Commemorating Christopher Columbus’ transatlantic voyages in a “discourse of discovery” has been magnified as they have become a bit of an exercise of collective remembering and of world-making. For Columbus monuments are less markers of fifteenth century voyages, than 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, glorifyinf the acts of renaming, and taking possession of, the new world to ally the viewers with the heroism of the Genoese navigator’s foundational act of taking possession of the New World.
Columbus set the basis for such grandiose claims, perhaps, by staking the transatlantic “colony” La Navidad as the first settlement by Europeans of the New World on Christmas. The event’s commemoration has continued in statuary across the Americas, even if the thirty-nine settlers left behind in the settlement were all massacred by natives after their ship, the Santa Maria, was dismantled after it hit a sandbar, and the men of the lost caravel that ran ashore on a sandbar off the island Columbus had auspiciously renamed Hispaniola, as evidence of Hispanic claims to sovereignty for his patrons, its hull and crossbeams converted to a fortress that was later burned to the ground. While the crew left with a translator who were instructed to collect a store of New World gold as they awaited his return may have been overzealous in courting natives that they were all killed, the extraction of riches and wealth and slaves motivated the New World settlement.
Yet in the commemoration of Columbus Day, the landfall has been renarrated as an inspired revelation of new lands, and allied with a sense of manifest destiny in retrospect, foregrounding the imperial mission of laying claims to new lands under the eyes of God. Yet the elevation of Columbus as a figure of state, and a westward course of empire, was magnified only in the nineteenth century. Paradigmatically, the painting of Columbus taking stock of his arrival by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla Tolín, staged before uncomprehending natives cowering offstage, occurs as a missionary raises a cross on verdant shores where sailors triumphantly raised recognizable standards of the Spanish sovereign in the New World.
The bucolic image of arrival was cast as a triumph of technology, civilization, and deliverance. The bucolic scene not only denied violence, but was an image of paradisal promise that Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla Tolín rendered in a manner widely reprinted in the lithograph of the commemorations of quadricentennial celebrations of 1892 as a narrative of westward expansion of Manifest Destiny. The recent re-questioning of Columbian commemoration as a common national identity led to the questioning of commemorative Columbian statuary across the United States, from Columbus, Ohio to San Francisco to Kenosha, WI, to Miami. As the statues were dislodged from the common memories of an Italian-American community–as many once were in New Haven, Boston, and Philadelphia as well as New York City–their place loosened in a narrative of nation in ways that needs to be told.
Attracted by a remarkable burst of creative iconoclastic energy, San Francisco’s City Arts Commission preemptively monument to Columbus somewhat preposterously overlooking the Pacific to be removed from its monumental pedestal in order to maintain the local peace–a statue long defaced in recent years–before it was defaced. The removal of monuments to Columbus spread as a re-tallying of moral accounts, but a restoration of civic peace. The importance of refiguring the commemoration of colonization grew as a form of reparations whose logic was unmistakably national in character, if the first questioning of Columbus Day had been local and selective in 1992-3. 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!” And by 2020, the ease with which statues of Christopher Columbus were assimilated to the confederate monuments preserved across many southern states–and preserved at considerable cost to American taxpayers–reminded us of how easily the memory of Columbus as colonizer was cultivated among white supremacists as iconic testaments to a sense of historical security of another era we were trying to pry ourselves free in hopes to gain distance on.
Even if the statues of Columbus and Columbus commemorations are overshadowed by the razing of the statues of Confederate generals in recent years–
–the images of the dicsoverer were dismantled as we engaged a contested legacy. If monuments removed with an eye to toppling racism across southern states that had commemorated secession in the attempt to defend enslavement and chattel slavery were a stain on the nation that emerged like a return of the repressed in the summer after George Floyd’s murder by overly zealous “law enforcement” forces, the removal of monuments had begun as undeniable evidence of their talismanic status as lodestones for white supremacy became clear after violence in Charlottesville directed attention to the degree to which commemoration of the Confederacy kept a memory alive in national and local consciousness, revealing how undecisive the Civil War was for the preservation of local memories across many border states or secessionist states, and the toxic nature of preserving memories of southern secession as a defense of what were cast as local liberties within the union.
The division assessment of historical legacies that shape a narrative that informs the present landscape of inequity had been contested for decades around the heroicization of the figure of Columbus as a shared national point of reference. As much as the seven hundred and eleven standing monuments of commemorating secession–over 1500 statues which are collectively preserved by taxpayers’ money at a cost of $40 million for annual upkeep. The standing statues dedicated to anti-abolitionist figures have kept the memory of the Confederacy alive across the United States, including of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas, creating a topography that has inflected political identities in ways Donald Trump was savvy if hateful to tap, as if to present or re-present an incubus already planting seeds across the land, many of which were only removed by energized (and disgusted) protestors or whose remove was ordered by city councils in an attempt to preserve the local peace–including of the unidentified heroic “Confederate soldier” who removes his hat in downtown Alexandria, VA, removed only in June 2020–if similar statues remain in Jacksonville FL, and San Antonio TX, heroizing as if sanctioning the very option of local resistance to according rights to enslaved populations, beyond preserving memories of war dead.
The spattering of blood on Columbus memorials call for a revision of public memory complicit in a culture of spatial colonization that perpetuates the fundamental nature of racial hierarchies. The requestioning of commemorating the act of violence as fundamental to the nation’s values is a questioning of their place in civil society, and their meaning to the nation, motivated in no small part by the ugliness with which they have been seized with new currency as images justifying a racial superiority and sanctioning the violence of enslavement along racial lines. For their removal had tried to call attention to the dangers of commemoration by targeting the figure of Christopher Columbus, whose statues had first multiplied across American land in roughly the same era of the later nineteenth century, following Confederate statues, in a sort of monument trick that served to naturalize white possession of indigenous lands.
The overturning of commemorative statues of the fifteenth-century navigator so deeply dissonant to our sense of national belonging, common memories, redressed disturbingly long-lasting spatialities–the average statue was almost a hundred years old–as the nation entered a temporal loop of recursive nature of reparative bent, as the destiny Columbus imagined for himself as a civilizer and discoverer of a New World–and new continent–emerged in increasingly pressing ways, opening up the very speech act of taking possession of the Americas as a fiction, only masquerading for utilitarian ends as a binding legal precedent. For only by confronting the painfully exclusionary nature of such an act of taking possession, deriving more from the practices of enslavement and mastery of others that run against the very basis of our own civil society, or the civil society we seek to create.
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 public memories of Columbus’ heroism were national news, a divisive issue responded to not with understanding but professed shock for besmirching American history, not reassessment of values, battling Italian-Americans Nancy Pelosi herself as forsaking, as if to bemoan her betrayal of the preservation of the hallowed memory of Christopher Columbus in the summer of 2020 to stoke lines of political division in the heat of the 2020 Presidential campaign: the fate of the statuary of Columbus was a bell whistle for stoking fears of a danger to the status quo.
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 questioning of commemoration after Floyd’s murder came to articulate a spontaneous rebuke of the continued validation of racialized policing and police violence, throwing into relief discriminatory monuments. There were soon few defenders of the monument able to tolerate how they emblematized division of the social order, eager to ask us to situate Columbus more broadly rather than historicize his complicity in “some of his acts, which nobody would support,” without addressing the framing of the logic of “discovery'” in imperial narratives of conquest and disenfranchisement of indigenous claims to sovereignty and to recognize the need for reparations.
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 more akin to American hemispheric sovereignty in its open heroizing of a national geopolitics of the 1890s than to a Renaissance discourse of discovery–comparable to the reimagining of hemispheric sovereignty in the years after the 1867 withdrawal of Spanish sovereignty to Mexico.
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–as if the image of a spherical projection devised by Rand McNally that spanned the globe and erased all borders might be cast as the seedbed for globalization was itself contained in the transatlantic voyages of the small trade ships, the Pinta, Niña and Santa Maria that were led with hopes of a profitable economic voyage with Columbus at the helm. (Rand McNally had not only sponsored the world’s fair, but its double spherical projection that recalled Columbus’ conviction of a spherical world by ahistorically featuring a cartographic design Columbus would have known; the planar projection was an icon of global expansion and conquest, more detailed in coverage than late seventeenth century double spherical projections.
–but devised and issued its own elegant version of a world map based on the Mercator projection in following years from 1895, in atlases issued subsequent to the World’s Fair, to meet a growing market for global maps. Leaving much of the African interior unmapped, in a manner that cannot but recall Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the image is a confirmation and announcement of global triumph, centered on the North American continent and United States, if it shows the world.
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.
University 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.
Martin 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.
Martin 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–
–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.
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.
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 not only a conquest of the antique, and its transcendence, but a mapping of ties to an ancient world.
The warping of time evident in recent web maps of the ancient world does a neat double-trick, both s them from historical time and erasing the complex techniques of reconstructing past space. Rather than the painstaking assembly of a familiar palimpsestic relation to known space, the ancient roads of Roman Empire are converted to a known space, akin to a known world, whose routes open up to us as if a space for walking. There is a disturbing loss of all complexity of processing time and space, in these graphic analogues of the medieval precept, “All roads lead to Rome,” literally ‘”mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam [a thousand roads lead men forever to Rome]” as Alain of Lille had it in 1175, in his Liber Parabolarum, have perhaps long merited a clean data visualization, so present are they in the collective European unconsciousness. (That they would flow through Denmark, Hamlet’s home, Estonia, and Ukraine, seems perhaps a fitting sort of surprise.)
In tracing the ties of the self through the unconscious, Freud was very clear in an early work: given the incomplete nature of clear records of the unconscious or the past, he worked as a “conscientious archeologist,” not omitting any authentic fragments, and noting the gaps between reconstructions and the “priceless though mutilated relics of antiquity” which it has been the “good fortune” of the archeologist to be a bee to “bring to the light of day after their long burial.” The tie is obvious one, in part, but a deeply poetic act, as well. Freud’s reference to the science of archeology–often seen as a means of legitimization of psychoanalysis as a discursive project of investigation, apart from purely poetic framing, elevated to the level of science of neurology.
In the years when Freud was fresh from the coining of the term “psycho-analysis” in 1896 in Vienna, a plumbing of the mind, seeking prestige for the term and the therapeutic practice mirrored Freud’s interest in collecting antiquities. He was both drawn perhaps to the assembly of fragments as central forms of reconstructing knowledge, defining both the status and ethical quandaries posed by his claims to be mapping the human mind. The etiological hope to “elucidate,” “reawaken,” or “reveal” personal histories about which patients had “no inkling of the the causal connection between [submerged memories] and the pathological phenomenon” was to be “exposed . . . in a most precise and convincing manner,” Freud and Breuer wrote in 1895, explains how the uncovered the “pathogenesis of hysteria as a source of psychic traumas, even as they promised to “refrain from publishing those observations which savored strongly of sex.” Repressing all accounts of the sexual encounters of repression, they sought a more sanitized plane of writing, of which archeological plans provided a model if not a fons et origo. If hypnosis provided the basis for recreating hysterical phenomena, in all their associative relations, Freud’s turn from hypnosis as a revelation of a trauma or repression demanded a new syntax of tools of unveiling and revelation.
For late nineteenth-century archeology was, for many, Freud included, first and foremost a form of mapping, mutilated and buried if the “relics” of antiquity were, and the analogy of mapping as a form of bringing to knowledge, and indeed sharing among readers, as much as the creation of a given dramatic scene or “primal” scene that was repressed, and that the patient might be liberated from in its detailed reconstruction. The freighted sense of psychoanalysis as a new form of mapping, and indeed as a form of cartographic knowledge, indeed jostled with the poetic nature of interpretation in Freud’s works, and deserves to be uncovered and excavated in full.
The learning of Rome, and of archeology, suggested a model both as tied to art and as objective in its referents, but dignified a field of interpretive action of digging for memories, removing them from the muck of their associations or even of the human action of embodied life. But the scalpel-like precision of the archeologist assembling and reassembling fragments to piece together a compelling narrative of a past mystery–as much as plumbing the messiness of sexual memories. The emphasis of Carlo Ginzburg on the reading of clues in the dream-interpretation is perhaps a “paradigm” of study, but was dependent on the visual nature of evidence that allowed Freud to put dream-interpretation on secure footing, positing the individuation of key traumatic memories in dreams or psychic visions as a condensation of meaning in one moment of personal history. (The figure of the Gradiva to which Freud kept returning was an image of the Eleusian mysteries of rebirth: the secrete rites depicted by the dancing Maenads that the figure of Norbert Hannold saw, so crucial to the defining of psycho-analysis as a resolution of neurosis, is from a dancing group of Maenads engaged in the most secret of ancient religious ceremonies, but is taken for the striking figure of an individual woman: is the ancient mysteries, associated with an annual fertility rite and the return of Spring, to which only initiates and priests were allowed to see or participate, and ceremonies of initiation thought to have been accompanied by a psychoactive stimulant. The rites, often reproduced in reliefs, became a basis for Carl Gustav Jung to understand psychoanalytic treatment, long after Freud; as a reconciliation with death, the mysteries suggested a cartharsis that Freud was increasingly understanding as a form of psychic cleansing able to eliminate hysteria by its roots in one’s memory by calling it to conscious awareness. Was this present in the frieze?)
Yet the personal history that Freud sought to elevate by dream-interpretation was doing a lot of lifting, borrowed from the excavation of archaeological diagrams of a collective European past. The pervasive network of roads Roman endures as an overlay of imperial roads, present to most students in the nineteenth-century, whose elusive coherence as an “Orbis Romani” and “Imperium Romanum” was widely studied in cartographic form. From the time of their printing as teaching aids in post-Napoleonic Europe through the emergence of archeological sciences, included the 100,000 km of ancient public roads as the nervous system of its imperial unity, the image of a Europe that was continuous and defined–as much as a network of nations or a puzzle of territorial clusters–provided a new image of the peace at the end of the wars, and of a coherent culture.
Keipert, “Imperium Romanum” 1858, Edinburgh (Courtesy Donald Rumsey Library and Map Collection)
The diffusion from 1844 of a strikingly map of the roman public roads in “Ancient Italy” produced by The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge may have aided Emerson to treat the road network nothing less than a template of human knowledge, if not a common point of reference for learning, if not for reading works of ancient Roman history.
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? In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “History,” he felt compelled to locate the beginning of the history. of man’s relation to nature and “whole chain of organic and inorganic being” with which a life is intertwined with the ancient Rome’s system of “public roads beginning at the Forum [that] proceeded north, south, east, west, to the center of every province of the empire, making each market-town of Persia, Spain and Britain pervious to the soldiers of the capital” as a record analogous to how the pathways that extend from the human heart that reduce the world to human dominion.
Ancient Italy, Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1832, rep. 1844)
Emerson long preceded Freud, of course, but eerily echoed his points about human psyche when he waxed rather eloquently that as the organic looking map of roads of the Roman Empire, “man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world.” Emerson’s notion of the individual as a changed by engagement in nature, and hence always in flux, sharply contrasted to Freud’s famous sedimentary construction of the human psyche in terms borrowed from archeology, but both are searchingly constructed not only in cartographical terms, but in reference to tactile maps of Rome’s past.
The start of these roads–in the below visualization the light blue point anchoring a record of ancient Rome’s primary routes of travel–marked the Forum, the very site Edward Gibbon claims he conceived the scope and scale of his multi-volume Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776), and, if the point is taken as the city of Rome, where Freud attempted to reprise Emerson in more positivistic terms, in the famous figural description of the temporal layers of personal experience existing as so many archeological strata or laminated sheets of time in the human brain, telling readers they might understand the psyche if they “suppose Rome is not a place where people live, but a psychical entity with a similarly long and rich past,” before, out of frustration, abandoning the metaphor as a way to grasp the interaction of personal history in the mind, before admitting a spatial analogy not able to capture the historical landscape any psychical entity creates.
The imagination of Rome as a “universal past” may be deemed overly Eurocentric and dated today, but the cartographic origins of Freud’s hopes for promoting access to the multi-planar or multi-dimensional nature of psychic realities have been less grasped as a model not only of universality, but of the legibility that maps claim to provide, untangling a network not only of roads but allowing the eye to untangle historical periods, by a palpable relation of the past. The image of access to the past through its material structures was offered nowhere more than in the engravings of the architect artist who oversaw the excavation of Pompeii–Giovanni Battista Piranesi, architect and archeologist as well as accomplished draftsman. Piranesi was involved rooted in the esteem of archeological investigations, whose artistic cartography became a guide to the ruins of Rome’s classical world. Venetian-born, his virtuosity became Rome’s perpetual tourist igand guide, who had oriented Enlightenment Europe to its ruins, unveiling the hidden pasts eighteenth-century Enlightened tourists looked to orient themselves to Rome. If Piranesi began exploring the cavernous monumental ruins of Rome soon after he was –working to realize Clement VIII’s program of a new classicized monumental architecture of the Lateran church and other cathedrals–only to end his career designing imaginary prisons whose cavernous interiors invention had a darkness perhaps with other metaphorical parallels to Freud’s excavation of the unconscious.
But that is another story, less tied to the architecture of the ancient world, more to the monstrosity of modernity than the archeology of the past, or the pastness of the past. If Piranesi in the 1770s captured the astounding recovery of Pompeii’s Temple of Isis with an unimaginable materiality of a recovery of the past, akin to a time portal–the ruins of the Temple were European-wide phenomena of a physical, tactile recovery of Roman ruins seen mostly as fragments after their archeological discovery in t1760s–spaces to navigate and explore among erudite and learned voyagers, akin to the entrance into another world by an unimagined or unimaginable portal, whose drawing sought to capture the astounding contact with a lost past era–
–Prianesi would only later turn, as Freud turned to the prison of consciousness, to the terrifying recovery of the prison ruins of his later invention late in his career as a prolific draftsman of the uncanny.
Perhaps Piranesi’s actively broad reflection on the imagining and imaging of Rome’s pasts was born out of the attempt to map the network of travel from and to Rome. The success of mapping the distances of travel from Rome on Roman roads, that might have some power as an organic material manifestation not only of the past, but of the Emersonian idea for seeing the roads of Rome as a master metaphor for man’s relation to nature or to the natural world–but raises questions of the deep power not of Rome’s universality, but the power with which cartographic attention has so valiantly attempted to use its tools to untangle Rome’s pasts.
Moovel Labs, 2019
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. If we now move to Rome on paved roadways with utter facility and ease, the sense of unpacking Rome’s significance in the European landscape–or its significance in time–seems washed away in the data map, as if the historical significance of what was once understood not only as a historical center, or center of cultural ties, but the focus of a network of paved roads that united the Roman Empire is all but erased, and is now only an example of the visualization of urban mobility, and of a time when all roads might lead to a privileged city–Rome. There is something suspicious utopic at foot, if also something visually entrancing.
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 the folks at 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 pattern 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.
The elision of time and political space on a map risks blind-spots of significance interpretive consequence: who can forget the justification Benito Mussolini made for his march on Rome as a unifying call of Italian fascism, a cartographic propaganda piece that he exploited in the fascist press, linking the march on Rome to the restoration of Italy’s martial greatness, without the seizure of Rome as Italy’s capitol, inviting Italians to realize how the March on Rome that he would long celebrate as a moment of national destiny: his vacuous platitude, in a mass media remembrance of soldiers’ slain in that campaign as evidence of Italy’s centrality on a global stage of armed combat–“there would never have been a march on Moscow today, without the March on Rome!”–was a staple of national myth-making, akin to medallions minted in 1942 of the March on Rome’s twentieth anniversary, and to affirm the global consequence of national renewal by the epoch marked by the Italian Fascist Party’s calendar.
We might be trying to find mooring in the mapping of the past in maps, as Mussolini, in lining the roads that went to Rome to the military lines of attack on Moscow, as a way of remapping Rome’s centrality in the national imaginary. 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 inscription of Rome’s authority in an empire without boundaries–or from the interest of archeological “maps” of Rome as a proto-nation in that repository for the nineteenth century imagination, the Baedeker Guide, as a way to look for moorings of the past; the current fad for positing mobility as a fons et origo of displacement, travel, and global mobility in the routes or roads to Rome, and creating materiality in the map. 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, are we coming to terms with the mobility of the modern world, as much as -mapping Rome’s place a ‘locus’ of memory, or the materiality with which Rome has long existed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century as a site of materiality, and material access to a past? Are we undermining the materiality of the eternal city, and the images that perpetuate and reinforce its eternity, by treating the routes to Rome at the center of a Mediterranean web, in hopes to examine the relations between center and periphery that much history has so inexcusably ignored?
To return to the materiality of the ancient world, one might do worse than to start with Renaissance humanists, and not only those who returned to Rome to measure and plot out the footprints and spatial distributions of its building plots and fora. For the presence of Rome and its centrality in the ancient world was wrestled with, in quite concrete terms, by German humanists as well, conscious of their place on the margins of the ancient world, even if they were custodians of the crown jewels and regalia of the Holy Roman Empire,. Rather than show the city of Rome, so often refigured in almost encomiastic terms, in a network, the humanists around Hartmann Schedel helped to present a vision celebrating the prime place of Rome within its almost vegetal organic network of sovereign power, quite unlike the modernized images of roads on which traffic flowed.across Europe. In order to bring Rome closer to the readers of his book, rather than relying on the visual trick of transferring a dataset to a schematic rendering that flattens the complex human patterns of the past, the deeply layered place of Rome as a built center of the past was preserved in the famous bifolium image of Rome, that old imperial city, in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, printed on the eve of the arrival of the news of the discovery of the first transatlantic travels, by the crowded woodcut image offering an encomia of its buildings’ magnificence and their historical significance, presented at the center of the fourth age of the world, and a lynchpin to the present age dominated by the German Holy Roman Empire, its direct symbolic successor.
If we might consider the imperial schema of travel as a more exact map of space, the topographic rendering calls attention to its place in a historical network of time, mapping of the city’s place in world history, so aptly illustrated back when the physician Hartman Schedel returned to his native Nuremberg, equipped with newly bought woodcut views of Rome and other Italian cities to publish a newly expansive world chronicle that placed German cities and merchant towns of increased architectural elegance but founded in the outskirts of the Roman Empire, to imagine Swabian cities as modern heirs of Rome’s imperial grandeur. The city gained new status as a vessel of historical memory, retained symbolic authority notwithstanding the authority gained by mapping on a coordinate grid, a centrality apt to be elided in data visualizations’ relatively flat space,–which remove place from history and create an increasingly sanitized, utopic view of the past even as they seek to interest us in its contours.
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 Baedeker guide long held in the German imagination during the nineteenth century to orient educated travelers who were reprising humanist physician Hartmann Schedel’s Reise as a voyage of cultural formation. For Schedel, following the footsteps of his father, Rome was a lost center, continuing in Vienna, and site of a mythic imaginary of a lost past that his father, Herman, who preceded him in traveling for studies to Italy. The transmission of a heritage of antiquity to the border of the ancient Roman empire in Nuremberg became a running conceit animating the transmission of classical luster across historical ages in the early illustrated book of the Lber Chronicarum, a book assembled form many. of woodcuts and city views in Schedel’s large library of printed images in a visual form that was almost a showpiece of early printed propaganda for the Holy Roman Empire just before the discovery of the New World.
While Vienna may be a strange place to begin with the exploration of Rome’s antique, but the fascination was in ways best seen–or first framed–from afar, and the imperial city of Vienna, on the edges of the Roman empire, was, with Nuremberg, looked to Rome as the site of an empire past, whose past still haunted he earth. The deeply affective ties to place led to the escalation of the Baedeker guides instilled tied practices of mapping to personal formation, as if to decode and interpret the past, and reconstruct the evidence of past worlds across time in particularly powerful ways, akin to the reconstruction of a past habitus or frame of mind that haunted the nineteenth century, and indeed haunts the present. Sigmund Freud must have eagerly used his Baedeker when he told his younger brother, Alex, with eagerness in 1905 of his “sense of obligation to identify–Baedeker in hand!–new regions, museums, palaces, ruins” in Italy, and must have used them to lead him to “wealth of Roman relics: that he fund in Aquilea in 1898, from “tombstones, amphorae, medallions of the gods from the amphitheater, statues, bronzes and jewelry” to a cornucopia of the past that the local museum held, and he was eager to index in his mind’s past and its traumas, as if the images of the antique might resolve a sense of psychic integrity and continuity in the personal formation of personhood that hysteria had, for Freud, disrupted and impeded: the creation of a sense and a story of continuity led Freud to turn to ancient images and archeological metaphors repeatedly in his work, not only for the purpose of dignifying his own “new science” of psychoanalysis, but to affirm the materiality of restoring a neurological harmonious balance by materializing the place of trauma in the personal past, by analogy to how material artifacts offered material testimonies that assured the survival of Rome’s historically removed past.
Freud’s metaphorical comparison of the mind’s consciousness to Rome’s physical plant is often presented in strikingly abstract terms as conveying a Freudian central insight of the contemporaneity or simultaneity of multiple pasts within mental space, overlapping and standing in relation to one another, that the psyche coordinates, but that do not die, and the unique status of Rome as a site dense with historical memory: nothing is ever destroyed or ends in the human mind, where multiple temporalities coexist in one ‘psychic’ space, and their layers indeed interact with one another in psychic activities, not confined to dreams. But the ideal nature that such explanations give to the striking metaphor of Rome in Civilization and its Discontents as a site privileged by its “long and rich past” denies, oddly, the very materiality of the production of the image of Rome as a site of overlapping pasts, and the quite material presence of pasts in Rome, translating both sites of material production to abstractly intellectual terms. Freud’s image was however the result of immersion in a material culture of the ancient city, a city that calls out to one from multiple ages in ways that might frustrate imposing a clear coherence, and which has long presented itself as an archeological puzzle of decipherment by the very destroyed ruins that do coexist in the same urban space,–a space by which Freud was deeply attracted and seduced, as were so many of his readers and circle. In consultation with his friend the art historian Emanuel Löwy, who Freud had relied for archeological maps and diagrams to discuss the romance of Rome’s ruins–or Roman ruins of Pompeii–provided a powerful visual metaphor and figurative form for describing the new science of psychoanalysis might uncover the repressed past, buried not under the earth, but in the mind, in a positivist and aesthetic analogy able to validate psychoanalysis as a cure. From the case of Dora, only published in 1905, but based on earlier clinical observations of his analysand, he explored the metaphor of archeology as a recovery of the concrete expression of the psyche: he offered readers evidence of his psychoanalytic skill by following “the example of those discoverers whose good fortune it is to bring to the light of day after their long burial the priceless though mutilated relics of antiquity.” He is an antiquarian, as much as a doctor: “I have restored what is missing, taking the best models known to me from other analyses,” like a painter, “I have like the most conscientious of archaeologists, not omitted to mention in each case where the authentic parts end and my reconstructions begin.”
While Freud’s sense of self as a similarly cultured man led him to accept works of art and literature as a model to grasp the workings of the unconscious, and to map the relation of repression and neurosis, viewing each as reflections of the mechanics of consciousness in poetic “motifs” (Dichtungstoffen) that he treated as “concrete expression” of the mechanics Freud described as the dream-work; the artistic object replaced the visual character of the dream-work–the “principle means of representation” in dreams–and itself “analogous to the decipherment of an ancient pictographic script, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs.” Analogy to archeological practices recalled the heroic image of Heinrich Schleimann’s fantastic discovery of what he claimed to be the ruins of ancient Troy, but dignified the work of psychoanalysis as uncovering objects of value in the mind–and the probity of uncovering the latent content within the dream work. They exemplified a mythos of the recovery of the past–as a reassembly of the artifacts of the past by the painstaking process of moral probity.
The diagnosis of hysteria was only arrived at through grasping self-representation of the psyche Freud called “the method of figuration characteristic of dreams,” so analogous to what the plastic arts found their own material “ways of expressing [zum Ausdruck zu bringen]” by which the skilled analyst unpacked often elusive logic of the dream work but by foregrounding its “latent content” usually concealed to the dreamer or analysand, by excavating their pasts. Freud readily translated the figurative notion and practice of the dream work to one of archeological excavating artifacts otherwise locked in a sedimented past: if his framing of Dora’s case with the metaphor of archeology betrays a certain sleight of hand as the course of analysis was not complete, the dignity of “priceless though mutilated relics of antiquity” offer a window to a past that would not otherwise be seen. The analogy was as self-serving as his display of a collection of plaster reproductions of ancient artifacts in his office. Freud readily consulted his art historian friend Löwy, whose work had also recently inspired art historian Aby Warburg, about artistic and archeological literature; Löwy argued primitive design be regarded as a mnemonic form influenced Warburg’s theory of images. Freud may well have known through his friend of Warburg’s own work on the physical character of the robed Florentine Nymph, a model Freud would have recognized in Jensen’s Gradiva–a figure Warburg argued had enjoyed a psychic status as a point of access of humans to the divine, and a point of access typical of Renaissance culture. If, for Warburg and Jolles, the nymph re-rendered the Roman goddess whose beauty was able to so overwhelms the viewer’s emotional response, the graceful posture of the Gradiva statue provoked sublime response able to transcend historical and personal time alike, when seen by Norbert Hannold., and unlocks the personal memories of repression at the seat of his neurotic condition.
The reappearance of the nymph as a site for motion from the ancient to modern, and from human to divine, was repeated in the “archeo-logic” by which Freud discussed the resolution of trauma. The search for a distinct form of logic influenced Freud’s fascination with the “archeo-logic” to move from dreams to consciousness, and from the consciousness or conscious observation, akin to the collective consciousness Schedel and his circle traced to a Roman past. Archeology by the nineteenth century had excavated the material past in a scientific manner. The image of excavation led him to universalize precepts of between analytic interpretation, personal case history, and therapeutic cure, as the role of material practices of archeology were combined with individual remembering of a past lost trauma in the story of Norbert Hannold that Jansen decribed in a short fiction published in the Neue Freie Presse in 1902 that become a model for practices of therapeutic analysis. Freud reflected early in his career on the “strange” manner by which his case histories of hysterics “read like short stories,” feeling strongly that the “story of the patient’s suffering” was entwined with the “symptoms of his illness” in 1895; when he read Jansen’s story in serialized form, Freud must have been struck by its beginning from a dream that transported the hero, Hannold, to a time before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, in the ancient world, and a vision of the living image of a woman walking in splendor he later found in Pompeii during a trip that might constitute his archeological field. The fictional archeologist travelled Pompeii in ways that Freud read so readily an ideal of the therapeutic effects of repression on the mind, and liberating powers of the uncovering of an ancient past that Freud turned to it for insight into neurosis, and an example of how the psychic labor of dreams to express repressed desire. The transformation was illustrated in how a recently reconstructed archeological ruin offered insight to the inexpressable of Hannold’s uncosncious, envoicing a repressed desire: the inexpressable grace of Gradiva’s gait in a bas relief. The story’s final elucidation of the archeologist’s fascination with Gradiva’s distinctive gait, unable to be found in the gait of modern women, is only resloved in the story in the theatrical setting in the excavation of Pompeii, a site for access to the antique, the intermediate space of illusion and reality that the ruins of Pompeii presented in Jansen’s story; Freud placed the antique reproduction in his Viennese office to make it a transitory space between sickness and health.
The ruins became a basis for viewing the figure of the woman draped in diaphanous clothes–an archetype of desire–who had been identified by later archeologists as not walking at all, but dancing, the fluidity of her body no doubt communicating the beguiling motion communicated in the bas relief by which Hannold, Jansen, and Freud were beguiled. If Freud saw the mind as “the frontier between states of mind described as normal and pathological” divide, one that “each of us probably crosses it many times in the course of a day,” the story of a mind haunted by the gait of the form of a bas relief of a walking woman which lead an archeologist to travel to Pompeii’s ruins is a visit from normal to pathological and back. Hannold travels in the story to Pompeii in hopes of discovering a woman he witnessed in dreams emerging alive from the ruins, as if she were the last survivor of a city buried in a volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. He follows his uncanny attraction to ruins of Pompeii to find an ancient woman believed long dead who incarnates the object of his past desire; in the hot afternoon sun, he is unsure if he is dreaming, or experiencing real life. Traveling to Pompeii’s celebrated ruins, his mind haunted by recurrent encounters with the woman he calls Gradiva, “she who flourishes while walking,” first seen in Naples’ Archeological Museum and of which he owns in a copy, he cannot believe she has come to life. Freud argued that after this unexpected encounter magically unlocks his unacknowledged erotic attraction to a woman who walking with the same striking gait who seems to lead him from his study of archeology to love. Hannold is haunted by the vision of the woman from the bas-relief, Freud argued, reveals a suffering from repressed love that had been repressed by the sobriety of his archeological endeavors: when a figure of the same gait uncannily appears as if from the ruins, the elegance he believed specific to the ancient bas relief is revealed to belong to a forgotten love object from his past; what seemed a hallucination becomes a dramatic recognition scene in the excavated ruins.
Freud privileged the recognition of the gait of the advancing woman’s figure as a model of cathartic cures in psychoanalytic care. He took the encounter of the living statue–a surrogate for the repressed memory–as a moment in which Hannold removed himself from neurotic tendencies; the statue of the dancing Maenads marked a passage to health, worthy of displaying to patients in his analytic office–an office that was his only symbol of status as a practicing physician in Vienna– as a an icon of reconstructing a patient’s repressed past. The fragment of the excavated ruins of Pompeii was far more than a tourist’s trinket or a decorative addition to his office, but a crucial part of the cabinet of curiosities that Freud assembled there, making it the privileged centerpiece in his new armaments of medical care: it was an invitation to proceed on a similar rite of self-realization of cathartic realization in which the long-buried past would unfold in a moment of self-transformation and renewal. On the wall of his office, this fragment offered a map for future care, as if a token as if grasping the plan of an ancient city that was excavated from beneath the earth.
The story of Gradiva’s advance offered patients a prompt to uncover their past trauma, and its prominence in his office on the wall beside the patient’s couch suggests the extent to which the science of archeology haunted Freud’s formulation of psychoanalysis. While it it not known when the reproduction entered his possession, he wrote to his wife Martha how the encounter of a statue of Gradiva in the Chiaramonti Gallery of the Vatican Museums offered an occasion to attach special meaning to displayed in a reproduction for all patients in his Viennese office, as if it embodied the constant process toward health a psychoanalyst might provide.
Art historian Mary Bergstein felt Gradiva possessed, for Freud, a curative agency, that accorded respect as a female physician to cure neurosis–perhaps an acknowledgment of the liberatory role of Anna O. in their own discussions. He felt the bas-relief might offer all patients a visual prompt for moving from sickness and repression to health, and illusions to reality, the moving statue that Freud displayed in his study so that it would lie in the line of sight of the analysand or patient who lay on his couch as they recounted dreams took pride of place among antiquities as a motion from neurosis to health. If the field of the History of Art lay at the crossroads at that time of philosophy, psychology, and historical expertise, offering keys for the unpacking of cultural meaning, the Gradiva figure whose reproduction Freud owned provided a basis for the analyst to illustrate his cultivation and a philosophical prompt of the possible agency in narrating the story of repression, which Freud believed lay at the root of hysteric inability to move, as if loosening the bounds of restraint that prevented or inhibited patients from moving limbs; the figure of Gradiva who Jensen had described bore an uncanny parallel to the figure of the Nymph–the ninfa fiorentina–who for Aby Warburg and André Jolles argued in 1900 embodied a goddess who had descended to the world from Mount Olympus, entering the private bed-chambers of Florentines and populating the paintings of Florentine artists in a dancing pose that revealed distinctively flowing drapery; the mysterious female figure derived iconographic power through her miraculous embodiment that these Germanic men detected as they crossed the Alps, an image of unusual vitality, akin to the image of Gradiva. As historians of art, Warburg and Jolles argue the same nymph recurred dizzyingly and repeatedly in paintings of Renaissance masters as Botticelli, Fra Fillip Lippi, Pollaiuolo, Ghirlandaio, and Donatello, an unknown female figure–perhaps a freed slave, or a foreign subject–who assumed the status of a “real being of flesh and blood” in art, of particularly evocative emotive power.
Freud had found a strikingly similar image of Gradiva that would culminate his own interest in art collecting, begun in 1896 soon after his death, the year he had formulated the term “psychoanalysis.” As Warburg and Jolles viewed the dancing Nymph as descended from Olympus, to be a new source of vitality evident in Florentine iconography, Freud privileged the female figure of Gradiva for the fluidity of her movement, described by Jensen, that was perhaps attributed to her dancing movement. Freud may have recognized the dancing figure Warburg had described; she joined the “plaster copies of Florentine statues” he added to his study as objects “of exceptional recreation and comfort to me” (1896); finding Gradiva on a 1907 visit to Rome led him to delight in seeing the robed figure as if she was “an old friend,” even if perched in the Vatican Gallery’s Museo Chiaramonti at a distance, frustrating located “high up on a wall.” The reproduction of the dancing woman was soon added to the wall of his study, above the bed of the analysand reclined, and indeed just outside their line of sight, as if it was an elusive goal to which the stories that they recounted might lead; from the position of Freud, the audience for their discussion of their dreams, phobias, and flights of fancy, might observe straight on and indeed take some continued inspiration or hope for inspiration.
Gradiva became an icon and emblem of a model of moving from the ruins into daylight, moving from neurosis to love–a figure who was seen by Jensen as “walking,” but lost to direct observation, and perhaps only a fleeing illusion, and demands to be materialized in the form of of the ancient statue his followers emulated him by placing in their studies, as an emblem of the cure of psychic recovery that would be the end-point of proper self-realization to which analytic treatment aimed, as if always almost in reach of the patient in their doctor’s offices.
Freud may have been especially attracted to the story as a privileged site of the observation of the ancient world, where the uncovered excavation of ruins provided as privileged site for the excavation of an entire city. First mapped from the late eighteenth century and an open-air museum for some twenty years by 1898, as above, which he knew from maps, the popular novella glossed observation of the antique prompted an erotics of encountering the past, eliding well-mapped archeological repository of the ancient world with liberating an unconscious repression Hannold hoped he could embody by a visit to Pompeii. The visit to the famous ruins prompted an unexpected unveiling of repressed childhood love that Freud valued for its dramatic power–if Jensen’s fiction was a potent allegory Freud mapped it onto an archeology of mental repression that produces hysteria, its allegory for the therapeutic cure in the ruins, as release from repression the archeologist a needed archeology of his past to leave his pursuit, enacting an archeology of the mind instead.
The story was useful to explain the curative possibilities of his own fledgling science. Freud’s circulation among acolytes and students of the piece of fiction as a sort of initiation into the new science he was eager to announce to the world circa 1907-8 led him to take a page from contemporary art historians, ancient archeologists, and antiquarians to shape a new plastic language to begin discussing the mind. If Jung recognized the similarities with which Freud was accustomed to exhibit antiquities to his patients as a basis for association, the reproduction acted as a prompt for passage to health that Freud saw almost as a talisman, and idea propt, for to excavate “strata of latent content,” as Bergstein argued, that the analyst might uncover in ways not accessible immediately to an unschooled reader, as a nexus of a global history of the destruction of Pompeii’s ruins and personal psychopathology, as the strata of ruins are magically elided with the psychic strata of the potential hysteric.
It is not often noted that art historians including Arnold Hauser were in the same time reconstructing the Roman copy from fragments, in a powerful image of the recovery of the past. If Freud argued the fictional Hannold was typical of one vulnerable to neurosis by his intellectualization of ruins dangerously divided archeologist’s imagination and intellect, risking repression of biological instinct by intellectual attachments, his encounter amidst the ancient ruins of a woman he knew from childhood, “walking in splendor” her foot rising from the ground on flexed toes–embodied in the sublime site of Pompeii’s ruins amidst his “almost visionary state” as the love he was convinced existed, but did not know where to locate. Elision of the ancient ruins with memory created an uncanny scrutiny of her distinctive act of physical advance, haunted by the unique gait known only in his dreams; Hannold believes her a phantasm until he recognized the woman not asa delusion but a love object able to liberate him from his intellectualized passions.
The attempt to reconstruct the fragmentary images of the Horeae that Jensen called “Gradiva” was a current pursuit of archeological reconstruction, and served to problematize the archeological retrieval and reassembly of a past so central to analysis. The story of the ancient statue was not Pygmalion, but an animated statue able lead him from hysteria as could only the best analyst would, by purposefully navigating not only through the elision of time and space in Pompeii , so that the woman he feared killed by Vesuvius’ volcanic explosion moved from inanimate stone and embodiment, death to life, and hysteria to love, and across the different strata after being made manifest in his own unconscious mind. Freud so eagerly shared the novella with students and acolytes for its insight into the psyche by the ability to uncover its physical strata to reveal repression, a process he had struggled to imagine in pictorial terms. When he had presented his virtuoso analysis to the novella’s author, he learned Jensen had conceived the story without visiting Pompeii, before a reproduction, he sought a reproduction of the very image that would be installed in his study in a pride of place; it recalled, at least for Freud, the experience of being overcome in the “almost visionary state” surrounded by antique ruins beneath Pompeii’s noon sun for his own analytic study in Vienna, at the foot of the couch of patients: was it also perhaps an image by which he would be known?
The reproduction Freud displayed of the woman’s isolated her form became an icon for Freudian analysis in future years, and an image of the cure of hysteria and neurosis begun by repression, and needing to be recovered. Freud had cast his work as that of an actual archeologist discovering the most deeply buried primal scenes in Studies in Hysteria (1896), presented Jensen’s novella for its insight to how a sublimely cathartic encounter released repression of the past to prevent neurological disorder–he had shared the story as a discussion of the curing neurosis by the sublime encounter with the past in the setting of antique ruins with a woman who “accepted [his] delusion so fully to set him free of it,” perhaps beyond the abilities of analysis, by easing the trauma of repression in recognize the archeologist’s deep desire to bring her back into his life. For the story intersected with his own fascination with ancient artifacts as psychic prompts–his scholarly attachment to the neo-Attic relief was lifted by embodied love, due to the psychic release by the woman Hannold feared killed by Pompeii emerging from his past–although the reconstruction was not of an isolated woman, so much as a procession.
We do not know if Freud traveled to Rome and looked at the reassembled relief back in the Vatican’s Museo Chiaramonti, seeking to buy the reproduction. He had described his own encounter with the statue in such animated terms to his wife by post as a moment of joyous recognition, as if with an old loved friend that might inspire jealousy, but also reveal the cultural elevation of the man Martha Bernays had married. He perhaps acquired a copy from an antiquities dealer, soon after he existed, dizzy with emotion by which the encounter had left him overcome before he returned to his hotel room to write his wife. Freud bought a reproduction of the figure Freud not as a broken complex, but an isolated figure: he rhapsodized to Martha with utterly uncharacteristic joy and levity at the encounter on his final day in Rome, as “a dear familiar face [seen] after being alone so long” as if it was by chance, which made the entire city “more and more marvelous,” as if to explain a gift he permitted himself. He had written to Martha Bernays in response to news of her receipt of a piece of furniture he sent to her; did he acquire the reproduction that year? The bas relief that has since become as an icon of Freudian cure–displayed in the Bergstrasse study in Vienna, brought with him to London. If Freud was seeking to define himself by the company he kept–Löwy; Schleimann; Baedeker–as much as an iconologist as Panofsky, the replica became a site of the elevated goals of authentic analytic practice in a Freudian school.
The reproduction of the fragmented broken bas relief he purchased isolated he figure of the woman, as if timeless. The reproduction fortuitously erased any sense of her destruction by time, or any archeological debates as to the figure’s reconstruction, by framing her alone–as Jensen’s copy–as if it were a figure who removed from the past. He referred to her not by the title of Hauser’s reconstruction, but the very name Jensen gave her–Gradiva, echoing Homer’s “Mars Gradivus,” as an icon of health: the God dressed to approach battle, an iconic statue of securing peace; the new name of the advancing woman was an icon of an ability to overcome past trauma and transform neurosis to love. (The antiquity offered an emblem for Freud to “present” his craft to the public: Mars was dressed to enter battle in magnificence, but Gradiva became an image of restoring mental health, casting the psychiatrist as a master archeologist of sorts, able to lead his patient from neurosis into a mobility that was foreign from the neurotic patients afflicted by unwanted inability of partial paralysis.) The ancient statuary Jensen described as a phantasm surviving of a girl he knew in childhood, but had not acknowledged, mirrored the 1903 art historical reconstruction Arnold Hauser assembled of a set of fragmented figures, but the copy Freud purchased distilled it as a single figure.
If Freud famously longed to associate psychiatry with the metaphor of archeology before it was a field, he believed the novella of a fictional archeologist offered insight to the operations of the mind of the neurotic and its redemption: he excitedly shared the story of how the archeologist overcame neurotic fantasies as the figure of a walking woman emerged from temporal disorientation of the ruins of Pompeii, to be acknowledged not as an illusion of the past, but still living, and to dispel his neurosis by presenting the gait of a love from childhood, in a cathartic clarifying moment of cure. Before his visit, Freud learned with some disappointment that rather than an actual sublime event, Jensen had not encountered the illusion in Pompeii, or seen the statue save in reproduction: his belief it offered insight was perhaps just “an egocentric phantasy” analysis would reveal “bound up “his most intimate erotic experiences,” he confessed to Jung. Coining the term “Gradiva” for the woman advancing in the ancient city who emerged from the archeologist’s unconscious but called him to a better life, Freud felt, Jensen had taken the term from Mars Gradivus, the God of War walking into Battle, whose advancing across time Hauser had recently reconstructed, whose image Freud must have known in print. Freud wrote to his wife from Rome filled with uncharacteristic joy and levity as he informed his final days were interrupted by encountering “a dear familiar face . . . after being alone so long” which he must have visited in the Museo Chiaramonti intentionally, as if an encounter by chance, which suddenly rendered the entire city “more and more marvelous,” as if it were a gift he permitted himself, described to his wife in response to news of her receipt of furniture he sent to her in Vienna.
As Jensen’s fiction had focussed on the advancing woman, who seemed to emerge from the past for his hero, the image that was itself a reconstruction of fragments that Arnold Hauser had published some year before was treated by Freud as a key to the unconscious origins of neurosis. The image appealed to Freud as a prompt uncovering repression, a sublime therapeutic moment that he saw as casting archeology as an erotic encounter of the recovery of the past: if it is unclear if he had received the reproduction later hung in his office at the foot of his couch from Emanuel Löwy, an old friend who had taught art history in Rome, who he probably had seen in his 1907 vacation, who he often had consulted on Roman ruins; Löwy, on whom Freud long relied for purchases of reproductions of ancient art would send Freud his own monograph on neo-Attic art, with the simple inscription “for Gradiva–the author.”
But Freud bought a reproduction that framed simply the figure Jensen had described, rather than the bas relief assembled rom fragments, a figure that belied its own fragmentation as a ruin. Magnified as if a goddess, who had transcended fragments, teh figure which Freud became as a convincing illustration of the treatment of neurosis and hysteria. Gradiva became an icon for a science able to release patients from neuroses of which Jensen’s archeologist suffered was one of his early virtuosic case studies, based not on a patient, as Anna O, but framed the cases by which he would be known of obsessional neurosis that set for a therapeutic program–as if the case of Gradiva was a paradigm for the subsequent exemplary cases Freud produced that stood as models of sympathetic understanding. In each of the subsequent cases excavated the trauma to reveal restorative powers of remembering of repressed trauma that have left psychic scars the analyst uses sympathetic power to extricate the subject, Gradiva provided the fictional model for such an uncovery rooted it precisely in the ur-sight of archeological exploration, and a model for his own future studies of neurosis–Rat Man; Woolf Man; Schreber–as bravura analytic excavations of neurosis and pscyhosis. Freud located the excavation of a moment of transparency in dreams, but Jensen’s fantasia provided a literary model for narrating an uncovering of the unconscious, before his “ingenious” psychoanalysis of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci from paintings “with a beautiful simplicity and vigor, whatever one might think of [his] conclusions,” as Meyer Shapiro put it, to reach larger audiences for his theory of mind, written not as case studies on hysteria and as a neurologist, but as a man of letters. The Gradiva became a token enabling overcoming buried trauma when placed in view of patients in Freud’s study in both Vienna and London, a figure of analyitic fruits.
Twenty-three years after he wrote about Jensen’s architect and Gradiva, Freud relied on Löwy’s work to cast the city of Rodme as akin to a material record of the unconscious–as if the two walked in the ancient Forum, when he returned to the excavation of Rome’s stratigraphy as a metaphor of mind. Löwy would provide Freud the archeological prints that enabled his “flight of fancy” to detail the physical plant of Rome in some detail by 1930, but it must be acknowledged Freud had not only often returned to Rome but done so after consulting recent archeological books that detailed its plant which he had collected in his Viennese library. If the mastery of ruins–a therapeutic art–was an art metaphorically illustrated by art, Freud illustrated mastery by transcendence of ruins of the past trauma. Freud relied on how archeological engravings revealed past layers of the city’s inhabitation to use its physical plant was also a paradigmatic site of excavation of pastness, organized by artists in challenging ways that must have seized Freud not only in contemporary archeological prints, but the uncovering of “deep structures” hidden beneath the earth. Freud promised a “discovery” of buried ruins waiting to be uncovered for the observer.
The promise is eerily akin to the promise Piranesi, Giovanni Battista’s son, made of Pompeii’s topography, 1785-92, a decade after the first maps of the site were drawn from memory, years after visiting the site with his father, with whom he collaborated. These prints extended his father’s trade in views of ancient Rome in a explicitly archeological direction of interpretation. It is hard to dislike Piranesi, but it is also hard to say if he was designing the plan of Rome as a budding archeologist, as an image that used sketches made by his father to stake out the achievement of which he was able through his craft, or as a revelation of the interpenetration of landscape, the antique, and the antiquities trade that defined eighteenth century Roman antiquarianism. Those famous engravings of the plan of the city of Pompeii captured the romance of the city where Hannold fled to find the image of movement of gait that sunk deep in his mind, by unearthing it, which he had miraculously unearthed by his pilgrimage to the new wonder of the Grand Tour. For Freud, however, who was obsessed or entranced by the mechanics of uncovering, unveiling, revealing, and voyeuristically observing, the site of Pompeii, where one can look into the private homes and where bodies were excavated that were lying on floors, frozen in the act of eating, sleeping, or writing in pain, the erotics of unveiling were were presented by Francisco and his father.
The city that had been a sight of cultural formation from the Grand Tour was perhaps a substitute for the archeological excavations his hero Heinrich Schliemann began in 1873 of Troy–it confirmed Freud’s as foremost archeologist of the mind, a Schliemann of the unconscious who made his own archeological maps in word pictures. The very transhistorical map of Rome’s physical plant recalls nothing so much as an archeological plan–an image of the sequential stages of buildings reconstructed from past fragments that condenses a purview of the history of place for ready apprehension at a glance; the plan would indeed stand as a surrogate for the very absence of a pictorial rendering of the mind, assembling the material fragments of the city into a readily coherent pattern might be assembled in archeological maps.
The reproduction of Gradiva, as an iconic image of a woman moving through space, became an icon of excavation, and of the coaxing out memories of desire in Freudian analysis of memories that emerged, or re-emerged, in the room of psychoanalysis, as an overcoming of traumatic primal scenes that would otherwise remain a repressed past. The faux bas relief, a reproduction in plaster widely obtained in Rome, emerged a central piece of furniture in the psychoanalytic study, as well as validation of Freud’s own analytic skill; as a transformation of the fragmentary sculptures in the Museo Chiaramonti, where it hung on the wall, the reproduction that he bought in Rome or had sent to him in Vienna came to occupy a prominent place in the psychoanalyst’s office, directly at the foot of the couch and in the patient’s line of sight, as a surrogate for the procession through past trauma that the analyst might conduct.
The framed copy that arrived was not a fragment, of course, but an image that framed the subject of the walking woman as a subject of meditation, and advancement through time. Freud had arrived in Rome to acquire a copy of the bas-relief when traveling to Rome alone in 1907, visiting museums and encountering the day before he left the relief in the Vatican’s Museo Chiaramonti, probably while writing his analysis of Jensen’s fantasia of a young archeologist who traveled to Pompeii in hopes to encounter the woman who appeared in his dreams as a vision, and captivates his attention as soon as he encounters her in the ruins that leads him to abandon the field of archeology. As a relief on the wall of Hanold’s study served as the prompt in Jensen’s story, Freud would purchase his own reproduction to be displayed beside the psychotherapeutic couch, joining the antiquities he used as prompts for his patients–was it among the “small purchases” he told his wife he was in the course of negotiating before leaving? The iconic image of redemption from neurosis that Jensen’s archeologist experienced in watching a real woman emerge from the ruins of Pompeii who he had seen in dreams, leads him out of his paralyzing neurosis, to move through space as freely as the Hora who advances, the lifted toes of her left foot about to leave the ground–the name “Gradiva,” as if ‘Girl Splendid in Walking,’ is named for the associations of her movement through space, but might well be elided with her unique powers of movement through time, as if between epochs or strata–and leads him to see the embodied evidence of her grace in walking as she appears before him in the ruins, and the archeologist’s very perception of the iconic statue he places in Pompeii appears inextricably haunted by his desire.
The appearance of the Gradiva-or the copy that Freud kept in his office–became an icon for the establishment of psychiatry as a science, as indeed his essay on Gradiva became a sort of assertion of the dignity of the field of inquiry akin to archeology. For as Freud was attracted to diagnose the novella as an overcoming of hysteria–as if the insight of the story offered a model of skillful “reconstruction” of a past by analogy to the established secular field–it was a part of the furniture of the office of the Freudian analyst to stimulate recovery of repressed memories of the unconscious. The metaphor of archeology confirmed the materiality of surviving memory traces of objects of desire to an artistic reconstruction of desire, using the excavation of objects in the field of archaeology to give epistemic status an archeology as an excavation of individual objects of desire, and sublimation of neurotic feelings into a present love–the reproduction isolated and iconically focussed attention on an the image of the female figure advancing, unlike the original. The framing of a woman moving through space–healing the viewer from being frozen or immobilized in neurosis–made the object an emblem of mystically moving through–and to lead the patient through–layers of time, moving to the present, uncannily inherited from the concept of the original Greek horae marking time on which it was based. Placed at the foot of the couch and in the line of sight of Freud’s patient, the icon was designed to provoke performing a therapeutic transit through strata of personal memories. Rather than the original Greek statue of the horae, figuring the procession of time, the individual reproduction isolated an enframed individual female figure advancing as a prompt to drill into personal consciousness, foreign from the collective procession of the marble copy: isolated to accentuate a determined progress of a woman decisively advancing with determination, Gradiva is removed from a context of the progression of figures of time, but acquired an individual intent absent from the relief.
For Freud took the image of individual advance in therapy not as a collective act or social rite, but a personal transformation. His association of the imagined visitation of the embodied statue in Pompeii’s ruins was especially powerful and iconic as a therapeutic process of moving through time. The story of Gradiva attracted Freud as it detailed the erotics of an imaginary encounter in archeological ruins as an occasion of insight into attachment, as if the ruins of memory by which the individual patient was enmeshed might provoke a similar occasion of insight. Freud championed the novella as paradigmatic as a moment of psychic insight that he felt was powerful enough to be apprehended by others: Jensen’s account of the temporal disorientation before ruins for an imagined archeologist was taken as autobiographical by Freud, who analyzed the story without talking to its author, not realizing Jensen’s fantasy was not based on an image Jensen had seen in situ–but provoked by a reproduction. Freud treated the relief as a confirmation of the power of metaphorically reconstructing memories in strata of the mind Freud saw as “primordial states of mind which have long been overlaid” (1929), and placed his own reproduction over his patients’ couch as if a shingle for the profession, and a sublime sandwich board and analytic promise of coming forth from trauma.
When Freud pursued the extended metaphor of archeological excavation of Rome’s physical plant twenty years later in Civilization and its Discontents, Rome materialized the precise localization of foundational individual memories. As Freud had converted his discussion of psychic structures to dramatic conflicts in ancient plays–Oedipus; Electra–was not Rome recognizable to secular Vienna, a compelling image of the cultural status of the very project of analysis? Rome was an intense object of personal fascination for Freud, who treasured an expansive collection of antiquities he often asked his patients to examine to prompt discussions. But he had mentioned Rome in such a detailed flight of fancy that were almost an erotics of contact with multiple layers of the past that could never be able to be clearly represented or delineated in a map, but which the stratigraphic images of spatially overlapping structures served to illustrate. The discussion of the pagan and Christian temples overlaid in Rome’s physical plant transcended religious dogma, and to some extent followed Freud’s personal doubts about existence of a timeless sense of religion–and his resistance to the mysticism implicit in Romaine Rolland’s notion of an “oceanic” feeling: for his part, Freud felt it hard to process that Rolland felt him to have insufficiently appreciated religion beyond the individual, even as he told his treasured friend of the “conflict between our instinctual nature and the demands made on us by civilization.” Freud called faith foreign to “my own blend . . . of Hellenic love of proportion, Jewish sobriety, and philistine timidity,” but may have elevated Rome as a paradigmatic city of ruins and trauma, to replace a deeper, if less accessible or articulated image of the uncovering of past trauma of Jerusalem more familiar to his ancestors,– and more primal, perhaps, to Freud himself, even if he preferred Troy, Pompeii, or Rome. Yet in contrasting the crisp delineation of the ruins of Rome as unlike to an “expansive” oceanic religious impulse, did Freud offer readers the recognized topography of Rome’s temples that substituted for the lamination of ages in Jerusalem’s destruction?
Was the archeological discovery of Pompeii or Rome a powerful substitution for the lamination of ages in the different Temples of Jerusalem that were known by his parents? Freud returned in the brief pages on the mapping of the Eternal City across time to its own ancient temples–Jupiter Capitolinus, the temple to Minerva built under the medieval church Christianized in the eight century as an act of uncovering of a physical still tangible past. The comparison to Rome surely fit his attachment to plots, stories, and dramas outside of the Jewish tradition of his parents, and indeed his Jewish family, but echoed archeological maps of the ages of the First Temple. Indeed, the centrality of ancient temples to the Gods in Rome would have been deeply familiar to the sacred archeology of the Bibel-Atlas (Berlin 1858) and the purification of the sacred image of Rome as a new, secularized Jerusalem, whose ruins were less tied to religious relics or sacred history, but included the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and the Temple of S. Maria of Minerva, and the pagan temple over which it was built, as a recapitulation of the layers of sacred geography in Jerusalem that was associated with early mid-century plans of a historical Temple of Solomon, a submerged referent of Freud’s spatio-temporal fantasy of wandering among and distinguishing the historical ages in Rome’s urban plan, as a privileged observer amidst memory traces that survived like ruins in an individual’s mind.
Freud focussed for his Viennese audience on the epistemic transport offered by the maps of the Baedeker, however. It was a visual guide to a foreign and fascinating space, affording a mobile view of surroundings in detail that allowed the visitor to gain a level of information and be informed both as a distillation of historical knowledge and a part of individual bildung, or cultural formation, and a guide to spatial travel able to orient one to a landscape as a whole. If Freud used the Baedeker as a guide to orient himself to the ruins of Roman archeology on his several visits to Rome, Venice, Naples and Florence, he showed striking disdain for philosophers who found it necessary to approach life along set precepts or frameworks as “finding the travels through life unable to be fully realized save by a Baedeker that provided the necessary points of reference on all its aspects,” as if the Baedeker offered a competing method for his own basis of the excavation of truth and meaning within the human mind. Freud imagined to his collaborator Wilhelm Fleiss, as if in jest, in June, 1900 that a plaque of historical commemoration analogous to those seen in Rome or Jerusalem might in the future mark his Bellevue house–“In this house on July 24, 1895 the Secrets of Dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigmund Freud“–confessing, in barely concealed dismay, “So far the chances seem rather slim.”
Freud would no doubt have been pleasantly surprised at the monumentality his writings had gained in the late twentieth century, now marked by the very passage of the letter in bronze, marking the site where he began to write the Interpretation of Dreams, as if a new Moses to whom the truths in the Holiest of Holies were revealed–
–akin to the imagined ability of entrance to the lost image of the Temple of Solomon that whose center lay the Holiest of Holies itself, the deep interior of the mind that would be accessed only by passing through the Court of Hight Priests, that had been the most recent transcription of the image of a lost wisdom of the ancient world from the German Renaissance.
Freud was, in short, a man who left Austria, equipped with the best archeological primers, primed to uncover the truth of the historical centrality of Europe–and civilization, or bildung–in Rome’s past. The secularization of this vision of the Temple, however, unlike the role it held in the Jewish tradition, provided a basis that Freud might transfer to Rome to describe the level of cultural bildung and training that he might present to his readers as a sign of his secular sophistication as an antiquarian scholar.
Freud resisted the notion of a guide to monuments a Baedeker would impose. He resisted the authority of a guide as an authoritative programmatic Lebensführer, in ways that may explain his ambivalent dalliance with the map of multiple ages of an ancient city–as if such a map might exist!–as a productive metaphor for consciousness and memory in Civilization and its Discontents (1930; first composed 1929), a treatise that attempted to the “organic repression” of education and learning that had led to the violence of the First World Wars, a s if education, bildung, and the psychic “dams” had given way to bae impulses that had over-run them, an image for which the destruction of Rome’s previous ages of Republicanism-and indeed “civilization”–were in the end overthrown, a history whose movements Freud condenses in alarmingly telegraphic manner as he invites readers to survey the topographic transpoformation of the settlement of the Septimontium, the foundation of the Republic, and Caesars and Aurelian emperors, a complex political history of transformation and tensions that mental organism.
If Freud assured his readers he understanding of “how far we are from representing mental life in pictorial terms” that might be desired, as by a diagram, he preferred the register of the cartographic as preferable over several powerful pages; in astounding detail for a book with little archaeological concerns, but in ways that seem to depend on the cultivation of his readers within a tradition of western civilization, Freud surveyed in his head transformations from Roma Quadrata as if it “hardly ever suffered the visitations of an enemy” by trauma or inflammations, but might retain its intactness, even if only in a virtual manner, so. that the informed viewer could use a Baedeker to decipher the puzzling co-existance of its “long and copious past,” and “point out the sites where the temples and public sites of earlier eras once stood” in the present Rome, their places now filled by ruins, but locate the material presence of the ancient sites now buried underground or beneath modern buildings, by sheer force of mental comprehension. This very material task was the model by which Freud adopted for the analyst, and a model for the very idealized terms he might approach the mental furniture of the mind.
Through the conceit of such a map, he is able to traverse time and master place. The suggestion of the construction of such an improbably map of multiple dimensions is raised in detail before it was discarded out of hand rather abruptly, as if to affirm the importance that he would place in the therapeutic relation of exploring the past, rather than a view only of specific monuments. But the struggle for Freud to liberate himself of the map of Rome’s ruins, and to learn more by a method of investigation that depends on the immersion of analysand on points of orientation and active exploration–suggest a far more dialectic engagement with the tourist map than the prescriptive reading of maps he associates with philosophers who adhere to one single worldview, rather than react to their surroundings to better understand their psychical landscapes without coming to them with preconceptions. Such guides demand a cultural history, but 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 a panorama of presence no longer present to observers, as do most all archeological maps of Rome.
Yet the metaphor of the map offered a unique sense of access–or the image of access–to an elusive past, and not only for Freud. Freud adopted and ran with the elevated cultural metaphor of the uncovering of ruins that remained in the wake of huge trauma or organic injury and inflammation, imagining the ability to be able to reconstruct the Apollonian objective view on place that might seem disorienting at first by their nature. He prompted the analyst and indeed the reader to take up the bait at Freud’s gambit of a decoding of the preserved traces of the past–as if shards of “memory traces” were lodged in the mind, waiting to be excavated as concealed atavistic structures, traces of past experiences that still had a vital role in the present-day, and imagine the central site of meaning that lay at the origins of other maps.
1. By considering the mapping of Rome as datamaps, and the 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 are claimed to run there. If it is a truism that “all roads lead to Rome,” that preserves a deeply ahistorical sense of the centrality of the city for much of the middle ages, when the statement gained currency, the possibly medieval rendering of the ancient “Peutinger Map” or Tabula Peutingeriana, which presents Rome at the center of an ancient 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 that quite distinctively distorted the landscape to focus all roads along the elongated peninsula, whose borders reduced oceans to strips to foreground its road network, as an enthroned image of Rome.
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.
–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 two of Schedel’s friends, 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 map a locus of memory for the centrality of Rome held, in ways not able to be subsumed to the scale of a route map. 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.
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.
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–
–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?
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.
The medium of single-line engraving provided an expressive medium for organizing the continuity synthetic maps of land and sea long before trans-Atlantic travel was available to most. Mapping beyond one’s place or region is a specific area of expertise; it is not surprising that it is a difficult competency to define. It’s long been observed that the manner in which engraving produced an exactly replicable visual statement brought a variety of levels of expertise to bear on the map, both as a repository of collective visual memory and a coherent visual statement designed to orient readers to the notion of a uniform space. But it’s interesting to consider the local differences in how a coextensive notion of space was understood to be composed of mapping the integration of land and sea: and the understanding of the political power of the Serenissima–and the authority of the Venetian senate–as extending “onto the salted waters [sopra le acque salse]”–suggested a unique model of imagining worldly rule that uniquely inflected the construction of a cartographical space.
The transmission of the concept of a map of uniform coverage–one first expressed by the second-century Greek astrologer and mathematician Claudios Ptolemaios [Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος], bequeathed to us as simply Ptolemy, provided a template to illustrate the expanded edges of the inhabited world in the editions successively translated in early modern Europe considerably before maps of land were fully integrated with maps of sea. Translation of the forms by which Ptolemy mapped an inhabited terrestrial expanse not only to superseded the inhabited world as Ptolemy had described it and imagined it, but broached a different model of continuity within visual form: epistemologically distinct spaces of travel that corresponded to different forms of mapping were joined in a Ptolemaic planisphere, as were the distinct competencies of mapping, in what might be profitably examined and studied as a ‘trading zone’ of varied forms of technical skill. In Venice, perhaps, more than in other sites, the city offered a site connected by sea to other regions, and was a bit of an active trading zone of linking maps of water and land as Ptolemaic maps attempted, less constrained by territorial bounds, and more attentive to unifying the different metrics and scales of global mapping than many other engravers of global maps.
The image of the Venetian ties to the Mediterranean world and Gulf of Venice were rearticulated in maps, ordering a relation to a global expanse by nautical charts that had enjoyed broad currency in the city, and provided a cosmographic authority to articulate Ptolemy’s authority as a description of a terraqueous expanse.
1. Mapping Land and Sea
Techniques of artistic engraving offered a matrix in which to synthesize mapping forms from the fifteenth century, and the medium increased a synthesis of formats of mapping, as well as a the demand for maps as reproducable forms. As much as benefiting from Ivins’ useful characterization of the innovative ways that print afforded “exactly reproducable graphic statement,” engravers’ skills provided a way to transmit the map as a graphic form.
The Dutch engraver and cartographer Mercator in 1569 described his map as a synthesis of geographical maps and nautical charts: in so doing, he modernized the projection of the map’s surface as a continuous surface. In a unique and inventive way, Mercator assembled a record of terraqueous expanse on parallels and meridians to address a large audience of readers by boasting of his ability to bridge the distinct media of nautical charts of the ocean with geographic maps–whereas the Ortelian “Typus Orbis Terrarum” of 1570 directly below displayed traveling ships, riverine networks, and maritime expanse on curved meridians, Mercator’s projection distributes an inhabited expanse on perpendicularly intersecting meridians and parallels. But both maps advance cartographical expertise as preparing a surface that could be uniformly scanned by viewers as a proportional and uniform distribution of the inhabited world.
Mercator did not explain the mathematics of a uniformly mapped space. But the unique projection he devised gained broad authority by the seventeenth century as a means to visualize global relations. Although the Mercator projection ensured that the loxodromic lines of nautical travel, denoted in charts by rhumb lines, would perfectly intersect with meridians, the straight parallels construed “ad Usum Navigantium Emandate Accomodate” was not adopted for sailing or for plotting voyages until the ability to measure longitude at sea–partly since he did not explain his method for calculating the “true course” on straight lines, but also since the media of terrestrial maps were so distinct from nautical or navigational carts. But the combination of registers for noting nautical and terrestrial space, or imagining expanse on ship and on land, provided a major shift in maps’ graphic design and epistemological claims.
The gradual supersession of the autonomy of sea-charts facilitated increased claims of realistic representation–or reality effect of mapping land and sea in a continuous frame of reference. The combination of geographic and nautical charts to record of the known world in ways shifted how the world is known depended on acceptance of the descriptive potential of maps, as much as their accuracy or the use-value they gained to navigate in an era when calculation of latitude at sea depended on the sighting the altitude of the sun above the horizon and due course rarely achieved. But the Mercator projection integrates land charts and marine charts to provide totality of global expanse. This was the first age of globalism, and it could be readily understood. The cognitive basis of maps as vehicles seems concealed in Cornelius de Jode’s presentation of Mercator’s projection as a “Totius orbis cogniti Universalis descriptio” or record of the known world in 1589, a decade after its appearance: it offered tools for knowing the inhabited world as well as a record of the known world.
A similar visibility of the world’s surface was advanced in Cornelius de Jode’s later compendium of global coverage, which synthesized the conventions of nautical charts with the conventions of terrestrial mapping to create a convincing understanding of relationships between nautical travel and terrestrial expanse.
Such supersession of the conventions of mapping had to an extent previously occurred in the combination of results from different mapping formats in a unified cartographical space. Yet even before Mercator devised this projection, sixteenth-century maps had synthesized the content nautical maps had increased the claims of realistic representation–or reality effect–in printed maps. The graphic and pictorial detail and abundance of signifiers that was invested in Ptolemaic projections had increasingly shifted the status of the map from a schematic register which lay at remove of one from space, to a compelling synthesis of terrestrial relations for its viewer: and the map became a surrogate able to stand in metonymic relation to a place it described, stood at the center of modern claims of maps as forms of visual relation to space that could be inscribed with meaning. Indeed, the combination of registers of terrestrial and nautical cartography compellingly joined areas of practice that had been kept previously separate formats of spatial descriptions, if not incommensurable registers of qualitatively different registers to chart spatial continuity.
Was this change in attitudes to the map partly enabled by the combination of registers of terrestrial and nautical cartography? From previously separate formats of spatial descriptions, if not more significantly incommensurable registers of qualitatively different forms of space, the map’s surface became understood as a way to register motion through a uniform space and encounter places on a determined path of travel. The use and status of the map as both a register and descriptor of expanse was already evident in the integration of nautical charts and Ptolemaic maps Bernardus Sylvanus designed in Venice after 1508, which, despite the notorious absence of coverage of North America and reduced coverage of the globe, had previously described a terraqueous unity in compelling–and readable–ways by explicitly combining what had been seen as incommensurable orders of registering expanse.
The legibility of the 1511 projection of Sylvanus was both very contingent and local in nature, despite the universalizing viewpoint it prepared of the inhabited world. When Sylvanus, hailing from Eboli, possibly also an illuminator of erudite texts, undertook a newly illustrated printed edition of the ancient geographer Claudius Ptolemy’s Guide to World-Mapping, known in the Renaissance simply as the Geography, he decided to create a more updated edition of comparative maps deriving from nautical charts collated by sailors and the set of maps transmitted in codices of the Ptolemy’s work of global geography. The plans for a new Venetian edition had recently been abandoned, although several plates for it had been made and perhaps engraved by 1508, probably including a new world projection. In confronting problems of modernizing the Ptolemaic maps, Sylvanus foregrounded the integration of islands and coastlines compiled in nautical charts in the maps transmitted in Ptolemy’s geographical treatise, translating the conventions for land-mapping into representational conventions from the graphic arts and advances of two-color typography: the birds perched on the cornices of his map of Italy, the sixth plate of Europe, may echo the modern bird’s-eye view of the peninsula he offered, using nautical maps to present the configuration with a sense of naturalism often foreign to early printed Ptolemaic maps.
2. Oceanic Space
The treatise that the second-century geographer titled a “handbook for drawing world maps” was both a technical guide and a compendium for drafting land maps. But in Venice, a city of maritime trade, Ptolemy’s promise to collate and list a database of all the places in the inhabited world’s surface had potential appeal as incommensurate with the chart used to decide or compare nautical routes of travel, and posed a specific challenge to synthesize mapping forms.
These charts provided an alternate source of information that promised both to refine and expand the ancient geographer’s encyclopedic claims that led him to list names of ancient cities and noteworthy cities or rivers exceeding 10,000 in number–if the richness of Ptolemy’s text led erudite readers to consult his book with their manuscripts of Herodotus or Livy, as Bernardo Machiavelli–father of Niccolò–their elegant terrestrial maps they more often addressed learned readers and armchair travelers as surfaces often read in relation to other ancient texts, rather than graphic descriptions of expanse. Indeed, their printers did not aim to address a larger audience of readers. Yet even when presenting accurate place-locations in coastlines that resemble charts, the maps struggled to offer an easily readable surface.
The synthesis of a more legible cartographical space was foreign to earlier cartographical traditions. The history of the transmission of medieval maps is considerably complex–as are the techniques of varied forms of map making. Elizabeth Edson argued information from accounts of travelers, traders, and sailors became accomodated in world-maps from the early fifteenth century, joining travelogues that both expanded the content and challenged the parameters of earlier symbolic world maps. The inclusion of information from travel accounts and nautical charts not only expanded the surface of maps, but posed complex problems of integration on parallels and meridians–a reproducible grid–and elicited potential graphic models for spatial representation over a century after its textual translation that lent formal authority to the world map.
The alternatives for such a synthesis were not clear. The considerable questions that surround the transmission and construction of earlier manuscript charts, often drawn on sheepskin to guarantee their preservation and illustrate their value, are raised by the unclear relations between how the maps were transmitted and copied–if not created–given the unclear questions about copyists reliance on the intersecting directional lines that seemed sketched over their content in tracing coastal shorelines and locating islands, or how the skein of lines apparently determined from compass-bearings provided guides for nautical travel. These maps were produced predominantly in port towns, as this Mediterranean chart executed in Alexandria by Jehuda Abenzara (or ben Zara), coastlines are crowded by names of coastal ports written perpendicularly to the shore, linked by a network or web of potential sea-routes that demand close reading and intense preparation by specially trained scribes:
In port cities like Alexandria, chart-makers regularly synthesized and collated a sort of collective memory of varied routes of travel that might be on board any arriving ship, in the hope of piecing together these local records of coasts or island-charts to synthesize more expansive networks of trade with a degree of accuracy that minimized cartographical distortion with a precision that geodetic observations had not allowed.
The chart synthesized a form of collective memory, if the protocols by which its contents were transmitted are not clear: the organization of a synthetic record of travels provided little more than symbolic reference to inhabited interiors, however, which in essence remained “off the map.” Rather than a representation of terrestrial space, it primarily provided a record of the location of ports and idealized potential lines of nautical–rather than terrestrial– travel.
The spatial mapping of coastal cities in the Mediterranean, and situation of coastlines in a broad nautical expanse–both in relation to both equinoctial lines and vertical bars of latitude however provided an alternate orientation to the network of the web of loxodromic lines of the compass rose. The below schematic version of a portolan chart, signed by Juan de la Cosa of c. 1500, provided a distinct frame of reference and spatial indices to enumerate points of landing and prominent capes in the New World at different latitudes for its readers.
The parchment portolan chart stored in Madrid’s Museo Naval and made in the port city of Andalusia, Puerto de Santa María, was prepared for competencies of a restricted audience, with specific interpretive tools in mind–whether they were kept by captains, or by trading houses is unclear, as is the primary techniques they use to demonstrate relations of space. By the fifteenth century, elegantly decorated versions became prized possessions among even landlocked elites–probably in copies that obscured or hid their own mercantile provenance and were designed to stake boundary lines of exploration or colonization in the New World, by demonstrating the boundary line of Tordesillas. But although the competencies of mapping these documents enlist to render expanse are opaque, their synthetic construction have provoked continued investigation of their formal manipulation or symbolic construction of mapped space.
Some of the relevant underlying schema of the networks and constellations in charts have been identified, but their operative value is not known–were they of use for copyists in Salamanca, Barcelona, or Genoa, or were these keys that allowed them to be read? The construction of scale lay in the relation among focal circles, wind roses, and loxodromic lines, as in this reading of the Cantino Chart.
Spatial position is not much of an apparent interest, however, so much as the collation of alternative networks of travel–or, in the case of some charts presented by the Spanish or Portuguese, to illustrate the meridian that demarcated colonization of the New World at the Treaty of Tordesillas. The image of nautical continuity was a huge attraction for the humanist geographer Martin Waldseemüller, but his 1516 “Carta Marina” based on Portuguese marine charts like the so-called Cantino chart constituted part of his broader cosmographical project, but this image, discovered only by the Jesuit Josef Fischer around 1901, constituted an alternate model of cosmographical learning to his large world map of 1507, 4.5 to 8 feet, provided a wall-map whose comprehensive character was less successful in making claims for its legibility, if it invested greater artistic skills in converting the format of nautical charting to a legible form that Waldeseemüller had the projection engraved in the same dimensions. This map printed on high-quality hand-made rag paper was only found in one sixteenth-century bound volume, but was a complicated investment, even more so than the cosmographical map that Waldseemüller described as having been printed in 1,000 copies.
Somewhat oddly, the map did not include the image of “America” surrounded by oceanic waters that distinguished the lavish cosmographic wall-map he had printed in 1507, and whose accompanying treatise described America as “an island . . . surrounded on all sides by sea,” in his Cosmographiae Introductio—most probably because its sheets reflected the content of sea-charts–even if it superimposed an equi-angular grid that had little relation to the graticule employed in the terrestrial wall-map he had titled a Universalis Cosmographia.
The two large wall-maps produced at the University of Vosges, then in the Holy Roman Empire, both only recently acquired and restored by the Library of Congress, enshrined opposed if incommensurable models of world-geography at the very time Sylvanus prepared his own edition of Ptolemy’s precepts of geographic map-making and study of global geography. Did the lavishly produced “Carta Marina” offer a counterpart to the geographic theorization of expanse that Waldseemüller had advanced in his cosmographical writings? The ordering of Venice’s position in relation to a gulf, and to the expansive genre of island books or isolari printed in Venice and in Italy, provided a new way of describing Venice’s position in the world, and global continuity at a relatively early age.
3. Envisioning the Continuity of Terrestrial Geography
The location of geographical in the continuous coastlines of manuscript nautical charts was hastened by a demand to process the over 12000 identified sites Ptolemy specified as able to be mapped in a format which conformed to viewers’ expectations for representing spatial continuity. And Sylvanus seems to confront this difference shift in collating nautical charts with other mapping forms in Venice around 1510, in what seems a uniquely local manner to read a map’s universal claims.
The detailed coverage of the world’s surface in sixteenth-century Europe increased not only the coverage or precision of maps, I would argue, so much as the claims of realistic representation–or reality effect–of maps in critical ways. Yet changing understanding of the map as a medium, as well, provided Bernardus Sylvanus with grist to collate nautical charts in a set of new conventions that created a uniformity among data of diverse provenance previously regarded as qualitatively distinct if not incommensurable orders of spatial description. Although his exacting transposition of ancient names into modern outlines of land-masses ran against the critical project of comparing the ancient and modern worlds, the uniform conventions of maps he made presented a distinctly uniform continuous surface in images from charts.
For charts were less concerned with describing or denoting spatial location, than determining (and collating) potential routes of travel: the conceptual mapping of routes of travel was rarely invested with descriptive force or value; its competency reflected applied knowledge. The growing authority of the terrestrial map as a comprehensive description, however–one of the deepest of modern claims of maps as competencies rooted in visual design, rather than nautical knowledge–arose from the combination of registers of terrestrial and nautical cartography, previously separate formats of spatial descriptions if not more significantly incommensurable registers, in a sort of a trading zones of semiotic conventions from varied areas of life, which bridged or linked hitherto incommensurable formats to denote expanse.
As the rich spatial information contained within the medium of the chart was transposed to the surface of terrestrial maps, something like a wrestling with epistemological claims for knowing space and locations seems apparent in the maps included in treatises of global geography first translated in the fifteenth-century, most particularly in Claudius Ptolemy’s second-century Guide for Drawing Terrestrial Maps, whose maps Renaissance editors of the treatise had increasingly invested with increasingly comprehensive ends–increasingly relying on the toponymically crowded but crisply defined coastlines transmitted in charts to blend seamlessly with inland areas. The accumulation of local and pictorial detail to combine an over-abundance of signifiers altered the distinction between the land map and nautical chart, raising truth-value claims about the chart as a representation that stood at remove of one from the world that this post can only begin to suggest: increasingly, the map became a place that could be inscribed with meaning, or became a register from which to relate to foreign lands, if not a substitute for them. The diminishing authority of the chart lay partly in a limited ability to determine position at sea, but also a limitation of the ability for encoding further information in its content that would satisfy its audience. Edward Wright observed the errors of sea-charts as a basis for calculating position in 1599:
A word or two about this complex treatise, abundantly overflowing with strange toponyms that elicited readers’ curiosity even if its content were difficult to translate into the standards of eloquent expression to which many of its humanist readers were habituated–leading some to indicate Strabo as–to quote Isaac Casaubon–the “summo scriptore, quod praeter acuratissimam totius orbis nunc cogniti descriptionem, tanta doctrina, tamque varia omnium rerum scientia refertum est, ea denique arte contextum . . .“
Ptolemy’s expansive catalogue of locations had long demanded to be given a visual form. The question of their visual coherence led some of his later editors to rely on nautical charts that included places Ptolemy had not indicated, but the nautical chart provided little analogous framework of coherence by which to grasp their situation in a continuous expanse. The geographer Angeliki Tsorlini has recently employed digital technologies to map relative locations defined by the terrestrial coordinates in Ptolemy’s treatise in ways that reveal the very compelling map of Mediterranean cities his treatise would have offered. Most of the cities are ports, located along the shore, to be sure, but a considerable number remain inland cities located with apparent relative precision, with minimal significant distortion for much of Italy, the Adriatic, and Greece. The copious abundance of familiar locations and interest in their clustering must have increased demand for their depiction.
In the first codex that arrived in Rome, found by Maximous Planudes in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, the abstract ordering of the situation and topography did not pose an intellectual problem of viewing space (Burney 111; British Library). Despite the formal appearance of the island of Taprobana, thought to perhaps represent Sri Lanka, the red lines of parallels of latitudes and meridians of longitude in which Ptolemy argued geographic mapmakers could usefully divide the world for readers on measured units, provided limited claims to mediate a naturalistic image of expanse.
Planoudes was careful to note the precise location of places on spatial coordinates, but the metric values of locations were not presented as lying in exact correspondence to their spatial situation. The illustration of cartographical images that expanded later codices of Ptolemy’s treatise worked hard to provide maps that were commensurate with the over 1200 place-names–including mouths of rivers, promontories, mountains, or landmarks–contained in his geographic compendia were sought to be illustrated in authoritative form.
As the work reached a large audience in manuscript, terrestrial space was presented in schematic terms, the maps seem to wrestle with the abstraction of space, as if in ways that could not be imagined in visual or pictorial terms as a surface that could be scanned, as is evident in this map of German lands in one codex of the Geography, which enumerated towns and rivers in a new abstract form, listing inhabitants and towns as in the Ptolemaic manner, with minimal recognizable guides or explicit orientational clues about their spatial situation and topographical location, even when that region lay on the margins of the Roman world:
Yet the land-locked nature of these regions made the legibility of expanse less concrete.
Even in areas that claimed continuity with the ancient world, the production of Ptolemaic treatises curiously included modern views of Mediterranean cities in several deluxe of codices illuminated in Florence, as if to expand the treatise’s qualitative coverage of European cities in a rhetorically persuasive image for readers–these images had less regard for the systematic terrestrial coordinates Ptolemy proscribed than for preserving noteworthy sites in each place, or offer a ‘chorographic’ complement to Ptolemy’s explicitly geographic concern.
4. Symbolic Syntheses of Mapped Space
The question of what sort of graphic synthesis was provided in a geographic map is broadly tied to Renaissance visual culture, but posed particularly pressing questions in port cities that compared Ptolemy’s precepts with maps of nautical expanse. Bernardus Sylvanus assembled engraved maps for his edition of Ptolemy shortly after the plans to print an edition of the treatise in Venice collapsed or failed, for reasons of skill or financing. But a huge shift occurred in the production of maps that made such authoritative regional claims as depictions had already occurred, reflected in the preponderance of their incision, illumination, and distribution in centers of visual cultures in northern and central Italy, central Germany, and the Netherlands: the specific forms of overlap between nautical and terrestrial methods in sites from Venice to Rome to Nuremberg created a rich repertory of maps with expansive truth-claims as forms of depiction. His work came on the heals of an existing experimentation with combining cartographical registers of description in a universal register of mapping habitations of terrestrial space, evident in the 1507-8 world map of the Roman edition of Ptolemy, designed by the northern engraver Johannes Ruysch, and contemporary to the plans for a Venetian edition of Ptolemy’s treatise.
The manner that this 1507 world map mediated the legibility terraqueous expanse as a continuous surface might have offered a model for Sylvanus’ integrating of mapping forms: for the Ruysch projection is in ways a restatement of cartographic expertise.
The black-and-white outlines of the copperplate incision helps foreground the legibility of toponyms and textual panels alike that lie on the map’s curved meridian lines, as the stippled surface of oceanic expanse suggests the fact of its comprehension in the map–a comprehension rendered evident to viewers by the unveiling of the new form of a circumnavigable Africa and India, as well as the introduction of the newly discovered capes, rivers, and islands of the Americas:
The historian of cartography David Woodward argued that cartographical competence reveals a growing “rationalization of space” around 1492. In ways, we have begun to remove cartography from a professional genealogy that places a premium on rationality–such a claim is concealed within the creative combination of forms of diverse sources mapmakers have long imaginatively integrated in synthetic designs. But the limitations on the ‘rationality’ of the map–or the grounding of its authority in its rationality–demands future research for how mapmakers who amplified the local qualitative content of cartographical media.
Taking a step further backward in time, we can perhaps appreciate how the designers and illuminators of maps of maps included in manuscripts of Ptolemy’s treatise seem ambivalent in their use of parallels and meridians as a framework for defining a cognitive relation to expanse or for recording a cognitive relation to place: for they treat the graticule of the map more as a frame of reference by which to register terrestrial position, than as an enabling format for graphic representation: the iconic portrayal of place in early maps as clusters of houses that positioned against the blank ‘space’ framed by coordinate system or patches of forest tries to bridge Ptolemy’s ancient model for denoting a uniform abstraction of terrestrial expanse on Euclidean precepts and the ability to transcribe space. Illuminators, few of whom are known, invested maps with very limited mimetic qualities from the 1450s and 1470s to communicate their continuity: the new interest in regional maps as registers lead illuminators to position clusters of houses with peaked roofs and taller towers in dense proximity to each other to distinguish areas of settlement, beside clustered areas of forest growth–as the Black Forest in Bavaria–that provided some vague reassurance of the correspondence of space. Some of the owners of such maps added places near their own residence, or areas that they knew, omitted in the printed editions or codices they owned, as if to give the maps an expressive value that they feel they lacked.
Did the second-century geographer’s “handbook for drawing world maps” have different implications in Venice, a city of maritime trade and considerable diversity, where nautical maps were more prevalent than maps of terrestrial expanse by the early sixteenth century?
4. Back to Bernardus Sylvanus in Venice, ca. 1500
The shift in Venetian culture for locating place in a map’s expanse is reflected in the collation of a set of independent views of neighborhoods to create a dramatic imagined synthetic view of Venice as seen from above in a wall-map composed from six large individual woodblocks and large rag sheets. The master of perspective Jacopo de’ Barbari designed the detailed view by taking he city’s coasts a a frame in which to distribute its built and inhabited expanse: heads of winds of each direction frame the view, recalling the spokes of a wind-rose and the disembodied heads of putti who surround most early printed Ptolemaic maps, magnify the city’s coastlines and maritime surroundings, revealing the complexity of its physical plant as if the city were something of a microcosm of the inhabited world, and to showcase the expansive position of Venice on the Adriatic. The view situates the “forma urbis” not only as a built space but in realtion to the surrounding sea, dotted with individual boats and a regatta: in the distance, one sees the Alps to the north: the city appears as a microcosm of global expanse, as the depiction of its inhabitation in each rione of Venice stands as a graphic surrogate for the mapping of a miniature world.
The particular detailing of a sea as continuous with coastlines and inhabited world provides the informed viewer with something of a metaphor for the unity of land and sea in world-mapping, revealed in Jacopo’s attention to both wind-heads round the city and to a regatta that braves Adriatic winds, exploiting his attention to the finely engraved lines of the wavy waters:
What sort of view did Jacopo de’ Barbari compose in this elegant multi-sheet wall map? The view is often compared to the elevated “bird’s-eye” perspectival views of the “forma urbis” of Renaissance cities, but rests on a synthsesis of an imagiend or virtual view from individual surveys of the city: one recent digitization of the view of “Venetia 1500” helped reveal the synthetic unity Jacopo took pains to created a uniformity of urban space from individual surveys as an illustration of considerable skill of rendering an almost planimetric space for viewers to scan as a continuous surface that extended to the surrounding oceanic sea:
The multi-sheet map, whose production required three years, exemplifies a Venetian appreciation of elevating a record of collective perceptions by combining map-making and perspective with particular virtuosity.
Each of the six sheets provided detailed records of the city in what Fortini Brown has called an “eye-witness style,” but a imported mapping records to a continuous picture-frame that pushed the cartographic metaphor of transcription to transcend a single fixed perspective.
The luxury print of multiple sheets provide a surface into which the viewer can descend into specific neighborhoods or regions that are immediately recognizable: the continuity of its content were thematized in another recent digitization of the map created by the Correr Museum:
But the lines of the Venetian lagoon and Adriatic suggest the clearest inclusion of a sense of maritime space in the map–an illusion that was echoed in the corpus of Sylvanus maps. For Jacobo de’ Barbari created a model for viewing the coherence of urban space that responded to a challenge for ordering the unity of terrestrial and nautical space. When Bernardus Sylvanus intended to expand the cartographical corpus of Ptolemy’s Geography in Venice around 1508, he consciously and proudly incorporated information from the surface of sailors’ nautical charts into the land-maps denoted by spatial coordinates in earlier editions of Ptolemy’s treatise, creating a unified legible cartographical surface and using printer’s red to place cities in a continuous landscape–if often situating ancient names of place from Ptolemy’s work within the modern coastlines of nautical charts, in ways that went against the scholarly tradition of comparing ancient and modern geography by juxtaposing “ancient” and “modern” maps, but also advanced a single cartographic record as authoritative and unique, shading coastlines to suggest the maritime field in which he placed new nautical discoveries–and limited America, famously, to the Columban islands to the ahistorical exclusion of all North America.
Rather than enabling spatial travel, the world map of two sheets noted place-names in a distinctive printer’s red that stand out from rolling hills, framed by etched lines of waters on their coasts as if in imagined relief:
The map’s space was treated as a continuous surface, defined by the coastlines from modern nautical charts, if the toponomy was often ancient in origin, treating the cartographical surface as a uniform register of inhabited lands:
Little biographic information is known about the production of the maps of Bernardus Sylvanus da Ebola, though he has been possibly identified with an illuminator. But he clearly exploited, even more than his predecessors, the semiotic synthesis that print allowed in Venice. This is evident both in its combination of text and woodcut imagery in this two-sheet map, and the overlay of a graticule, equatorial bar, and wind-heads, combining conventions of different mapping media more explicitly than even earlier editions of the existing maps of the Ptolemaic corpus.
The introduction of islands and coastlines not in most all of the maps editors of the previous five printed editions of Ptolemy’s treatise on world-mapping (a sudden burst of editions which we can label Bologna 1477; Rome 1478; Ulm 1482; Berlinghieri 1482; and Rome 1507), presenting more clearly identified coasts and islands–as the ‘isole fortunate’ off of Africa’s western coast, although it omits the New World–but are often of limited geographic accuracy. The distinct use of type to balance the legibility of a map crowded with toponymy by two-color ink adopts the innovation of the material production of books to create a surface easily read by its customers–and he invited readers of the maps he organized as a comparison between the maps Ptolemy described and the versions corrected by modern nautical charts to “compare Ptolemy’s words with navigations themselves” and decide for themselves, using two-color printing to facilitate an intensive reading of the map’s surface, and in the attention that he gave to islands in the Mediterranean, as the Balearic islands off the coast of Spain, where the etching of lines suggest the surrounding seas that hit their rocky shores.
The significance of the line in the medium of engraving has been argued to facilitate the conventions of uniform mapping of terrestrial expanse, allowing engravers to exploit the geometric formats of Ptolemaic mapping in graphic form in particularly expressive ways, the expressive value of the Sylvanus maps derived from their synthesis of conventions of map-making in a continuously readable form–one that created new attentiveness, indeed, to the encryption of information from the surface of the map, both in the map of the world’s surface and the individual tables editors helped prepare for Ptolemy’s treatise.
This must have responded to an increase in what might be called geographic curiosity.
The universal coverage of the maps Sylvanus prepared for Ptolemy’s manual of global geography was constructed from a very local place, and reveals the local availability of island books or isolari in Venice, as well as nautical records of the Mediterranean and Adriatic that were available in abundance in the maritime city, which were carefully integrated within the system of parallels, meridians and equinoctial lines for readers to pour over, with attention to areas like Spain’s Mediterranean coast or Greek islands in the Adriatic, depicted by a similar accuracy reminiscent of charts, as are its inlets and bays.
Sylvanus illustrated the division between Africa and Asia, the origins of the Nile and shores of the newly-mapped Red Sea for readers to consult, probably in relation to available maps, by means of a similar etching of graphic relief:
The material surface of Bernardus’ maps synthesized a range of semiotic conventions that viewers would have been quick to recognize as a combination of a material landscape and a map: one of his Italian readers was quick to include images of the towns in the Marches in the map of Italy and the Adriatic, depicting both the towns of Monterubbiano and Moresco i in ways comparable to the iconic perspective views of cities.
The additions suggest a dramatic increased in the graphic materiality of the map as a pictorial register. Print are allowed men as Bernardus or fellow-engravers and editors of maps in Florence, Rome, and Antwerp to invest the map’s surface with new claims of legibility as a reproducible record. But it is also very possible that Bernardus’ sustained engagement with a project of printing he hoped would be far more successful derived from the prominent status maps already enjoyed in other visual media.
The interest of maps as depictions reflected a deep appropriation of Ptolemy’s instructions to his own second-century contemporaries to craft a map “ad oculorum aspectum commensurabilis“–the transmission of this precept to later mapmakers to create a surface that would appeal to their readers’ eyes, if not also the tacit presuppositions for viewing a continuous space in a detailed and harmonious form.
5. A tradition of fifteenth-century Venetian cartographers had incorporated nautical charts to illustrative or pictorial ends in inventive ways, in attempts to give greater expressivity and comprehensiveness to the Ptolemaic planisphere or nautical chart: a 1448 world map designed with great care by Giovanni Leardo framed by the months of the year and astrological signs (Verona, Bibl. Civ., Ms 3119); Fra Mauro’s famous circular map uniquely synthesized Portuguese charts, a unique matter given that it was in fact commissioned for Portugal’s monarch, without a graticule; it recalls an ellipsoid world map of 1457 constructed on the principles “of cosmographers” without a uniform graticule, and filled with textual legends, fanciful iconography, and perspective city views. None privileged the geometrical order of a uniformly continuous surface or a format of projection from terrestrial cartography, however, or bridged different semantic registers in the manner of Sylvanus’ maps.
The Ptolemaic model provided an authoritative basis to fashion a surface that could be readily scanned as a uniform distribution of expanse by around 1500, and in Venice shifted the attitudes of viewers to mapped space. By the later fifteenth century, the Venetian Senate had commissioned the repainting of territorial maps of the lagoon of Antonio de’ Leonardi from his nephew Sebastian along parallels and meridians by “Ptolemy’s doctrine” that Isabella d’Este and others Isabella d’Este sent painters to copy, marvelling at its proportions and scale. The painted map received praise as “così perfetta nelle sue misure [so elegant and well-proportioned]” that “diversi Principi [several princes]” had commissioned copies of it for their own enjoyment and pleasure before its 1577 destruction, Sansovino boasted among his catalogue of the city’s artistic treasures.[i]
Although the map is now destroyed, and cannot be pictured, it constituted something of a model for the multiple maps now present in the Palazzo Ducale, painted to replace it, and for the maps of the Veneto that Christoforo da Sorte created in its private chambers–as well as, perhaps, Egnazio Danti’s monumental remapping of the peninsula in colored paint. The much-admired peninsular map may have provided a model for integrating the format of nautical charts with maps of geographic content by men like Sebastian Cabot, piloto for the Casa de la Contratacion in Seville who created a new world map–or the map-engraver and engineer Giacomo Gastaldi, who from 1546 synthesized multiple elegant wall-maps that refined cartographical expertise; Gastaldi’s work with the geographer Giovan Battista Ramusio led him to design comprehensively detailed pictorial wall-maps as that of South-East Asia.
But we might also start from the 1511 modern map of the peninsula that Sylvanus designed:
Did this lost expansive painted map of the lagoon that extended to the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian sea, and their islands, provide a model for uniting terrestrial and nautical maps that men such as Bernardus Sylvanus sought to generalize for a larger audience in printed form? The reader of Sylvanus’ printed maps from Fermo sought to make the text his very own, adding his own qualitative views of the cities that he knew, in ways that register a distinct relation to the map as a continuous surface.
When the great cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli mapped the geographical situation of Venice in a broader gulf from the mid-seventeenth century, he described the place of Venice in the expanded gulf in his 1688 global atlas–placing Venice in relation across the Gulf of the Adriatic to the islands of its empire, which bordered on the expanding Ottoman by shifting boundaries, as if to affirm its own domain of the seas that opened along its shores.
As if overseeing an expanse that might be translated into varied scales, the dominion of Venice was defined across maritime expanse, not by territorial bounds, but in the cartouche from which the emblem of the lion of San Marco serenely oversaw its content. From the margins of the map, the winged lion that Coronelli cleverly located in the cartouche that looked over the expanse of the Gulf, overseeing the expanse from beneath its dogal crown, beneath six bars of scale of mapping that alligned each of five standards with maritime leagues.
[i] Gallo, “Le mappe geographiche del Palazzo Ducale di Venezia,” Archivio Veneto ser. V, 32 (1943): 47-54. Sansovino, Venetia, citta nobilissima et singolare (Venice: Iacomo Sansovino, 1581), fol. 122, “era una tavola d’Italia così perfetta nelle sue misure, che diversi Principi ne domandarono l’essemplare.”
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:
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”:
–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.
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“–
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?
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.
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.
We read more maps than ever before, and rely on maps to process and embody information that seems increasingly intangible by nature. But we define coherence in maps all too readily, without the skepticism that might be offered by an ethics of reading maps that we all to readily consult and devour. Paradoxically, the map, which long established a centering means to understand geographical information, has become regarded uncritically. As we rely on maps to organize our changing relation to space, do we need to be more conscious of how they preset information? While it is meant to be entertaining, this blog examines the construction of map as an argument, and proposition, to explore what the ethics of mapping might be. It's a labor of love; any support readers can offer is appreciated!