Monday, 5 November 2012

Things I really like

I'm mostly going to spend this post showing you some cool photos of things that are really inspiring me at the moment.

I’m currently excited about mappae mundi.  Probably the most famous one is the Hereford Mappa Mundi, created around 1300AD and pictured here.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
No, they didn’t think the world really looked like that. The mappa mundi wasn’t a “map” in the sense that we understand the word. In fact the closest term we have today would probably be “infographic” –mappae mundi were visual encyclopedias and typically distorted the landmasses in order to show Jerusalem in the centre of the world (it being the Holy Land, and thus the spiritual centre of the world), with the places farthest away from it out to the edge of the picture. The point of a mappa was to show kingdoms, events, and prominent people from all over the world in one convenient image. Symbolism was more important than accurate geography, which is why you find Jerusalem at the center and the garden of Eden (depicted as a little round island) up top in the east where Jesus is shown as the lord of creation.

This one is the Psalter Map from the late thirteenth century.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

And this one is the Vinland Map, also courtesy of Wikipedia.  It’s either a medieval map showing the part of North America the Vikings visited and called Vinland*, or a sophisticated 20th century forgery.  If you’re interested, Ohio State University has a good and very comprehensive summary of the scientific evidence to date.  It concludes that the map is genuine.  My personal view is that the map is more likely to be genuine than a forgery, but that’s not really the point of this post.  The point is that I want to play with the map.

I want it in relief, with some added extras, because as medieval maps go the Vinland Map is pretty crappy. It's just an outline with some place names and notes. A lot of early cartographers were artists and designed their maps to be visually appealing, but this one is intended to show landmasses for the purposes of navigation and that's it. There's no symbolism in the Vinland Map, and the only story it tells is a story about geography.