new model of knowing and seeing–and a way of making epistemological claims, as much as using transmitted forms, in ways that linked the art of mapping as a scribal technology to cultures of telling, describing, and demonstration, the wall maps invite viewer’s eyes to comprehend space outside a situated position.


Waldseemuller_map_2Martin Waldseemüller, Universalis Cosmographia secundum Ptolomei Traditionem . . . . / Library of Congress


In a counterpart to the large wall maps that he designed and sold, Waldseemüller expounded the modern precepts to orient one in space and synthesize global knowledge by parallels and meridians in his Introduction to Cosmography (1507).   The slim volume,  the basis for his identification with the unsigned gores, seven as a manifesto for the twelve-sheet engraved global wall map, over which preside busts of Ptolemy, the ancient geographer who formulated the mathematical precepts of terrestrial projection on a graticule, with America Vespucci, combined the modern experience of navigation with the ancient precepts of learning and naming place.   Waldseemüller himself never travelled far beyond his native Strasbourg, but invested the map with authority to communicate geographical knowledge as a token of modernity of embodying a global geographical knowledge, albeit a modernity now displaced by the grid.  Waldsemüller’s projection has the energetic displacement of the authority of a nautical chart, echoing how Vespucci declared his competency in his letter to arrive at the New World even “without the knowledge of sea charts” prized by navigators, being “more expert in navigation than all the pilots of the world.”   The gores staked a similar model of expertise of reckoning and calculating distance and place by a new matrix of latitude and longitude that they embody:  the preeminence of the graticule as an epistemological tools of global geography that expanded the scope and nature of geographical knowledge lasted some four hundred and eighty years until it being displaced by grids.  Indeed, the value that the map was readily assigned suggests its survival in a distinctly post-scribal culture of mapping.

Did the value that the auctioneers assigned the map gores reflect these grandiose knowledge claims?  The gores elegantly translated knowledge of the earth’s newly discovered hemisphere to indices the viewer could readily process and digest, foregrounding the new name that it proposed for the continent named after the Italian navigator.  But they assumed a new status in the age of digitized maps, and Google Earth images of global interconnectivity, which may have been paradoxically elevated by the newly antiquated image they acquired.  Rather than being sold as emblems of knowledge, the new image of the gores that Christie’s claimed to bring to public auction had gained an immeasurable status after the earlier auctioning of similar gores for above a million dollars, not to mention the unprecedented price that the United States Library of Congress agreed to pay in 2003 of $10 million for the sole surviving edition of the large wall map Waldseemüller had engraved, the one copy of the thousand-odd he had printed, of which it was something of the poorer cousin, but which had been widely touted as the “birth certificate” of America, and the map on which Waldseemüller had proposed using the name of the Florentine navigator Vespucci who had described the long coastlines of the New World in his printed letters.

The set of map gores, a complementary spherical map that Waldseemüller had described making, provided an early image of global totality that gave a similar dominance to the line–indeed, the geometrically determined line–to orient viewers to a global surface.  When the late historians of cartography David Woodward and J.B. Harley tersely defined the map in “purposely broad” terms, at the outset of the monumental History of Cartography, an extremely elegant series since expanded over multiple volumes, as “graphic representations that facilitate spatial understanding of the world of things, concepts, conditions, processes, or events in the human world,” they may have been thinking of the graphic lines of the gores as such a facilitation of spatial understanding.  For the gores process the encounter with the New world, the travels of the navigator, and the recovery of Ptolemaic precepts of world-mapping, and the naming of the newly discovered continents in the western hemisphere on a clearly graphic construction.  Woodward and Harley’s emphasis on “graphic representations” recuperated the ancient Claudius Ptolemy’s use the Greek verb  γράφειν (graphein), or “to write,” and Waldseemüller’s assimilation of that verb of the act of writing to engraving tools; it caused much revision, even by Woodward himself, of its lack of allowance for cross-cultural comparisons, but suggests a significance of writing systems as a mode of ordering space.  Waldseemüller appropriated the authority of the verb in print, giving the engraved line a deictic sense of displaying space–


Single Sheet UNM


Waldseemüller School, 1507 Globe Gores/Badische Landesbibliothek


–in a map of globular design of the sort that Woodward idealized as the culmination and embodiment of cartographical principles, in a globular map of the sort that was more readily defined in a more familiar globular form by 1583, here shown in two images of the same year in “universal rendering of the newly discovered parts of the world,” printed in Italian, or discovered parts of the world, which emphasize nautical travel as the basis for the incorporation of place on the globe, and reveal the increased scope of geographical exploration in the intervening eighty years.


Globular Italian Map Parte del Mondo Ritrovato 1583





More broadly, however, “graphein” might be understood as the trace of the human that orients themselves to the world, hand-drawn or manually rendered.  These were soon shown to be absent from the gores:  indeed, the blurring of the very lines of the gores that went to auction suggest that they belong to a new visual culture of scanned images and photographic reproduction.  The very traces of graphical operations were permuted and erased in new ways, as is the sense of a human presence, in ways that suggest the distance of our own visual culture from Waldseemüller’s world, in ways that the forger never intended.

In their groundbreaking History of Cartography, David Woodward and Brian Harley had celebrated the line as the means of graphical orientation, in what now seems an elegy to the art of printing.  An unforgettable image remains clear in my head of David Woodward in his basement, in Madison, WI, running maps off a letterpress printer, and hanging them to dry on strings by clothespins, and his love of the ink applied to the engraved plate to present a precise rendering of space.  But the fake set of gores that reached auction were not printed or drawn, let alone in the Renaissance or during Waldseemüller’s life, but probably printed some five hundred years later, from a scan of the map in the James Ford Bell Library’s website.

The gores that arrived at auction this December suggest far less of a clear trace of a human hand, and perhaps belong to a different visual culture of online images.  Indeed, the astronomical value that the single sheet was invested may be a symptom of our entrance into a different visual culture of mapping–indeed, the sheet that seemed to be valued at more than a sheet of gold of the same size suggests the fetishization of the paper map in an era of web-based mapping, and mobile GPS.  The fake gores suggestedthe translation of Ptolemaic terms to a visual culture that privileges the dot and the grid as a basis for orientation, rather than the engraved line, but where the aura of the writing of space persists, and the paper map fetishized in a world that increasingly relies exclusively on mediated digitized images.  The set o fraudulent gores is itself something of a post-modern artifact,–less concerned with the authorities of narratives of discovery, but able to admit the false authority of the map as objective, and almost ready to accept the value of its aura even if it was only an image grab printed on old paper.

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Filed under fake maps, globalism, globalization, Mapping the New World, media studies

Mapping the Presence of Rome’s Pasts: from Piranesi to Freud and Back

We now map mega-regions that extend along highways far beyond the former boundaries of cities, along roads and through suburbs increasingly lack clear bounds.  The extent of such cities seem oddly appropriate for forms of mapping that seem to lack respect for physical markers of bounds.  These maps reflect the experience of their environments as networks more than sites, to be sure.  It may be surprising to see the mapping of the ancient world as a similar network, and to try to understand the mobility of the ancient world and Mediterranean in terms of modern tools of mapping travel: tracing the extension of extra-urban areas along distended networks of inhabited paved space, indeed, suggests the morphing of cities from the past, and almost removes them from historical time or erase the familiar palimpsestic relation to known space, or the city as a space for walking.

We may be compelled to apply the same data driven images to ancient Rome, driven due to our own continuing and increased disorientation on the proliferating data maps.  But does their logic maintain the complexity of time, space, and place in the ancient world, or how might it better attract interest, by casting the map as a site of investigating not only space, but time? Despite the limitations of their coverage of space, and the limited benefits of imagining the ability to measure times of travel or distances to monuments as a record of ancient space or Roman life, it is tempting to be satisfied with placing it in a network. For to do so offers a way of envisioning ancient Rome as a mega city and hub of transit.  But the erasure that this brings in humanistic experience of the map is striking.  

mobility fingerprint ROme

The risk of a loss of materiality is steep: for we seem to lose a sense of the presence of the map of the city, visualizing the distances of travel, costs of economic transit, and time of travel in a web of commercial exchange we both project back our own sense of disorientation.  When we use modern notions such as that of the urban mobility fingerprint as Moovel labs did in concretely visualizing the medieval saying that “all roads lead to Rome” in its  project of mapping distances from the ancient city, we run the risk of insisting on the transparency of data, reducing maps and the patttern of mapping to a substrate of spatial relations sufficient in an almost ahistorical sense, and risk asserting the authority of an app over material processes of building and mapping Rome across time.  

In doing so, we may be trying to find mooring in the mapping of the past.  We avoid the problem of mapping the presence of the ancient form of the city so long returned to be mapped, as a key to presence of the ancient city in the city, in ways that Rome was so long understood. The reipscription of the authority of Rome in the map–or from those classic images of the nineteenth century imagination, the Baedecker Guide, may posit mobility as fons et origo. And while we do want to illustrate or understand flows from the city, and the location of Rome in a broader Mediterranean and European space–by privileging flow, we wonder–

Flow from Rome

is there some loss of the materiality of the ancient world? For rather than show the city of Rome, so often refigured in almost encomiastic terms, by asserting its pride of place in a network, and celebrating the construction of its almost vegetal organic network of modernized roads in order to bring it closer to the viewer, there is a visual trick of transferring a dataset to a schematic rendering that flattens the complex human patterns of the past, and does so by obscuring the deeply humanistic layered nature of the map and of the past, so clearly preserved in the famous bifolium image of Rome, that old imperial city, in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, based on a lost chorographic encomiastic of its buildings’ magnificence.

Nuremberg Chronicle, “Roma,” (1493), leaves LVII-LVIII

If we might consider the imperial schema of travel as a more exact map of space, the enhanced topographic rendering that calls attention to its place in a network, alters the intense interest that the mapping of the city’s place has held, so aptly illustrated back when the physician Hartman Schedel returned to his native Nuremberg, with woodcuts by Francesco Roselli and other Italians in hand, to assemble a new genealogy of the place of Germans on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, and to map the cities of Swabia as the heirs of Roman imperial claims. The symbolic authority of the city, long taken as akin ago a vessel of memory, gained broad symbolic authority as it was encoded in maps.  In ways that are in danger of erasure by the generic symbology of a map that sizes vector files to suggest flow in an organic or unobstructed fashion, the material practices of mapping Rome have their own history, neglected in data visualizations’ relatively flat space,–not to mention the sense of a space removed from history that they create.

Detail of Nuremberg Chronicle, leaves LVII-LVIII (1493)

The deep history of the material practices of mapping Rome constitute something of a deep source of meaning and a source of fascination; mapping of the city the remained in the city, negotiating the presence of the antique in the city.  Rather than disembody the routes of motion as defining the city, the images that embodied the material presence of the antique city was the dominant presence in a long history of mapping the city, whose ancient traces were preserved and excavated in the many maps of Rome made since before the Renaissance.  Such maps, viewed in their historical context and continuity, preserve a sense of the form of the antique that provided a form as an actor for visitors to Rome, and a lure for the site of the continued presence of traces of the space of a historical Rome that exists among the modern city’s space.  Indeed, maps may themselves offer the best ways to familiarize oneself to the material traces of orienting oneself to the presence of the antique that continue to inhabit its present. And the prestige that the Baedecker guide long held in the German imagination during the nineteenth century to orient educated travelers who were reprising Schedel’s Reise of cultural formation informed the brazen wartime announcement of the Nazi government that its Luftwaffe would target domestic populations in Britain by the landmarks meriting three stars in “Baedeker Guides” bombing historical cities in “Baedeker Raids”–those military operations designed to hit historic cities Exeter, Bath, York, Norwich and Canterbury. The threat led British and Allied attacks to target over a thousand historic cities of Germany that were themselves reduced to rubble by the end of the war, escalating the scale of human destructiveness, in a theater of destructive energy that was rooted not in aerial technologies alone, but the mateirality of the map–and designed to eliminate the very traces of historical treasures that the American Antiquities Commission hoped to avoid by reducing the list of targeted German cities.

The deeply affective ties to place that led to the escalation of the Baedeker Raids began from a sense of If practices of mapping demand to be placed in their distinct media. While these guides demand a post of their own, this post turns attention to how the media of mapping Rome gained particular sensitivity, as preserving access to the past, and of orienting viewers to a presence no longer present in the present, as most all maps of Rome effectively do.  By considering the mapping of Rome in relation to datamaps, and the sense of presence that they encode, one almost seems obligated to begin from what may be the primary image–if not primal image–of the way that all roads lead to Rome, or were described to.    If all roads lead to Rome in a deeply ahistorical sense in the middle ages, when the statement seems to have first appeared, the possibly medieval rendering of the ancient “Peutinger Map” or Tabula Peutingerianawhich presents Rome at the center of an acient road network–across the empire–and was suggested to be  copied from the form of a large frieze on a building, but survives in a paper copy of distinctively distorted elongated form, reduced oceans to strips to foreground its road network.

1. Routes remain perhaps the oldest maps. Rarely are they understood as networks. The trick of topographic rendering of privileging the disposition of roads and their distances–measured in local units, but spanning the Empire–do not radiate, but extend laterally across mapped space.  The form of the antique led to the eager the recovery of the prized Peutinger map of the peninsula, surviving in the copy of the Tabula Peutingeriana, that preserved, showing east-west routes at greater scale than north-south in dimensions of a marble frieze, more than a sheet of paper; its collapsing of a collection of routes inscribed into a peninsula as a seat of empire, placing the enthroned figure of Rome holding a globe at the head of a cursus publicus–as if to demonstrate how all roads lead Rome-ward or, more accurately, from Rome, emphasizing its legibility by replicating the left-to-right reading of space.

Duvuded ubti Grurds.png

–as if in a comprehensive representation the cursus, where continuity is less present than the network, but the network visualized by making present criteria of measurement embedded in the map itself.

Rather than orienting readers by showing Rome as the center of a web of transit, that has its own life and coherence, the map’s oddly compressed format seems to have the imprint of the material place that it held, fittingly, as a record of the cursus publicus, on a frieze, if so probably etched in marble, showing the prominence of Rome and its port of Ostia not at the center of the peninsula, but in the enthroned figure.  Rome occupies a place at the start and head of its cursus publicus, perhaps as a remnant of a global map prepared in Augustan Rome, which in the surviving thirteenth century copy digests data that may derive from the Agrippa map, but embodies it in the form of a marble frieze.

Transferred and kept on a sheet of paper since when the humanist Conrad Celtis discovered in in France, and presented humanist Konrad Peutinger with the treasured cartographic image in a surviving copy, the map was thought to be a fragment of a global map organized by Roman roads.  It has been attempted to be returned to its material context in many alternative historical settings–hypotheses including Carolingian origins or, a marble frieze, to historicize the audiences it addressed–but in ways that preserve the centrality of its physical medium.  

The problem of seeing the along map of the world, and the curiously elongated image of Italy, have only recently been revised, as ways that re-examine the humanist status of the map as an argument about space.  But if the material form of the map has provoked repeated reflection, as much as the transparent reflection of spatial data by which our own data-driven world is increasingly obsessed, it reminds us of the material basis of the maxim of all roads leading to Rome, which the depiction of the cursus publicus so clearly embodied.


But the image of all roads leading to–or from–Rome is not, perhaps, the map that best expresses the place that the city has held in the humanist imagination.  If the Tabula Peutingeriana offers an interrupted record of all roads leading to Rome continues to captivate, the presence of the ancient in Rome suggested a deeper problem of temporal mapping that data cannot capture, in part because it so relentlessly adopts and employs a present-day form of mapping to chart an elusive past.  

The history with which the presence of maps that continued to process the antique in Rome certainly led to the fascination of uncovering the road network of the city.  The presence of the elusive but ever-present antique in the city laid a basis for curiosity of times of travel in mapping the Empire, the maps of travel times on its system of roads is only one level of the building of Rome.  Although the city’s status at the center of the empire provided a source of fascination, and a promise of classical recovery, to the humanist collector, the presence of ancient roadworks in the Tabula mirror the continued fascination with mapping presence of the antique in Rome, that have been a longstanding subject of fascination.  While Rome remained the center of the Tabula, on the far left of the three strip maps of the peninsula compressed to a single sheet, the rendering of the peninsula’s network of roads omits the deep presence of the city’s ruins–the “city within the city”–in Rome, and the extent to which the mapping of that presence contributed to how Rome was seen.

Is deeper excavation of the spatial perception of those roads, and indeed of the inhabitation of the twelve via that radiate from Rome’s walls in such a symmetrical manner–the via Salaria, via Nomentana, via Tyburtina, via Latina, via Appia–even an adequate record of one’s attachment to its pasts?


Rather than viewing Rome as a center of transit, a humanist mapping of the city might entail map the sense of presence of the antique by which the city has long been appreciated and understood.  The mapping of the presence of the past in Rome runs against the grain of data-driven visualizations, but might bring us to define the compelling presence of the antique in the city, challenging the notion of its primacy in a network of communication, to trace the place of the antique in the imagination of the city, as much as treating its sense of its place being impermanent.  

Indeed, the presence of the city on any map must begin from the presence of the antique in the city, and the manner that maps of Rome shape our experience of the city–and serve to shape our sense of the distinction of Rome as a site within our imagination, and our sense of space. If the conceit that all roads lead to Rome has long and continues to occupy a significant space in our mental imaginary, as well as the European highway system–


Roads to Rome

–traveling or journeying to Rome offers a limited orientation to the rich humanist history of the mapping of its space, or even of the space of the Roman Empire, if the mapping of Rome omits any traces of its historical inhabitation, or the palpable presence of its ruins.  These ruins, and their surviving remnants, drew many to Rome since the Renaissance, and has provided one of the most basic–if primal–forms of mapping the historical past, and of seeing evidence of the living presence of the concrete.  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.  

2. Was the psychic proximity that Sigmund Freud described to Rome–a site whose attraction he was tempted to see as a site of attraction to death–indeed informed not by his visits to the city, but rather his own close attraction to the maps of the ancient city’s archeological ruins?  Such maps would have provided the very horizon of expectations through which he oriented himself to the modern city, even before he had visited it for the first time.  Freud repeatedly deferred a personal visit to Rome in his life,–when he was left explaining its disappointment “as all such fulfillments are when one has waited for them too long,” even though, in his previous writings on dreams and on the dream-life, he recorded five dreams of visiting Rome.  If he held the city as a seat of Christendom, however, he must have experience its historical wealth primarily in maps.

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Mapping New Worlds on Eggshells: Adventures in the Artifice of Renaissance Map-Making

We have learned to expect to pause as Google Maps draw boundary lines, extending to new tiles which soon take forms bounded by in clearcut lines across uniformly flatly colored quite static blocks, as data streams materialize forms from blurs that delineate highways, city blocks, state boundaries, and mountains in gray, green, tan, or light blue–a poor surrogate reality that strongly contrasts to the vivid ways we experience space in early modern maps and globes.

 The convincing nature of the watery globe was far more pronounced in an era when the ocean provided the only medium for global travel, to be sure, and the immediacy of rendering oceanic space far more of a concern of global mapmaking.  (Indeed, for a more extensive consideration of map authorship and the concerns of its representation of oceans, see my post on its mapping of ocean waters.)  The  medium of the woodcut presented unique challenges of mapping the circumambient oceans, not defined by clear routes or itineraries, but as a unique medium of travel. The curving lines that lapped the shores of inhabited lands in an early map of northern Europe, reprinted as the endpaper to a universal history, the Liber chronicarum, ad derived from a map of northern Europe before the “discovery” of the New World, that set places and regions in northern Europe apart from a wavy sea–


The northern seas are denoted by individual lines echo a global bifold map the same 1491 Liber Chronicarum, just predating the discovery of the New World, a detail of a crudely engraved world map in which one sees swirling waters that encircle the island of England and indeed all of Europe–and make one think of the difficulties of reconciling and bridging different registers of mapping land and sea for readers in the late fifteenth century.

Ocean curves.png

Unlike the on-screen conjuring of a demarcated space, the design of early modern maps invites detailed examination.   This undated miniature globe, engraved with considerable care on a two conjoined halves of two ostrich eggs, the size of a grapefruit, invites viewers to sail on the seas that swirl around a record global totality as something like a surrogate for actual world travel, its carefully worked details leave a clear trace of the hand, if not betraying the new phenomenological properties of the surface of engraved maps.

Although maps are often though of as paper constructions, the new properties of synthesizing land and sea in Ptolemaic maps are quite similarly approached in the very unique surface of this strikingly tactile engraved map–joining rounded halves of ostrich eggs–

Ostrich Egg Globe (1504)

–invites a distinctive attention to similar circumambient waters, which flow about the continents on whose surface we can see clearly engraved and legible toponyms: the seas are far more murky, as if they land had been the only legible area that was raised from their depth. The raised nature of the terrestrial surfaces on this globe–where the oceans are literally scratched away form its surface, as are the chains of mountains, coastlines, capital letters indicating terrestrial regions, and limited toponymy, suggest a marvel as much as a terrestrial map, and remind us of the interlinked discourses of maps and marvels, and the collection of curios as vehicles and mediums of geographic knowledge.

The engraving of a newly imagined expanse reported in marine charts created quite distinct operations of visualizing a newly materialized space–it displays one of the first maps to be printed that showed the New World’s form and recalls  the earliest printed images of North America.  The islands of “Spagnola [Hispaniola]” and “Isabella”, barely balanced with the huge area that it assigns to the Land of Brazil, or “Terra Sanctae Crucis” in something like an antipodal balancing act of continents around the equator, opposed in counterpoint to the Eurasian expanse. The coverage of the watery surface in the globe–which is in fact mostly covered by water–is even more pronounced in this apparently unique globe, composed of joined shell-like structures, treating the durable surface of the shell to create a luxury globe, which cannot, in its own way, but recall the famous apocryphal story of Christopher Columbus displaying the invention that was widely associated with cartographic modes for displaying the New World in flat maps, by challenging “lay a wager with any of you, that you will not make this egg stand up as I will, naked and without anything at all,” related in Girolamo Benzoni’s 1565 Historia del Mondo Nuovo [History of the New World], to compare the achievement of his discovery of the New World from “great men clever in cosmography and literature,” by the act of forcing the egg to stand on a table by allowing one end to be placed on a table as a support.

The eggshell map has no broken ends, but in its newly discovered form indeed stands on a table, allowing the observer to view to ponder the entire spherical surface of a globe, engraved on two ends of an ostrich eggshell, perhaps originating from a princely zoo, that lent itself to offer an exotic surface of cartographic demonstration to its privileged owners, quite unlike the manuscript or printed maps that are associated with early maps o the New World in the materiality with which it suggests the long voyage across oceanic expanse to reach a geographically enlarged (and now clearly out of scale) image of the New World islands, north of a creative rendition of a newly discovered South American coast, identified as the Terra Sancta Crucis, as if to retain the Christian eschatology even in the revelation of a world whose form seems foreign to whatever geographic knowledge is revealed in the Bible: the new islands of Isabel and Spagnuola are themselves court creations of Columbus’ royal patrons, and inscribe claims to sovereignty to these new lands, but the invention of the ostrich globe, recently discovered over four centuries after the discovery of the Americas,

Did the discovery of this inventive form of globe-making, unprecedented in the literature, link inventively, artifice, mapping and eggs that afforded a basis for Benzoni’s apocryphal claim?

New World in Ostrich_egg_globe

If the opposition of these continents in the ostrich-egg globe betrays significant cosmographical learning, the map itself reflects curiosity in the first mapped images of the New World, and a particular care to the definition of the coastlines of the newly found land masses we now call continents.  The exquisite care and delicate relief of the globe’s surface in this delicate construction made from two ostrich eggs has been recently dated to 1504 by its shell-density, based on a CT-Scan.  If the date can be ever established conclusively, the globe is one of the first images of the New World to have migrated from Portuguese marine charts to a particularly skilled level of craftsmanship, predating some of the known bronze globes of terrestrial expanse it resembles;  the image of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Land of Brazil could be scanned in analogously crisp detail to known early sixteenth-century globes and printed map-gores.  Indeed, the range of graphic tools engravers developed for embellishing the surface of maps set something of a standard for scanning land and sea, as their exquisite tones of shading increased the persuasive range of graphic forms that the anonymous artisan who made this eggshell map exploited to delineate the inhabited world.

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Filed under early modern globes, histories of discoveries, Mapping the New World, New World, Renaissance Discoveries

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.


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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.


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