Local and Regional Cartography in Medieval Europe

Local and Regional Cartography in Medieval Europe


The History of Cartography, Volume 1 (Chicago, 1987)


This chapter covers all terrestrial maps from medieval Christendom that are neither world maps nor portolan charts nor the rediscovered maps of Ptolemy. They are relatively few in number but highly varied in character. They range from maps of the whole of Palestine carefully constructed on a measured grid to a painted picture of three villages and their surrounds on the border of Burgundy; from Francesco Rosselli’s detailed view of Florence to a few sketched lines representing strips in a field in East Anglia. Despite their variety, they have featurein common. Whether they show a large area or a small one, they are all conceived as showing it from above, either vertically or obliquely, viewed from a position often unattainable in reality; this has been taken as de-fining a map for our purpose. These are the products of medieval Europe that are typologically, historically, or conceptually the precursors of the large-scale and topo-graphic maps of the sixteenth century and later. A very few are maps of entire countries: the maps of Palestine, the Matthew Paris and Gough maps of Britain, the maps of Germany and central Europe by Nicolas of Cusa and Erhard Etzlaub. But most are maps of small areas: local maps covering an area, whether a single field or half a province, that would lie within the normal experience of an individual.

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