More Vinland maps and texts. Discovering the New World in Higden’s Polychronicon
By Michael Livingston
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 30 (2004)
Abstract: Over four decades have passed since an antiquarian bookseller brought a medieval map to Yale University Library and set into motion a series of events that would end in a controversy that continues to this day: is the so-called Vinland Map real and, if so, what is its signiﬁcance? This present essay seeks to contribute to the debates over the early mapping of America by investigating the possibility that the Vinland Map (regardless of authenticity) is not the sole visual representation of Norse America, and certainly not the earliest. Rather, the earliest surviving maps of America appear to be a series of T–O derivative maps produced roughly 150 years before the voyages of Columbus as illustrations to Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon. Further, largely ignored descriptions of Vinland can be found not only in Higden’s text, but in four additional texts as well, two of them in the vernacular. These various appearances of Vinland indicate the continuing remembrance or rumour of another land to the west, a record of the New World that demands additional study.