Alessandro Zorzi’s sketch maps

En español más abajo

At the latest Map Afternoon of the Brussels Map Circle, I gave a talk on Alessandro Zorzi’s sketch maps. Readers of this blog may remember that I presented several of those maps in an entry last September. Now you will be able to see a more complete description of Zorzi’s work and maps, with high-resolution images from a recently published facsimile. Enjoy!

 

En el último Map Afternoon celebrado por el Brussels Map Circle, di una charla sobre los bosquejos cartográficos de Alexandro Zorzi. Los lectores de este blog quizás recuerden que presenté algunos de esos mapitas en una entrada publicada en septiembre pasado. Ahora podrán ver una descripción más completa de la obra y los mapas de Zorzi, con imágenes de alta resolución tomadas de un facsímil publicado recientemente. Que lo disfruten (eso sí, en inglés).

January 2017 issue of Maps in History

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The January 2017 issue of magazine Maps in History, published by the Brussels Map Circle, has been  mailed out. The PDF will be made freely available after 12 months at the magazine’s website.

The latest issue includes two research articles about the 18th-century detailed mapping of the Austrian Netherlands, a piece of land that roughly corresponds to today’s Belgium. The famous “Ferraris maps” of the 1770s has been the object of a PhD dissertation by Soetkin Vervusts, who has analyzed their production process and their geometric accuracy.  The much less known but earlier and equally fascinating “Villaret map” is presented by Georges Vande Winkel. A comparison of the two sets of maps reveals the dramatic change that the Belgian landscape went through in the roughly 30 years that separate the two cartographic surveys.

The table of contents follows below.

Exhibitions

  • When Italy drew the world – Cartographic treasures of the Italian Renaissance (Alex Smit)

Looks at books

  • Joan Binimelis, Vicenç Mut and the wall maps of Majorca (17th – 18th centuries) (Luis A. Robles Macías)
  • Universal Cosmography according to both ancient and modern navigators by Guillaume Le Testu (Chstiane de Craecker-Dussart)
  • Treasures from the Map Room (Nicholas Boothby)
  • Giovanni Antonio Rizzi Zannoni (Alex Smit)
  • Philippe Vandermaelen, Mercator de la jeune Belgique (Wulf Bodenstein)

History and Cartography

  • Studying the production process of the Ferraris Maps (1770s) and its implication for geometric accuracy (Soetkin Vervust)
  • The Villaret Map (Georges Vande Winkel)
  • Other Villaret Maps (Jean-Louis Renteux)

How I Got Into Cartography

  • Interview with David Raes (Nicola Boothby)

Plus short reports from several other exhibitions and conferences, calendar of upcoming events and much more…

Surveyor and collector Jan de Graeve decorated by Belgian minister

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I am glad to announce that my friend Jan de Graeve received today the Belgian “Ordre de la Couronne” with rank of officer from the hands of Mr Didier Reynders, minister of Foreign Affairs. The ceremony took place at the Royal Library of Belgium, during the Brussels Map Circle’s annual conference.

Among the lifetime achievements for which Jan is being recognized, which include having been president or founder of several societies of surveyors, probably the one that took the most effort was the inscription by UNESCO of the Struve Geodetic Arc in the World Heritage List in 2005. This 19th-century chain of triangulations, which today spans the territory of 10 different states, enabled to measure the Earth’s size with unprecedented accuracy. The UNESCO highlighted that “the common language of science” was the foundation of the multi-national cooperation that Jan managed to put together. In today’s acceptance speech, Jan joked that the main foundation actually was vodka.

An avid collector, in particular of scientific instruments and of old books, Jan devotes most of his time nowadays to reconstructing the scientific library owned by Gerard Mercator, the famous Flemish instrument and map maker of the 16th century.

Certificate of inscription of the Struve Geodetic Arc on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

Latest issue of Maps in History

The Brussels Map Circle publishes the magazine Maps in History three times per year. Issues are mailed to members in print and made available online 12 months after publication at the magazine’s website.

The magazine contains fixed sections and a variable number of articles. The fixed sections are book reviews, news and, since some time ago, an interview with someone who explains “How I got into cartography”.

The latest issue, September 2016, includes three noteworthy articles: a concise account of the recent workshop on the origin of portolans, which was attended by six members of the Circle; a research article on a Dutch map of Cape of Good Hope, and finally a report of a study trip to Rome organized by members of the Circle around the topic of Lafreri atlases (also known as IATO atlases). I envy my colleagues who had the privilege of visiting numerous Italian cartographic treasures and listening to talks by world-class specialists.

The complete table of contents follows below.

Excursions

  • IATO ATLASES Symposium. 4 – 7 May 2016 Academia Belgica, Rome

Looks at books

  • Hautes-Fagnes. Cartographie ancienne. Enseignements des cartes anciennes pour servir l’histoire du haut plateau fagnard et retracer l’évolution de ses paysages (Christiane De Craecker-Dussart)
  • Mapping the Roads – Building Modern Britain (Nicola Boothby)
  • Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) Life · Work · Sources and Friends (Jan De Graeve)
  • The Pre-Siege Maps of Malta, Second Century AD – 1564 (Wulf Bodenstein)

History and Cartography

  • First International Workshop On the origin and evolution of portolan charts (Jean-Louis Renteux)
  • Seller’s ‘Draught of Cape Bona Esperanca’: deliberate Dutch disinformation? (Roger Stewart)

How I Got Into Cartography

  • Interview with Nick Millea (Nicola Boothby)

Primera beca europea de investigación para un proyecto en historia de la cartografía

Version in English

A Portuguese chart of the Atlantic dated 1504. Image uploaded by Joaquim Gaspar to Wikimedia Commons.
Mapa portugués del Atlántico fechado en 1504. Imagen subida por Joaquim Gaspar a Wikimedia Commons.

Un proyecto propuesto por Joaquim Alves Gaspar, investigador del portugués Centro Interuniversitário de História das Ciências e da Tecnologia (CIUHCT), va a recibir 1,2 millones de euros del Consejo Europeo de Investigación (ERC). Es la primera vez que una beca europea se concede a un proyecto de investigación en el campo de la historia de la cartografía.

El proyecto se titula “La carta náutica medieval y de la primera Edad Moderna: Nacimiento, evolución y uso” (“The Medieval and Early Modern Nautical Chart: Birth, Evolution and Use”) y ambiciona crear, en los próximos cinco años, un equipo internacional de siete investigadores para estudiar la génesis y evolución de la cartografía náutica antigua.

El doctor Gaspar, comandante retirado de la marina portuguesa, ha desarrollado desde 2002 una carrera en historia de la ciencia, centrándose en cartas nátucias medievales y del siglo XVI. Ahora tiene 67 años y es miembro del CIUCHT en la Universidad de Lisboa.

El proyecto analizará una amplia muestra de mapas, algunos de los cuales habían sido poco estudiados hasta ahora; por ejemplo, una carta hecha por Luís Teixeira en el último cuarto del siglo XVI que puede ser la más antigua que muestra líneas isogónicas, es decir, líneas de declinación magnética constante, más de 100 años antes de Edmund Halley.

El equipo del proyecto utilizará dos técnicas innovadoras para analizar los mapas, además del estudio histórico clásico. La primera técnica serán los métodos numéricos ‘cartométricos’ desarrollados por Gaspar a lo largo de la última década. La otra será el uso de herramientas ópticas, incluyendo el análisis multiespectral, una técnica que ha sido aplicada recientemente con éxito por otros investigadores para revelar aspectos desconocidos de un mapamundi del siglo XV.

Fuentes:

 

Resumen del proyecto

Of all the technical and scientific developments that made possible the early modern maritime expansion, the nautical chart is perhaps the least studied and understood. This fact is very surprising as it was through those charts that the newly discovered world was first shown to the amazed eyes of the European nations. Although the History of Cartography is a well-established academic discipline and old charts have been examined for many years, their detailed technical study is still in its infancy. What is the origin of the pre-Mercator nautical chart, how charts evolved technically over time and how they were used at sea are all critical questions that remain to be answered.I intend to approach these challenges in a truly interdisciplinary way, by using innovative and powerful tools as a complement to the traditional methods of historical research: analytical cartometric methods, numerical modelling and the examination of the manuscripts through special lighting. By applying these tools to a large sample of charts of various periods and origins, I aim to unveil hidden graphic content related to their construction and use, to characterize their main geometric features, to establish meaningful connections with contemporary navigational methods and exploration missions, and to numerically simulate their construction by taking into account the explanations given in the textual sources. The effectiveness of those techniques has already been demonstrated in my previous studies, such as in the solution of an historical enigma which had been alive for more than a century: the construction of the Mercator projection, in 1569. Now, I propose to handle a broader and more complex set of questions, which has eluded the historians of cartography for even a longer period.The clarification of these issues will have a ground-breaking impact, not only in the strict field of the History of Cartography, but also in the context of the intellectual history at large.

First ever European research grant to a history of cartography project

Versión en español

A Portuguese chart of the Atlantic dated 1504. Image uploaded by Joaquim Gaspar to Wikimedia Commons.
A Portuguese chart of the Atlantic dated 1504. Image uploaded by Joaquim Gaspar to Wikimedia Commons.

A project submitted by Joaquim Alves Gaspar, a researcher of the Portuguese Centro Interuniversitário de História das Ciências e da Tecnologia (CIUHCT), has been granted 1.2 million euros by the European Research Council (ERC). It is the first time that a European grant has been given to a research project in the field of the history of cartography.

The project is entitled “The Medieval and Early Modern Nautical Chart: Birth, Evolution and Use” and aims to create, in the next five years, an international team of seven researchers to study the genesis and evolution of ancient nautical cartography.

Dr. Gaspar, a retired officer of the Portuguese navy, has developed since 2002 a research career in the history of science, focusing on medieval and early modern nautical charts. He is now 67 and is affiliated with CIUCHT at the University of Lisbon.

The project will analyze a large sample of maps, some of which had hitherto been little studied; for example, a chart made by Luís Teixeira in the last quarter of the 16th century that may be the first to show isogonic lines i.e. lines of constant magnetic declination, more than 100 years before Edmund Halley.

The project team will make use of two innovative tools to study the maps, aside from classical historical scholarship. One will be numerical ‘cartometric’ methods developed by Gaspar in the last decade. The other one will be special lightning tools, including multispectral analysis, a technique recently applied with success by other researchers to reveal unknown features of a 15th century world map.

Sources:

 

Project Abstract

Of all the technical and scientific developments that made possible the early modern maritime expansion, the nautical chart is perhaps the least studied and understood. This fact is very surprising as it was through those charts that the newly discovered world was first shown to the amazed eyes of the European nations. Although the History of Cartography is a well-established academic discipline and old charts have been examined for many years, their detailed technical study is still in its infancy. What is the origin of the pre-Mercator nautical chart, how charts evolved technically over time and how they were used at sea are all critical questions that remain to be answered.I intend to approach these challenges in a truly interdisciplinary way, by using innovative and powerful tools as a complement to the traditional methods of historical research: analytical cartometric methods, numerical modelling and the examination of the manuscripts through special lighting. By applying these tools to a large sample of charts of various periods and origins, I aim to unveil hidden graphic content related to their construction and use, to characterize their main geometric features, to establish meaningful connections with contemporary navigational methods and exploration missions, and to numerically simulate their construction by taking into account the explanations given in the textual sources. The effectiveness of those techniques has already been demonstrated in my previous studies, such as in the solution of an historical enigma which had been alive for more than a century: the construction of the Mercator projection, in 1569. Now, I propose to handle a broader and more complex set of questions, which has eluded the historians of cartography for even a longer period.The clarification of these issues will have a ground-breaking impact, not only in the strict field of the History of Cartography, but also in the context of the intellectual history at large.

The other maps by Alessandro Zorzi that you have likely never seen

Versión en español

Zorzi
Zorzi’s sketch map of the New World, as can be seen in henry-davis.com

If you are interested in early depictions of America, you have probably already seen this crude map by Alessandro Zorzi. It has become relatively famous because several scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries traced its origin back to a lost map by Bartholomew Columbus. It shows the New World (“Mondo Novo”) as a big continent connected to Asia, with the Antilles lying somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Some readers may know that this map is not a stand-alone work, but part of a series of sketches found in a codex compiled by Zorzi. In two pages close to the previous one, the following two other maps are found.

Zorzi's sketch map of Africa and "Santa Croce" (nowadays Brazil), as can be seen in www.henry-davis.com
Zorzi’s sketch map of Africa and “Santa Croce” (nowadays Brazil), from the same website.
zorzi-asia
Idem for Asia. Columbus’s name places can be found along the Far East coastline.

In fact, the neat images presented above are not true to reality. Zorzi drew his maps on the margins of a text he himself copied.  A more accurate image of what these maps actually look like is found below. The sketches are intertwined with the text, in this case with a letter written by Christopher Columbus from Jamaica. The maps helped Zorzi get a clearer picture of Columbus’s account. The first students of Zorzi’s maps were unaware of this context, which led to many unfortunate misunderstandings. It is now clear, for example, that these three sketches were most likely not copied from Bartholomew Columbus’s map.

The two latter maps as found on Zorzi's codex (BNCF, BR 234, ff 56v-57r).
The two latter maps as found on Zorzi’s codex (BNCF, BR 234, ff 56v-57r).

What’s more, these three maps are far from being an isolated case in Zorzi’s production. He wrote a lot, hundreds of pages in several codices that are now preserved at Italian libraries. Many of those pages contain geographical sketches similar in style to those shown here. Why have you never seen them then? Because they have been published very rarely, to my knowledge only three times.

The first one was in 1930, when Sebastiano Crino edited a 73-page monograph on Zorzi’s codex. This book can now only be found in a few select libraries worldwide. The second one was the reproduction of just a few pages in Gaetano Ferro, The Genoese Cartographic Tradition and Christopher Columbus (Libreria dello Stato, English trasnlation of 1996). Thanks to a Belgian collector who called my attention to this book, I can now share with you pictures of two of these little-known maps by Alessandro Zorzi.

Africa
Africa and Arabia with south at the top, as usual in Arabic maps. The island of Madagascar carries its Portuguese name: S. Lorenzo. One intriguing detail is that the graduated meridians give a quite accurate value for the longitude of Africa at the equator (33 degrees in reality vs somewhere between 32 and 37 in this map).
Zorzi
A map of Hispaniola (“Insula Spagnola”) on a page of printed text that narrates Columbus’s expedition to the south of the island in search of gold.

Finally, and fortunately, a digital version of the main codices made by Alessandro Zorzi has been published very recently, in 2014, as a complement to the proceedings of a conference entitled Vespucci, Firenze e le Americhe. Eminent Italian historian Luciano Formisano was in charge of editing this CD-ROM. The book and the disc can be purchased from editor Olschki for 53 €.

The great map of Cuba of 1835

Versión en español

Gérard Bouvin, head of the Maps library (Cartes et plans)  of the Royal Library of Belgium, presented at the Map Afternoon 2016 a singular work: the great map of Cuba based on a survey made from 1824 to 1831, and printed in Barcelona in 1835.

It is the first map in which the island of Cuba was depicted with such great detail, particularly the inland regions. It is a monumental work composed of 6 large sheets, as can be seen in the photograph.

Mapa de Cuba de 1835 en Bruselas

Bouvin explained that the main motivation for making the map was a military one: facilitating the defense of the island from potential British or American attacks. For this reason, the Spanish government initially planned to keep the map a state secret, with restricted distribution. However, the need to reimburse the printing costs finally led to the printing of 2,000 copies.

Cartela del mapa.

Several high-resolution scans of this map can be found in the web, for example at the website of the Instituto Cartográfico de Cataluña.

The Holocaust’s maps

Versión en español

Summary of Harrie Teunissen’s presentation at the “Map Afternoon” of the Brussels Map Circle on March 12, 2016.

Nazi Germany gave great importance to maps and spatial studies. However, until recently few historians had taken an interest in the Nazi maps that served to plan and execute the genocide of millions people, mainly Jews.

Harrie Teunissen presented in Bruselas two eerie maps that he has managed to trace and buy. The first one is a manuscript map of the Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw, made by a SS major who drew it over a German military map prepared for the Luftwaffe. The quarter within which Jews were confined is highlighted in purple color, and in the same color there is a succinct legend, “Juden Ghetto”, next to a David star and the signature of the SS. Thanks to a painstaking study, Teunissen has managed to date this map to an exact date of 1940.

Warschau Juden Ghetto map

The second map, in much larger scale, shows the Jewish population that existed in the North-Western Soviet Union (including the occupied countries) before the German invasion of 1941. The map was published in 1942, and the issue shown in the picture is a reprint of early 1943. As Teunissen explained, when this map was published it was already totally obsolete, given that German forces and local militia had already, in the second half of 1941, killed around one million Jews. He wonders therefore what the purpose of the map’s publishers was: identify the localities that had yet to be annihilated? graphically celebrate the ‘work’ already accomplished by the exterminators? He also commented the sad irony that this map is nowadays a valuable historical source for historians to know the distribution of Jewish population prior to 1941, as for some of the represented regions practically no ethnographic maps exist.

Verbreitung Juden Russland

After this striking presentation, I had a short chat with Harrie. He told me that these maps had been received with mixed reactions by different Jewish communities. While some consider them valuable historical sources, others do not want to have anything to do with such Nazi tools of control and propaganda.

In Harrie Teunissen’s website, http://www.siger.org, you can find high-resolution images of these and other maps of the Holocaust; particularly in the pages The Holocaust in contemporary maps and Maps of the Warsaw Ghetto.

MAPAF 2016

Versión en español más abajo

Today I attended the Map Afternoon (MAPAF) organized by the Brussels Map Circle. This is one of the two regular events organized by the Circle every year.

Over one afternoon, the members of the club gather around a big table and each one briefly presents in turn a map or any other cartographic object that he / she has studied, has bought or simply finds curious. I find this format excellent: very flexible and interactive, and it allows members to know each other’s interests and personalities.

This year the meeting was held at the Royal Library in Brussels, and the head of its map library kindly brought a few of its jewels to the meeting.

As time allows I will report here several of the presentations that impressed me the most.

 

Hoy 12 de marzo he asistido a la “Tarde de mapas” (“Map Afternoon”, MAPAF) organizado por el Círculo de Mapas de Bruselas. Se trata de uno de los dos eventos recurrentes que organiza el Círculo cada año.

A lo largo de una tarde, los miembros de esta asociación se reúnen en torno a una gran mesa y cada uno de ellos presenta brevemente un mapa o cualquier otro objeto cartográfico que haya estudiado, adquirido o simplemente considerado curioso. Me parece estupendo este formato: muy flexible e interactivo, permite a los miembros conocerse entre ellos y sus intereses respectivos.

Este año la reunión tuvo lugar en la Biblioteca Real de Bruselas, cuyo jefe de la sección Mapas y planos asistió a la reunión y amablemente trajo algunas de sus joyas.

En los próximos días, según disponibilidad de tiempo, iré resumiendo en este blog las presentaciones que más me impactaron.