maandag 26 augustus 2013

The discovery of America in 3 strange maps.

Included in the Penguin edition of the Vinland Sagas (two medieval Viking tales about the discovery and settlement of Greenland and further exploration into the Americas) is a map based on the sagas first created in 1590 by Icelandic teacher Sigurdur Stefansson. There is England, Ireland and islands on the right and Helleland (Baffin Island), Markland (New Foundland) and Skraeling land (Red Indian land, Labrador?) on the left. Greenland is shown as continues with it (pack ice?). It is clearly recognizable from the point of view of present cartographic knowledge.

Now take a look at these two books from the Zorzi codex reproduced in Carl Sauer's excellent book about the first years of Spanish expansion, "The New Spanish Main". They were made in 1525 at the latest and show the way Columbus' brother Bartholomew (and by extension Columbus himself) imagined their discoveries as part of the new cartography. Never able to come to terms with their landing on a new continent, they needed to account for it as outlying islands at the extreme perimeter of East Asia. A passage to the heart of it was only a matter of time. Sauer notes that observers at the Spanish court understood the fallacy at an early point and even at the time these maps were anachronistic.


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