Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps
Lecture by Chet Van Duzer
Given at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on May 15, 2014
Chet Van Duzer, author of the recent book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, will trace the history of sea monsters on European maps, beginning with the earliest mappaemundi on which they appear in the tenth century and continuing to the end of the sixteenth century. These sea monsters, whether they are depicted swimming vigorously, gamboling amid the waves, attacking ships, or simply displaying themselves for our appreciation, are one of the most visually engaging elements on these maps, yet they have never been carefully studied. Sea monsters are important not only in the history of cartography, art, and zoological illustration, but also in the history of the geography of western conceptions of the ocean. Moreover, the sea monsters depicted on maps can supply important information about the sources, influences, and methods of the cartographers who drew or painted them. In addition – sea monsters are a lot of fun!
Chet Van Duzer is an Invited Research Scholar at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island, and will return to the Library of Congress to work on special projects in the Geography and Map Division this spring. He has published extensively on medieval and Renaissance maps in journals such as Imago Mundi,Terrae Incognitae and Word & Image. He is also the author of Johann Schöner’s Globe of 1515: Transcription and Study, the first detailed analysis of one of the earliest surviving terrestrial globes that includes the New World; and (with John Hessler) Seeing the World Anew: The Radical Vision of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 & 1516 World Maps. His book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps was published last year by the British Library, and this year the Library of Congress will publish a study of Christopher Columbus’s Book of Privileges which he co-authored with John Hessler and Daniel De Simone. His current book project is the commentary for a facsimile of the 1550 manuscript world map by Pierre Desceliers, which will be published by the British Library.