08 July 2020
We have come to the fourth and final qualifying group of our British Library world map world cup, and in it we have four extraordinary and breathtaking examples of cartography from between the 11th and 20th centuries. I hope the following descriptions, links and images will provide you with what you need to make your difficult choice.
Vote for your favourite over on Twitter (@BLMaps). The top two maps will go through to the quarter finals tomorrow, Friday July 10th.
1.Beatus of Liébana world map. Drawn in Burgos, Spain, between 1091 and 1109 (Add.MS 11695)
The 15 surviving 'Beatus' maps are included in textual commentaries on the Apocalypse of St John (from the New Testament Book of Revelation) written by the Spanish theologian Beatus of Liébana (fl.776–86). The British Library’s example, arguably more powerful and brooding than the others, is a diagrammatic image with powerful pictorial elements. These include fishes swimming in the sea encircling the world, the‘molehill’ mountains and the unforgettable image of the Garden of Eden at the top of the map, in the east. It was produced in northern Spain (in the monastery of San Domingo de Silos) in around 1109, and as a result reflects Islamic pictorial influences that had spread from northern Africa.
Link to digitised example: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/beatus-world-map
Further reading: Peter Barber, 'Medieval world maps; in Paul Harvey, The Hereford World Map: medieval world maps and their contexts (London: British LIbrary, 2006).
2. The Contarini-Rosselli world map. Engraving, published in Florence in 1506 (Maps C.2.cc.4).
This is the earliest surviving printed map to show any part of the Americas. It was published in Florence in 1506, only a decade or so after Christopher Columbus's first voyage in 1492. The map, which is by the Venetian Giovanni Matteo Contarini and Florentine Francesco Rosselli, has been celebrated for its American content ever since this only known copy was purchased by the British Museum in 1922. But it is an extremely early and partial glimpse of eastern America: Newfoundland and Labrador are shown cemented on to Kamchatka, Cuba and Hispaniola are floating next to Japan, and South America is joined to the vast Southern Continent.
Link to digital copy: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/first-known-printed-world-map-showing-america
3. Aḍhāīdvīpa. Painted in Rajasthan in 1830 (Add.Or. 1814).
This is a map showing the structure of the world of Jainism, a religious system founded in northern India in the sixth or seventh century BCE. The map, which is in Sanskrit, was painted onto cloth in Rajasthan in 1830, and like many of the European medieval mappamundi, it illustrates a fusion of human and sacred geography. At the centre is the recognisable, terrestrial world of people (Mount Meru is at the centre, as it is in the Korean Ch’ ōnhado maps). Surrounding it is the spiritual world: green concentric-ringed continents illustrated by lunar symbols and separated by fish-filled oceans, beyond which is the outer land of the jinas or prophets.
Link to digital copy: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_Or_1814
Further reading: Joseph E. Schwartzburg, 'Cosmological mapping' in The history of cartography volume two, book one: cartography in the traditional Islamic and South Asian societies (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994).
4. Self determination world map, by F. Klimesch. Published in Berlin in around 1919 (Maps CC.5.b.29).
The only 20th century world map to make it into our World Map World Cup competition (not that there aren't many great 20th century world maps, just a mere 16 places to fill), is a German map produced in the wake of the peace treaties following the defeat of Germany and the end of the Great War, 1914-1918. It shows the victorious allies Britain, France, Russia and the USA as soldier figures, holding leashes attached to their respective national beasts. These beasts have been placed over the colonies they controlled.
The title explains why: 'What would be left of the entente if it made serious the right of self-determination of their own people and let go of the reins!' The map calls out the Allies' decision to confiscate German colonies under the principle of 'self determination,' but to retain theirs regardless. Given the century-long process of decolonisation that ensued, and ensues, the map is profoundly and powerfully prescient.
Link to digitised copy: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/was-von-der-entente
22 September 2016
The British Library has recently acquired a most appropriate addition to its map collection: a map of ‘Bücherland’ (Bookland), designed and drawn in 1938 by the German painter and illustrator Alfons Woelfle (1884-1951).
Karte des Bücherlandes
Woelfle’s map was specifically inspired by Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf’s fantasy map of an Empire of Love, ‘Das Reich der Liebe’, issued in 1777 to advertise Breitkopf’s method of printing maps with moveable type. Woelfle used the more conventional form of lithography, but took Breitkopf’s model of creating a fantasy land where the geographical features have an allegorical significance.
Reich der Liebe. From Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf, Beschreibung des Reichs der Liebe, mit beygefügter Landcharte (Leipzig, 1777) 116.l.31]
Together with his publisher, Georg Heimeran, Woelfle clearly had a wonderful time creating Bücherland, which represents the writing, printing, publishing, selling and reading of books through its witty geography. He also added decorative flourishes typical of Baroque design, such as the draped female figure in the bottom left-hand corner holding an open book.
The capital of Bücherland is Officina (‘Printing-House’), in the Vereinigte Buchhandelsstaaten (‘United States of Bookselling’). A separate plan of Officina appears in the top right-hand corner of the map, highlighting such sights as the Boulevard of Mass Editions, the elegant Quarter of Publishers’ Villas and what is, perhaps surprisingly, the only Library in Bücherland. Outside the city the pirate publishers have their building plots.
To the south lie Recensentia, where book reviewers no doubt lurk in the Critical Woods, and Makulatura, the region of waste paper, with its Pyramids of Forgotten Books and where even the Dramatic Volcano is extinct. By contrast, the lyre-shaped southernmost province of Poesia, just below the Tropic of Literature, boasts Blooming Meadows of Fantasy and a Laurel Heath; some fortunate travellers may even scale the Foothills of the Classics to reach the Summit of Fame, although the less lucky could find themselves sinking in the Gulf of Disappointments to the west or wrecked on the Cape of Failed Hope to the east.
Bücherland Poesia detail
Straddling the border of Poesia and the neighbouring Leserrepublik (‘Republic of Readers’) are Castle Platitude and the Commonplaces. Having safely avoided them, travellers can wade through the Erotic Swamp to the Plantations of Bestsellers, and visit such features as the Lake of Popular Editions, the Tents of the Book Clubs and the Urban Literature Mines. However, presumably off-limits to visitors, in the middle of the Republic lies the Forbidden Province – perhaps an allusion to the fate of the many books and authors banned under the Nazis in 1930s Germany.
Bücherland Verbotene Provinz
In the hills on the northern border of the Leserrepublik are the Caves of Bookworms; the map shows a giant worm emerging from one of them. Beyond is the northernmost region of Bücherland, where the Paper River rises at the Fount of Knowledge and travels through the Cellulose Woods, and the Lake of Ink, past the dangerous Ravine of Misprints, eventually reaching Officina and flowing out past Fort Censorship and the Lighthouse of the Publishers’ Association into the Sea of New Publications.
Finally, those wishing to visit Bücherland’s islands can choose between Treasure Island of Adventure Stories and the little archipelago comprising the islands of Unica (with its Bay of Ephemera), Rara and Curiosa.
Although the world of books has changed in may ways since 1938, travellers in the Booklands of today will still find much to guide and entertain them in Woelfle’s map.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies