By Joe C. Flatman
Current Science, Vol.86:9-10 (2004)
Abstract: The analysis of maritime scenes in medieval illuminated manuscripts has a long established history dating back to the 19th century. Manuscript illuminations have been used in particular to analyse specific details such as shipping and sea life. But what of the broader picture of the maritime world? Depictions of the maritime environment survive in great number in illuminated manuscripts, and offer an insight into the contemporary perception of this distinctive locale. This broader perspective will be explored in this paper, highlighting common themes and notable absences of maritime imagery, exploring the origins of artists and their inspiration and clarifying the types of volume maritime imagery appears in, and changes over time. In particular, the paper will explore the vexed question of iconographic accuracy, particularly the accuracy of distances and perspective – the geographical sense of the world as depicted in illuminations and how these reflect on medieval cognition, the ‘mental maps’ of sea, land and sky used to guide a mariner to safe landfall.