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Renaissance Florence and Moder Cartography

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Diego Pirillo

on 12 September 2018

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Transcript of Renaissance Florence and Moder Cartography

Renaissance Florence and the Birth of Modern Cartography
Renaissance Florence and the Birth
of Modern Cartography
1. From Medieval to Modern Cartography
2. Maps and the first Globalization
3. What is a Map?
4. Maps and Power
What is a Map? Mirror or Text?
Geographical knowledge circulated well beyond the West: a copy of Ptolemy's
was translated into Italian by the Florentine humanist Francesco Berlinghieri (1482) and donated to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II.
"For some [Google Earth] signals the end of the traditional print based map industry and the death of paper maps", but on the other hand Google Earth"is part of a long and distinguished cartographic tradition of mapping geography onto commerce that stretches right back to the Renaissance [...] Mapping and money have always gone hand in hand and have reflected the vested interests of particular rulers, states, businesses, or multinational corporations"

(Jerry Brotton,
A History of the World in Twelve Maps
, 2013).
"The usual perception of the nature of maps is that they are a mirror, a graphic representation, of some aspect of the real world [...] In Western culture, at least since the Enlightenment, cartography has been defined as a a factual science. The premise is that a map should offer a transparent window on the world. A good map is an accurate map [...]

There is however an alternative answer to the question 'What is a map?' [...] Far from holding up a simple mirror of nature that is true or false, maps redescribe the world in terms of relations of power [...] They will be discussed as text rather than as a mirror of nature. Maps are text in the same senses that other nonverbal sign systems - paintings, prints, theater, films television, music - are texts [...] Maps are a graphic language to be decoded [...] What I am suggesting is that rhetoric permeates all layers of the map. As images of the world maps are never neutral, or value free or ever completely scientific [...] They are part of a persuasive discourse and they intend to convince"

John Brian Harley,
The New Nature of Maps. Essays in the History of Cartography
, 2001
, world map (1482)
Heinrich Bunting,
The world as a cloverleaf
T-O map, 12th century,
Isidore of Seville,
Medieval worldmap (c. 1265)
Martin Waldseemuller, world map (c. 1507): "the birth certificate of America"
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger,
Queen Elizabeth I
The Ditchley Portrait
, c. 1592).

World map made by the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci for the Chinese emperor Wanli (1602)
G. B. Ramusio,
Navigazioni e viaggi,
Venice, 1556

(America is a new continent and not an archipelago as Columbus believed)
Map made by the Ottoman admiral Piri Reis (1513):
it shows Spain, Western Africa and Brasil
Hartmann Schedel
Nuremberg Chronicle
world map (1493)
Strabo, Greek geographer and historian (60 B.C. - 20 A.D.), author of the
, a treatise of 'descriptive geography' divided in 17 books.
Medieval Cartography: Mapping
(Sacred) Time instead of Space
Maps and Power in Shakespeare's England
The anonymous 'Kangnido' Korean map (1402): the earliest world map from the East Asian cartographic tradition: Europeans were not the only nor the first to explore the world and to study its geography
'As much as guns and warships, maps have been the weapon of imperialism. Insofar as maps were used in colonial promotion, and lands claimed on paper before they were effectively occupied, maps anticipated empire [...] Maps were used to legitimize the reality of conquest and empire [...]
As communicators of an imperial message maps have been used as an aggressive complement to the rhetoric of speeches, newspapers and written texts, or to the histories and popular songs extolling the virtues of empire'

John Brian Harley,
The New Nature of Maps
, 2002
Google Maps Palestine row: why neutrality in tech is an impossible dream
Leigh Alexander (from the Guardian, August 11, 2016
Geography and the Art of War
(The Prince ch.14)
"A prince, therefore, must have no other object or thought, nor acquire skill in anything, except war
, its organization, and its discipline. The art of war is all that is expected of a ruler

So he must never let his thoughts stray from
military exercises
, which he must pursue more vigorously in peace than in war. These exercise
can be both physical and mental.
As for the first, besides keeping his men well organized and trained,
he must always be out hunting
, so accustoming his body to hardships and also
learning some practical geography
...The prince who lacks this knowledge also lacks the first qualification of a good commander. This kind of ability teaches him how to locate the enemy, where to take up quarters, how to lead his army on the march and draw it up for battle, and lay siege to a town to the best advantage"
Cosimo I's Map Room
(Palazzo della Signoria)
2. Florence and the New World:
the recovery of Greek Geography
1. Florence and the New World: Amerigo Vespucci
Maps, Art and Power in Renaissance Florence
Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator (1940).
"One of the most influential contributions to the study of medieval cartography has been the idea that world maps were intended to describe time as well as space. [...] one function of these maps was to give an overview of the world, understood as the theater of human, and especially Christian, history"

Victoria Morse,
The Role of Maps in Late Medieval Society
The Survival of Medieval Cartography in the Renaissance
The Vespucci Chapel in Florence
Maps and their circulation during the 'printing revolution'
"Between 1400 and 1472, in the manuscript era, it has been estimated that there were a few thousand maps in circulation; between 1472 and 1500, about 56,000; and between 1500 and 1600, millions [...] Certainly maps began to serve a huge variety of political and economic functions in society" (and not only in Italy or Europe)

David Woodward,
Cartography and the Renaissance: Continuity and Change
"Just as there is no single, standardised world map, our digital maps take various forms – and it matters who is drawing them and how they’re drawn [...] Google has never actually labeled Palestine, which isn’t officially recognised by the US or much of the west. The swiftness of the backlash, though, is not just about the wish for justice on behalf of an occupied people, but about the belief – now punctured – that our technology is neutral, that it presents an unbiased, infallible version of the world [...] many people don’t know that there is more than one standard Google Maps (or Apple Maps, which doesn’t show Palestine either, or Microsoft’s Bing Maps, which does) depending on where in the world you are. Or that there are different search results for different people, and that those search results can be biased, even discriminatory" .
Renaissance humanists were scholars of ancient languages (mainly Latin and Greek but also Hebrew) who wanted to recover ancient art and culture. To this end they sought in European libraries and then translated and published many ancient texts that were lost during the middle ages. Among them there was not only Plato but also the most important texts of ancient Greek geography
Ptolemy (2 century A.D.), Greek astronomer and geographer, author of the 'Geography,'
a mathematical treatise containing instructions for mapmakers and cartographers on how to draw maps of the known world.

Ptolemy’s most important geographical innovation was to record longitudes and latitudes in degrees for roughly 8,000 locations on his world map, making it possible to make an exact duplicate of his map. Hence, we possess a clear and detailed image of the inhabited world as it was known to a resident of the Roman Empire at its height
Cosimo I's Map Rom in Palazzo della Signoria
Cosimo I's Map Room (Palazzo della Signoria)
At the same time, the entire iconography [...] was a gigantic three-dimensional metaphor of Cosimo I’s rule, emphatically proclaiming the grand duke’s possession of the world both literally and symbolically
[...] For Cosimo I,
the representation of the cosmos had an irresistible appeal as a symbol best synthesizing numerous themes of his political imagery
[...] the cartographic description of the world was conflated, or perhaps coincided, with the emblem of Cosimo’s rule. Medici courtiers, illustrious visitors, and contemporary viewers [...] would not have failed to recognize the cosmography [of the room] as a gigantic emblem of Cosimo or, conversely, would have attributed to Cosimo, because of his name, the symbolic possession of the cosmos"

Francesca Fiorani,
Map Cycles in Renaissance Italy
With the map-room, as he did with many other images and portraits, Cosimo intended to underline his power and authority, justifying the progressive transformation of Florentine republic into a Medici state
Giorgio Vasari,
Apotheosis of Cosimo I
, 1563-1565
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Madonna of Mercy with the Vespucci Family, 1472
in the church of Ognissanti
Amerigo Vespucci, (born 1454?, Florence, Italy—died 1512, Seville, Spain), merchant and explorer-navigator who took part in early voyages to the New World (1499–1500, 1501–02). His
Mundus Novus
The New World
) was one of the most influential account of the American discoveries. It was through this text that Renaissance readers learned about America
1) How can we explain the shift from
Medieval to Modern Cartography?
2) How did Renaissance Florence revolutionize the image of the world and the study of geography?
Maps and Power in the 20th century
Mesoamerican Cartography
The Spanish conquistadores who first traveled into continental America between 1517 and 1521 were amazed at the large cities and complex societies this "New World" held. Many of the high civilizations of pre-Columbian America, the Mayas and Aztecs among them, were concentrated
in the region that coincides with modern-day
Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala

Among their many accomplishments, these cultures of Mesoamerica took the production and use of maps to a level unparalleled elsewhere in the New World. Mesoamerican cartography was a wholly American feat, evolving independently of European, Asian, and African traditions

This indigenous colored manuscript map, painted ca. 1541, shows the foundation of Tenochtitlan, the ancient capital of the Aztec empire, located on site of modern Mexico city

See Barbara Mundy, 'Mesoamerican Cartography'
"In international affairs conflict is taken for granted [...] in Machiavelli there is no notion at all of some universal good; states grow and expand at the expense of each other, and [in antiquity] the triumph of Rome [and the rise of its empire] coincided with the destruction of all the other states. Thus, the use of violence is the rule, and not the exception, - hence, the need to always be well armed"

Marco Cesa,
Machiavelli on International Relations
Machiavelli and International Politics
Cartography and the Islamic World: the Ottoman Empire
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