Newsletter 1999: Summer

Welcome to the first annual History of Cartography Project summer newsletter! Our winter newsletters have always focused on providing progress notes to our friends and supporters. Our new summer newsletters will give you a more detailed look at forthcoming books, our research methods, upcoming events in the field, and Project staff.

Cartography in the European Renaissance

We are busy ordering illustrations, checking references, translating manuscripts, researching and writing essays, and recruiting remaining authors for Volume Three, Cartography in the European Renaissance. The volume has three main parts. The first contains introductory material that sets the stage for Renaissance mapping. It includes the changes in mapmaking between the medieval and modern world, what we mean by "Renaissance," the historiography of Renaissance cartography, and the sources available for study. The second part is a collection of interpretive essays that explores pan-European themes in Renaissance cartography such as the nature of cosmographical and celestial maps, the effect of Ptolemy's Geography and other classical models, the changing world view and the resulting influence of religion, natural science, and expanded geographical know-ledge, the technical developments that changed the way map information was gathered and maps were made, the role of maps in governing, and the changes in map production and use (see related article "A New Approach"). The third section contains detailed essays on each of the national traditions of mapmaking, both terrestrial and nautical (and including maps of overseas territories where appropriate), by the Italian States, Portugal, Spain, the German States, the Low Countries, France, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia. We are working toward a publication date in 2003.

The Carta Marina, by Olaus Magnus

Prepared by the Swedish scholar Olaus Magnus over the course of twelve years, the Carta Marina was published in Venice in 1539. This woodcut map on nine sheets was one of the most celebrated and influential representations of the north produced during the Renaissance period. The detail of Finland shown here exemplifies the map's fantastic artistry: reindeer sleighs transport passengers across the ice-bound Gulf of Bothnia, boat-builders ply their trade in the northern region of Lappia, and a battle rages across the ice at the head of the Gulf of Finland. Indeed, the pictorial vignettes are so abundant that the map is accompanied by an alphabetical key that explains the various scenes appearing in each of the nine sheets.

This magnificent map will be discussed in Volume Three of the History of Cartography series by William R. Mead in his chapter on Scandinavian Renaissance cartography.

A New Approach: Interpretive Essays in Volume Three

The third volume of the History of Cartography, which focuses on cartography in the European Renaissance and Reformation, differs from earlier volumes in its hope to define the broad influence and role of maps as authoritative records in Renaissance Europe as well as to explore the expansion of new national traditions and schools of cartography. In order to describe the cultural, social, and intellectual influence that the map gained as a tool and visual icon, the editors and advisory board have consulted a range of scholars who have used maps in their work but whose primary focus has not been carto-graphy. Essay topics such as the role of maps in Renaissance literature, the medieval heritage of mapping and its relation to Renaissance cartography, the religious impulses of mapping in the Renaissance, and the increased political and administrative uses of maps will provide a broad background for the volume as a whole.

Some thirty essays have been commissioned for the volume from leading art historians, historians of science, social and political historians, and literary critics. These interpretive essays are meant to be thought-provoking rather than exhaustive. They will provide a new service to our readers: a way to consider the authority of maps as central to how Renaissance Europeans both saw and imagined the world as an object and subject of representation.  In addition, they will illuminate several levels on which the object of the map can be studied and understood as a form of historical evidence. The section should raise important issues in the history of cartography that will both set a future agenda for research on Renaissance maps and take stock of the growing role of cartography as a way to organize social, political, and cultural space.

Conference Announcement

The University of Wisconsin Institute for Research in the Humanities and the History of Cartography Project will be sponsoring a Burdick-Vary symposium on Renaissance cartography, 6-9 April 2000. The conference will be held on the UW—Madison campus. For more information, please contact Loretta Freiling by phone 608-262 3855, fax 608-265-4173, or mail: UW Institute for Research in the Humanities, 1401 Observatory Drive, Madison WI 53706.

Editing Manuscripts for the History of Cartography

With its goal of serving as a definitive reference work in the field, the History of Cartography strives to uphold the highest standards of scholarly accuracy. We want users of the History to be able to rely on the veracity of all quotations and factual details and to be able to use the footnotes and bibliography as a convenient and accurate guide to primary sources and scholarly works. When an author submits a completed chapter to the History, it is assigned to our manuscript editors, who begin a comprehensive review to ensure the accuracy of the text, footnotes, captions, and appendixes. The first step involves obtaining a copy of all maps, books, and articles cited in the chapter. In most cases, these can be found in the libraries of the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Many sources, however, must be borrowed from other libraries using the excellent Interlibrary Loan Department at the University’s Memorial Library.

Once the books and articles reach the History of Cartography Project offices, full bibliographic information is noted and titles of cited works are checked against those in the chapter. To ensure consistency throughout the History, the names of authors and editors in cited works are made to match the standard entries used in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). After this bibliographical work is completed, we check all references including page numbers, paying particular attention to quotations and verifying that they appear in the places cited and that they follow the precise spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the original. Next, we check all historical individuals discussed in the chapter and compile standard spelling and date information, consulting a variety of reference sources. Finally, we modify all parts of the chapter to conform to Press style following the Chicago Manual of Style, and a fresh copy of the updated manuscript is sent to its author for review and approval. The result is a chapter that reflects the high standards of the History of Cartography.

New Awards

We are pleased to announce that both the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will continue their financial support of the History series. With a new two-year grant, NEH will fund primarily editorial and pre-production work on Volume Three. The Endowment has offered to match up to $135,710 in private donations during this period, so your generosity in the upcoming years will mean a great deal to us.

NSF is sponsoring a three-year research initiative under which Volume Six (Cartography in the Twentieth Century) co-editors David Woodward and Mark Monmonier will be recruiting and mentoring eleven scholars. These scholars will research and write articles that will form the basis of much larger and more fully developed chapters in Volume Six. Our immediate goal is to produce a special issue of a scholarly journal devoted to the history of twentieth-century cartography that will encourage feedback and further interest in this period. (We are fully aware that a comprehensive history such as we have planned for Volume Six is not possible without a body of secondary literature.) Both NSF's Geography and Regional Science Program and its Science and Technology Program are providing funds for this project.

Syracuse University office

Work on Volume Six has proceeded at the Syracuse University office under the direction of Mark Monmonier. Ellen Daniels, a graduate assistant, spent much of this past year compiling a research bibliography on the history of cartography in the first half of the twentieth century. The bibliography focuses on literature in cartography, surveying, and geography, as well as mapmaking and map use.

The bibliography will be useful to the editors as well as to scholars recruited to work on the volume. Next year, Mark hopes to extend the bibliography through 1980. Because the cartographic literature became markedly richer and more diverse during the final quarter of the century, extension of the bibliography beyond 1980 as well as further development and verification for earlier decades will depend heavily on subject-specific searches by scholars working on various aspects of Volume Six.

Interview with Samir Murty, undergraduate researcher

Samir Murty


Samir Murty is a recent graduate of the economics and history programs at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. His senior honors thesis examined variations in the 1482 and 1486 editions of the Ulm Ptolemy atlases and was supervised by David Woodward. Sam's research, funded in part by a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant, has uncovered some interesting aspects of these significant Renaissance atlases, and his findings will be incorporated into David Woodward's chapter on map printing methods in our forthcoming volume on Renaissance cartography. Sam recently spoke with us about his thesis research.

How did this project come about and what was involved?

Can you summarize what you found over the course of your research?
I examined the 1482 and 1486 atlases for their variations in color, print block impressions, and written introductions. In terms of color, I found that there was a good deal more variation within and between the print runs than scholars have previously suggested. The chief cause of these variations seems to be that many of the 1482 atlases were not colored by the publisher but were colored after they were purchased by wealthy clients. Variations in print block impressions were also noted; in fact I have identified fourteen variations that have never been documented. Most variations can be found in the tabulae modernae (modern maps) section of the atlases, which suggests that these maps served a different purpose than the twenty-seven Ptolemaic maps located at the beginning of the atlases. Identifying these print block variations helps place the Ulm atlases in chronological order. Finally, variations can also be noted in the written introductions to the maps. On the verso of most maps are the parts of the eighth book of Ptolemy's Geography that correspond to the maps. Variations in these introductions have been noted by other scholars, but I have found instances where they are identical between atlases. This information also helps place the atlases in chronological order. I hope that my primary research findings will be helpful to others interested in the Ulm editions of Ptolemy’s atlas.
What were your favorite and least favorite aspects of this project?
My favorite part of the whole process was getting the opportunity to meet and discuss my research with curators and librarians all over the United States. I found it very rewarding to share my findings about the Ulm editions with these interested and knowledgeable scholars. To all of these wonderful people who offered their kindness and generosity throughout the course of my research, I extend my sincerest thanks. Very little of this project was tedious or trying, but my least favorite aspect of the research was spending hours studying photographs of the maps in minute detail in order to identify print block variations. That was not a task that I relished, but the results, I feel, were worth the effort.

Recent Media Coverage

On 29 May 1999, the New York Times published an article in its Arts and Ideas section (page A17) entitled "Map Makers Explore the Contours of Power." The article, written by critic-at-large Edward Rothstein, discusses the massive changes in the study of maps over the past 25 years. The History of Cartography series is credited as "the most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken," and it received particular accolades for the three books of Volume Two, which have "broken so much new ground that they are already having an impact."

The History of Cartography Project also received mention in a Washington Post article, "North Is Up?" by William C. Burton, on Wednesday, 9 June 1999 (page H03).

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