Maps, Medieval to Modern (Brenna Gibson)

Brenna gave a great presentation on maps, starting with the Hereford map from the 1300s, which centres around Jerusalem with England depicted bottom left. This map features lots of drawings of animals and people, and depicts Biblical events en mythological scenes. We also looked at the Gough map, which was drawn in the 14th or 15th century and depicts Great Britain on its side, with Scotland pointing to the left of the picture. We moved to late 15th century maps looking at Portolan charts. These charts featured sailing directions and would have been put to practical use. We also looked at a 16th century wind chart, which was accompanied by a poem and was designed to help sailors and navigators remember what direction the wind was blowing from. We also looked at a 18th century map of North America, which was based on army surveys and was pretty much factual, even though it does contain snippets of historical information. Finally we looked at a modern map of Antarctica created in the 1920s, which depicts the routes of British naval explorers.

We primarily discussed the older maps, especially the Hereford map and the Gough map. It was interesting to see how the focus of the Hereford map is not on England, even though it was created there. It was discussed how one’s world view is determined by maps – Europeans see the world with their home country as the main focus, whereas the American or Chinese world view is completely different. This is one of these things that you never really think about, until you think about them. We also discussed the Gough map and used the interactive map on the website, looking at the 14th century depiction of Southampton and the surrounding area. Joel also brought a literary map, printed by a company that was testing out new printing techniques and chose to print – among other literary maps – a map depicting the voyage of the Pequod in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

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