Maps and Politics (Picturing History)

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The history ofthis mapping ofthe early modern world inevitably invokes scientific narratives ofthe development ofthe discipline ofgeography as an increasingly objective and definitive account of the relations of points and features on the earth's surface to each other. Historians ofboth science and cartography have provided illuminating accounts of the part played by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century geography in shaping subsequent scienti- fic traditions which pursued the ideals of objective, verifiable and dis- interested enquiry.

They have also tended to reify world maps and globes as protoscientific objects divested of any wider social significance, and have limited the ways in which these objects came to be utilized both practically and imaginatively within a range of social situations. It is this utilization of maps and globes which I am concerned with throughout this book.

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To take the reproduction of the terrestrial globe within the Spheres. The tapestry is itself an apparently unfamiliar context within which to represent such a highly specific image. However, in many ways the repro- duction of the globe within it is highly appropriate in terms ofthe cultural status accorded to maps and globes more generally as valuable material objects which were enhanced by their ability to function at different levels ofsocial life.

Like the tapestry itself, they were often utilized by sovereigns such as Joao III for their ability to ratify their owners' claims to imperial authority, to symbolize, or more often than not speculate on, the size, extent and potential enlargement of specific territorial domains. However, such world maps were not simply tools of imperial administration. Like the Spheres tapestry, which mediated a diplomatic rapprochement between the royal households of Habsburg and Avis, they also operated within an elaborate diplomatic economy of gift exchange.

To proffer the gift of geo- graphically precise and aesthetically magnificent maps of the world established not only the indebtedness of the receiver, but also emphasized the power and authority of the giver, who could subsequently be seen to command an unprecedented level of political authority, purchasing power and access to the arcane skills involved in map production. As with the terrestrial globe at the centre of the Spheres tapestry, such maps invari- ably privileged the territories to which their eventual owner laid claim.

They expressed the wonder and excitement of such exotic, commercially tantalizing distant territories whilst also offering a reassuringly sanitized vision of long-distance travel, whose deleterious effects were quietly occluded within lavishly illustrated maps of the known world. The social value accorded to world maps and globes throughout the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was therefore not predicated on their scientific accuracy alone. Whilst they were valorized for their demonstra- tion of learning, they were also valued for their ability to operate within a whole range of intellectual, political and economic situations, and to give shape and meaning to such situations.

In his highly influential treatise De principis astronomiae et cosmographiae published in illus. British Library, London. The utility, the enjoyment and the pleasure of the mounted globe, which is composed with such skill, are hard to believe ifone has not tasted the sweetness of the experience. For, certainly, this is the only one of all instruments whose frequent usage delights astronomers, leads geographers, confirms historians, enriches and improves legists [les legistes], is admired by grammarians, guides pilots, in short, aside from its beauty, its form is indescribably useful and neces- sary for everyone.

Some, either for their owne jorneyes directing into farre landes: or to understand of other mens travailes. To conclude, some, for one purpose: and some, for an other, liketh, loveth, get- teth, and useth, Mappes, Chartes, and Geographicall Globes. Geographical ar- tefacts were therefore not simply passive reflections ofthe expanding social and imaginative horizons of so-called 'Renaissance Man'.

It was through both the image of the map and the globe and their existence as valued ma- terial objects that the astronomers, historians, lawyers, grammarians, travellers, diplomats and merchants invoked by Frisius made sense of the shifting shape of their world. Geographical images such as the one por- trayed on the Spheres tapestry mediated a whole range of social issues, from imperial conflict to commercial expansion. Why is it that it is the image of the globe, rather than a madonna or even an emperor, which be- comes central to an understanding of the meaning behind the whole composition of the Spheres tapestry?

Throughout this book I want to em- phasize that it is precisely upon the figure of the globe, as both a visual image and a material object, that many of the social and cultural hopes and anxieties of the period came to be focused. For if the development of the terrestrial globe was coterminous with the geographical expansion of the horizons of the early modem world, then the intellectual and material transactions which went into its production were also symptomatic of the expanding intellectual, political and commercial horizons of this world.

Both the Spheres tapestry and the globe it depicts were imbued with strikingly new artistic and social values in direct relation to the changing social dynamics of the world which they inhabited. The continually ex- panding horizons of overseas travel and territorial discovery had ramifications beyond the field of geography. The encounters with those territories depicted in the globe within the Spheres produced a whole new range of social and political possibilities, as well as problems.

How were such encounters to be incorporated into contemporary systems of know- ledge? To what extent did they question the veracity of such knowledge? What were the mechanisms by which sovereigns legitimately laid claim to such territories? How were the immense and complex commercial ramifications of such encounters to be marshalled for maximum financial benefit, and what impact would the experience of these commercial ex- changes have on early modern society?

These were the sort of questions which the political elites of the period began to ask, and it was in the shape of material objects such as maps and globes that they looked for 21 answers. These artefacts were perceived and circulated as valuable material objects through which the social practices and political contours of the early modern world were given increasing definition, practically, commer- cially and intellectually.

So, as can be seen in the Spheres, it is wholly appropriate to read the global image as representative of a ratification of the territorial, diplomatic and by implication imperial claims ofJoao III. In this sense the subject of the depiction of the terrestrial sphere within the tapestry is, iconographically, readily readable.

However, the invocation of this sphere and the territories it portrays is at an even deeper level material, the material embodiment of the transactions that were carried out across such territories, transactions which provided the very possibi- lity for the production of this tapestry and the terrestrial globe upon it. The very substance of the materials and knowledges that went into making up the globe stemmed from the territories depicted upon the globe itself and the complex commercial negotiations which went on within them.

The silk which made up the bulk of the tapestry arrived in the Brussels tapestry workshops by overland trade routes which stretched through Central Asia and back into China, routes which were being in- creasingly supplemented by the influx of silk into northern European ports as a result of the establishment of the Portuguese seaborne route to the east, vividly depicted across the tapestry's globe?

The silver and gold which gave the tapestry its glittering aura still reached northern Europe primarily via West Africa, Mozambique and Southeast Asia, all territories prominently marked across the globe as being under Portuguese jurisdic- tion. The brilliant colours which gave the tapestry its compositional definition also emanated from Portuguese transactions throughout South- east Asia which brought back natural products such as vermilion, indigo, myrobalans, lac, saffron and alum, 8 which revolutionized European dyeing techniques, and hence the threads used in tapestries such as the Spheres.

The globe situated at the centre of the Spheres can therefore be read as an object within which such transactions became both subject and substance, a material and visual cipher which appeared to make all these transactions possible. What is even more remarkable about the representation of the globe in the Spheres tapestry is that it painstakingly reproduced the eastern coordi- nates ofcontemporary maps ofthe Portuguese discoveries in the east, such as the so-called 'Cantino Planisphere', believed to have been produced in illus. Like the globe depicted on the Spheres, this Planisphere ren- dered in minute detail the territories encountered by the Portuguese throughout Africa and Asia, and included the coastline of Brazil, discov- ered by the Portuguese commander Pedro Alvares Cabral in , just prior to the map's completion.

Its elaborate finish and highly decorative 22 appearance suggest that it was in fact a copy of the so-called 'Padron Real' held in the Armazemda GuineeIndias the official repository in the Guinea and India Office in Lisbon, on which new discoveries were recorded as soon as information was collated in the light of returning expeditions.

The story of the Cantino Planisphere is symptomatic of the diverse cir- culation of maps and, from the first decades of the sixteenth century, globes, throughout the early modern world. Ercole d'Este clearly valued it as perhaps the most comprehensive and up-to-date visualization of the Portuguese seaborne discoveries. However, the possession of an object which more than any other cultural artefact represented geographically and culturally distant phenomena also appeared to gave Ercole access to a deeper, more intangible level of learning and authority inscribed in the Planisphere's mastery of the terrestrial world.

As with the depiction of the celestial world contained within the Spheres tapestry, comprehensive knowledge of the terrestrial sphere inferred a level of mystical power and authority which legitimated claims to mastery of more esoteric and celes- tial realms. Possession of decoratively elaborate and aesthetically magnificent maps such as the Cantino Planisphere empowered their owners in making a series of claims to both worldly and other-worldly authority.

In the introduction to his version ofPtolemy's Geographia, pub- lished in Florence in , the Florentine geographer Francesco Berlinghieri of whom more later argued that the discipline of geography and its visual manifestation, the world map Its truth and greatness declared, we may circle all or part of it, pilgrims through the colour of a flat parchment, around which the heavens and the stars revolve. Invariably it was the more pragmatic considerations of trade and diplo- macy which provided the immediate impetus for the production of maps 23 such as the Cantino Planisphere.

The rhetoric of mysterious power and authority which possession of the map enabled its owner to produce ex- emplified in Berlinghieri's poetic account ofthe importance ofgeography , ultimately found its equivalence in the political and commercial dynamics which fuelled the production of such maps.


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An artistically cultivated but also politically astute figure like Ercole d'Este was as keen to possess a map such as the Cantino Planisphere for what it could tell him about the extent of Portuguese interpolation into the spice trade of Southeast Asia, as he was eager to possess the more esoteric powers which its mysterious aura conferred upon him. The map itself is studded with references to the mar- kets and commodities ofBrazil, West Africa, the Red Sea and India. Above the Portuguese trading stations established in Guinea on the west coast of Africa, the Planisphere notes that from here II Near Sumatra a legend reads: This island called the Toporbana is the greatest island found in the whole world and richest in everything, to wit, gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and very big and fine rubies and all kinds of spices and silks and brocades, and the people are idolators and well disposed and trade with foreigners and much merchandise is taken from here abroad and other merchandise which is not in this island is brought in.

The aura they exuded was undoubtedly mysterious and other-worldly for many of the people who possessed them; but this aura was also pervaded by a much more acquisitive and commercial ethos with which the development of maps and globes of the period was inextricably entwined. The first known terrestrial globe was made by the Nuremberg merchant Martin Behaim, who produced his so-called 'erdglobus' in as a result of his sustained commercial activities along the coast ofWest Africa whilst based in Lisbon throughout the s illus.

Like the Cantino Plani- sphere, which appears to be indebted to Behaim for much of its information on geography and trade, Behaim's globe was covered with a profusion ofcommercial notes on market-places, goods worth purchasing, local trading practices and the movement ofcommodities which give little doubt as to the audience to which it was addressed. As such maps and globes increasingly became part of the expanding commercial world of the period, they themselves became exchangeable objects caught up in new and highly elaborate forms of commercial transaction.

Trading Territories Mapping the Early Modern World Picturing History | Geography | Science

From the end of the fourteenth century maps and sea charts were being exchanged by merchant-cartographers for consignments of pepper,13 and by the begin- ning ofthe sixteenth century possession ofa map was often metaphorically and financially compared to the purchasing of the spices, pepper, silk and precious metals to which it appeared to give directional access. In the English took a Portuguese carrack off the Azores laden with goods from as far afield as China; the English geographer Richard Hakluyt recorded with wonder that the cargo included 'spices, drugges, silkes, calicos, quilts, car- pets', not to mention pearls, musk, civet, porcelain, furs and bedsteads.

But above all, Hakluyt recorded with delight the discovery amongst the cargo of a map of the Portuguese trading regions I4 For Hakluyt, the discovery of the precious map and the navigational and hence commercial possibilities which it promised inspired even more wonder and excitement than the exotic and precious commodities cap- tured on board the carrack.

The map was even more prized for its promise of offering the English themselves access to territories which would yield such fabulous commodities. The value of maps and geogra- phical information such as that described by Hakluyt therefore took on the more strictly commercial ethos of such goods, as the market-place of sixteenth-century Europe grew in size and complexity.

Maps and globes visualized the changing world to people like the English who had been re- latively peripheral to the great discoveries of the preceding decades, a changing world which, as Hakluyt suggests, was driven by commercial im- peratives. The maps, sea charts and globes of the period performed a dual func- tion. Not only were they displayed as confident imperial symbols of the power and authority of sovereigns likeJoao III and Charles V when laying claim to territories, or even trading in those to which they claimed posses- sion.

They were also highly complex objects which were symptomatic of the more pragmatic diplomatic and commercial exchanges between em- pires. These empires were characterized by their opportunistic existence as trading territories eager to expand the range of their commercial influ- ence within geographically distant places. However, these were far-flung territories over which the empires had little ability to seriously establish anything like the regimes of colonial power and authority which were to characterize the developments of the proceeding European empires of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

It becomes clear that the value of the decorative world map and its spherical corollary, the terrestrial globe, developed, as Frisius noted, primarily through the sheer diversity of situations within which they came to give meaning to the social lives of those people who increasingly used them within the worlds of trade, com- merce, art, diplomacy and imperial administration.

New Worlds, Old Worlds Hakluyt's purloined Portuguese map, the similarly appropriated Cantino Planisphere, and the globe represented on the Spheres tapestry all exhibit not only the diverse range of situations within which the geographical image as material object comes to achieve its social value. They also have in common a geographical focus on the territories to the east of what we would today call western Europe, the so-called 'Old World' of central Europe, Africa and Asia prior to the 'discovery' of the so-called 'New World' by Christopher Columbus in This study deliberately focuses on the redefinition of this Old World rather than the impact of the New World.

It does so for two specific reasons. Firstly, the impact ofthe discov- eries in the New World on the imagination of early modern Europe was a much slower process than has often been believed. News of these voyages was invariably partial and contradictory, and the territories discovered were for many years perceived as simply extensions of those of Southeast Asia by commentators reluctant to believe in the existence of a distinct fourth continent Columbus never subscribed to the belief that he had in fact discovered a separate continent.

For many early modern sailors, geo- graphers, diplomats, merchants and monarchs the central political preoccupations of the period remained resolutely fixed on the conflict over possession of territories, monopolization of trade routes and estab- lishment of commercial centres throughout the coastal territories of the eastern Mediterranean, West and East Africa, Southeast Asia and the east- ern Indian Ocean. Secondly, the narrative of the discovery of the New World resonated within the western imagination in a manner dispropor- tionate to its apparent impact on the culture of early modern Europe.

The stories of cultural encounters with the east lack the immediacy and vividness of the originary dramas of discovery offered in the accounts of the New World, partly because these encounters had been ongoing for centuries before the discovery of America. Anglo-American scholars of the early modern period have also, to differing degrees, embraced a dis- course of Orientalism which has created and naturalized the assumption of an East, or so-called 'Orient', as a mysterious, exotic, dangerous and ul- timately atavistic place.

One of the consequences of this critical marginalization has been the elision of the impact of so-called 'eastern' 26 elements on the Renaissance, one of the most crucial and arguably defini- tive periods of western European civilization. Traditionally the Renais- sance, with all its politically loaded connotations of the 'rebirth' of a selec- tively Aryan set ofGraeco-Roman values, transmitted via a reified classical world, has been expunged of any potentially disruptive 'oriental' com- ponents or influences.

The encounters recorded by the Portuguese, and subsequently the English and the Dutch, as they sailed down the African coast and onwards into the Indian Ocean, stretch from the fifteenth century to well into the early seventeenth, and indicate a level of negotiation and transaction in a variety of social, cultural, commercial and political exchanges which cannot be adequately explained within the logic ofa much later model of the development of the discourse of coloni- alism.

As the locations marked across the globe of the Spheres tapestry indicate, the footholds of early European maritime advances throughout the Old World were highly tenuous coastal locations, ports and key towns which invariably defined rapidly chosen points ofcommercial contact and exchange. Whilst these forms of transaction and exchange preceded later European practices of plantation and colonization, their ethos was signifi- cantly different.

What needs to be stressed here is not that these early modern transactions did not lay the foundations upon which later prac- tices of colonization developed, but rather that the territories were perceived by the Portuguese and their immediate successors as possessing cultural and commercial agency which has been denied them by subse- quent colonial accounts of their historical status. It is in direct opposition to this perception of a sweeping overview of the wider development of European colonial history that this study defines itself. Furthermore, the intrepid figure of Renaissance Man does not seem to have ventured across such enormous distances primarily in curious pur- suit of new horizons of learning and understanding, armed with an innately superior sense of his identity and 'civilizing' mission.

On the con- trary, he encountered distant territories as potentially lucrative markets for new commodities which Europe sorely lacked, and for which both he and his fellow voyagers could rapidly create an eager demand back home in the marts of northern Europe. Early voyagers soon became aware of the lim- itations of European commodities; when the Portuguese commander Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut in southern India in , after the first momentous crossing ofthe Indian Ocean by a western European, his gifts to the Samorin of Calicut were considered so poor next to the spices, silks and precious metals which surrounded the ruler that local Muslim mer- chants advised him to refrain from offering the gifts, lest the samorin should take offence.

The Portuguese came from the sea and apparently lived in ships; in India, only those who were so poor that they could not afford their own patch of land would think of going to sea and living on ships. Ultimately they also offered a highly sanitized version of the exchanges between trading territories throughout the Old World. In seeking to address the critical, cultural and geographical occlusion of what has come to be naturalized as 'the East' within the coordinates of a developing global geography, it should be remembered that the geogra- phical antecedents of the geographers of the early modern world lacked any perception of a directional 'east', or even of the very distinction be- tween the geographical and symbolic concepts of 'west' and 'east'.

This becomes clear in a brief consideration of the predominant geographical traditions which informed late medieval thought. In attempting to define the shape and scope of geographers' perceptions prior to the voyages and discoveries ofthe late fifteenth century, it should be recalled that medieval and early modern geographical thinking was incredibly diverse and con- tradictory, and in no way cohered as a single body of knowledge.

It is not within the scope of this study to provide a comprehensive overview of these varied conceptions of geography. However, I would like to examine, albeit briefly, two particularly visible strands of thought which became in- creasingly definable throughout the fifteenth century, in order to trace the ways in which they conceptualized the geographical coordinates of the classical and medieval worlds, and see how these coordinates were gradu- ally redefined by the maps and globes of the sixteenth century. The first particularly dominant cartographic tradition which encapsu- lated the medieval world picture was the so-called 'T-O' map illus.

Historians ofcartography have traced its emergence to the Ionian philoso- phers of the fifth century Be. However, its development as a cartographic image throughout later centuries gradually took on a decidedly Christian 28 I I Zaccaria Lilia, 'T-0' world map, , woodcut. Running from left to right the Tanais Don and Nile rivers form the crossbar of the T, whilst the Mediterranean represents the downstroke.

A geographical embodi- ment of the Christian cross itself, this highly schematic map placed Jerusalem at both its geographical and symbolic centre. However, this was a centre which clearly defined itselfprimarily in terms ofthe territories which today would be defined as 'eastern', but which were, within the or- ientation of the T-O map, apparently 'northern'. It was these territories, usually marked on the map as 'Asia', which encapsulated both the hopes and the deep-seated fears of Christian thought and belief.

The location of the terrestrial paradise was invariably at the top of such maps and thus at the limit of the known world, which was fixed at the furthest edges of Asia. However, the vast, distant spaces ofAsia also yielded their own pecu- liar terrors. The savage tribes ofGog and Magog, whose emergence on the Last Day would, it was believed, herald the end of the world, were located deep in the region.

The impact of printing throughout Europe towards the end of the fif- teenth century made the simple design of the basic T-O outline a particularly attractive image to reproduce in early books, particularly as it circumvented many of the technical problems associated with unifYing images and printed texts. However, the increasing visibility of the T-O image in late fifteenth-century texts failed to reflect the increasing diversi- fication this basic image was undergoing, a diversification which began to emerge in the enormous circular mappae-mundi world maps of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

These maps were not printed but were lavishly decorated manuscripts, commissioned to adorn the walls of courts and churches. Whilst they retained the directional coordinates of the T-O map, they increasingly registered the proliferation of diplomatic, commercial and territorial information garnered from innumerable travel- lers who reported on the territories to the directional east of mainland Europe.

Whilst still ostensibly adhering to the religious principles underpinning the symbolism of the basic T-O map, evidence which still exists recording the production and reception of these mappae-mundi suggests that their central preoccupation was not just with the territories positioned at the top of the map Africa and Asia , but was also with the exotic, precious goods which came from them.

As well as incorporating recent Portuguese and Italian travels and voyages along the west coast of Africa and into Central Asia, Fra Mauro's mappa-mundi also reproduced in some detail the traffic in spices and pepper throughout the Indian Ocean: Java minor, a very fertile island, in which there are eight kingdoms, is sur- rounded by eight islands in which grows the 'sotil specie'. And in the said Java grow ginger and other fine spices in great quantities, and all the crop from this and the other [islands] is carried to Java major, where it is divided into three parts, one for Zaiton [Chang-chow] and Cathay, the other by the sea of India for Ormuz, Jidda and Mecca, and the third northwards by the Sea of Cathay.

Mappae-mundi therefore operated as vast visual encyclo- paedias,2 3 which offered their patrons a privileged and highly flattering perception of their place in an expanding world, as well as reflecting their particularly acquisitive commercial and political agendas. In the summer of Baldassare degli Ubriachi, a wealthy Florentine merchant, com- missioned four such imposing mappae-mundi from two eminent geographers based in Barcelona: Jafuda Cresques and Francesco Becaria.

He intended to take the maps with him on a business trip to sell his precious wares at the courts of Aragon, Navarre, Ireland and England, and to present them to the regents of the provinces in the hope ofobtaining rights offree passage and trading privileges throughout their realms. No record exists as to whether or not Ubriachi delivered these expensive and carefully executed maps. However, it seems clear from the records concerned with the com- missioning ofsuch mappae-mundi that they served a dual function.

As well as being magnificent visual encyclopaedias designed to reflect the social prestige of the select few like Ubriachi who were able to summon the wealth and intellectual awareness to commission such objects, the maps were perceived by those who commissioned and possessed them to be co- extensive with the precious, rare and unique jewels and gems alongside which, in the case ofUbriachi, they travelled. Mappae-mundi were to be found throughout the churches and courts of fifteenth-century Europe, vividly mediating the relationship between the celestial and the terrestrial, reflecting not only the piety but also the wealth and worldliness of those who were able to commission such imposing ar- tefacts.

However, as the wealth of information which informed the production of mappae-mundi such as Fra Mauro's strained the confines of the standard T-Oshape, the influence ofthis image came under increasing pressure with the growing authority in centres oflearning throughout Italy of the second predominant geographical tradition which emerged in late fourteenth and early fifteenth-century Europe: Claudius Ptolemy's classi- cal text, the Geographia.

Ptolemy produced his Geographia in Alexandria in the second century AD. Enormous in its scope, it listed descriptions and locations of, and distances between, over 8, places known to Ptolemy and his contemporaries, as well as offering an account of how to draw maps of the regions described.

Greek copies of the Geographia from thir- teenth-century Byzantium transcribed its original descriptive chapters and for the first time added maps of the territories described by Ptolemy. By the fourteenth century, Greek copies of Ptolemy's text were arriving in 3 1 Italy primarily from Byzantium, along with the works of a whole host of classical Greek and Roman writers such as Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, which were copied and translated by humanist scholars eager to apply the philosophical and scientific lessons of ancient thinking to the rapidly changing world of early modern Europe.

Although the Geographia rejected the symbolic coordinates of the T-O map, it still focused on the supposed 'eastern' territorial sweep ofthe sche- matic T-O image. The geographical scope of this world picture, known as the oikoumene, stretched from India to the east and Gibraltar to the west, and from the steppes of Central Asia in the north to Ethiopia in the south illus. However, unlike the medieval mappae-mundi, what was signifi- cantly different about the emergence of Ptolemy's representation of the known world was its conceptualization in terms of geometrical rather than symbolic principles.

The world maps which were subsequently drawn up on the basis of his calculations on the size and shape of the oi- koumene were therefore emplotted across a predetermined geometrical grid of latitude and longitude whose guiding force was the principles of abstract geometry rather than those of Christian symbolism, which had defined the contours of the T-O map, and, to a lesser extent, medieval mappae-mundi.

Within this spatially determined grid fifteenth-century geographers were able to plot a proliferation of locations across terrestrial space which was no longer circumscribed by the principles of Christian belief. The perception ofterrestrial space envisaged by Ptolemy's text certainly revolutionized early modern perceptions of geographical space, a legacy which has influenced the discipline of geography to this day.

However, the preoccupations which shaped the initial emergence and production of the Geographia suggest that it was primarily seized on as a text which offered its predominantly Italian audience an intense and visually arresting engagement with the classical worlds of Greece and Rome. This com- merce with the ancients took on both an intellectual and geographical shape, as the scholars and their patrons fashioned the imaginative and to- pographical landscape of a classical world brought nearer, in both ideal and territorial terms, in the maps produced on the basis of Ptolemy's cal- 3 2 culations.

Sequential regional maps of his oikoumene were carefully repro- duced by fifteenth-century illuminators, whose beautifully executed maps offered their owners an insight into the geographical extension of their own contemporary world, mediated through the enduring shape of the Graeco-Roman classical world picture. However, this classical world in- voked by the intellectual transactions which saw Ptolemy's text increasingly reproduced in fifteenth-century Italy was, in fact, far more heterogeneous than many commentators have suggested.

The frontispiece to the Greek scholar Cardinal Bessarion's magnificently illuminated Greek copy of the Geographia, dated around , is indicative of this intellectual heterogeneity illus. The illustration depicts Ptolemy himself, in the midst of a fabulous landscape of exotic and sumptuous architecture.

Richly dressed in an ermine-lined cloak ofIslamic design, the ancient geo- grapher holds an astrolabe, an instrument designed to measure the altitude of the sun, moon and stars, and which no self-respecting scholar of geography or navigation would be without.

To the right we see Ptole- my's study, represented as a typical fifteenth-century studioIi, crammed with the paraphernalia of the fifteenth-century geographer. As well as an- other astrolabe hanging from the wall we can see a quadrant also used for measuring altitude and two torqueta elaborate instruments designed to measure the comparative coordinates of both celestial and terrestrial spheres. Richly bound manuscripts are artfully scattered throughout the studioit' and, along with the array of scientific instruments, emphasize the esoteric erudition and arcane learning embodied in figures like Ptolemy and his fifteenth-century disciples.

The power and authority accorded to such savants is here based on the tangible recovery of the knowledges of the classical world. However, the material substance of this process of in- tellectual recuperation envisaged in the illustration suggests a more heterogeneous process of cultural transmission.

The Islamic influence ap- parent in Ptolemy's cloak is also reflected in the range of cosmographical and navigational instruments prominently displayed throughout the illus- tration. Both the astrolabe and torquetum were products of Arabic scientific research which emanated from centres of learning such as Cairo and Seville from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,2 7 as did many of the geometrical and astronomical manuscripts which had such a profound in- fluence on geography and mapmaking in late fifteenth-century Europe - the same sorts of manuscripts that we see scattered throughout Ptolemy's studioIi in Bessarion's copy of the Geographia.

As Bessarion's Ptolemy emphasizes, the Geographia did not just define a territorial orientation focused on the east and the geography of the classi- cal world. Its transmission also exemplified the ways in which intellectual and material exchanges between the evolving space of early modern 33 Europe and a classical world which included Arabic and Islamic influences became vital to the intellectual definition of fifteenth-century Europe.

As can be seen from the intellectual and material commerce enacted in Bes- sarion's copy of Ptolemy, and as with the representations of geographical space in both T-O and mappae-mundi traditions, the distinction between a Europeanized 'west' and an Orientalized 'east' is a retrospective divide which makes little sense when trying to trace the cultural exchanges which came to define the shape of the early modern world. The suppo- sedly 'western' world of Europe actually defined itself as coextensive with, rather than in contradistinction to, the classical world of the east, whatever its intellectual and cultural dimensions.

Intellectual recognition and respect, political power and authority, commercial wealth and success all appeared to stem from contact with these 'eastern' territories, whose myriad riches appeared to be encapsulated in lavishly illustrated copies of texts such as the Geographia. Ptolemy's maps defined the territorial land- scape across which such transactions took place.

However, this was a landscape which was not only confined to fifteenth-century Italy. As we shall see in more detail, the court of the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II pos- sessed Latin copies of Ptolemy's Geographia, as well as actively encouraging further research into the text in Arabic. This visible participa- tion of the Ottoman court in the establishment ofthe Geographia as such a founding text ofearly modern geography is indicative ofthe ways in which not only the territories ofthe so-called east, but also its material wealth and its valuable knowledges were central to the definition of both the geogra- phical and intellectual contours ofearly modern Europe.

What might now be called 'the East' was not a mysterious, distant space for the geographers of the period, but was in fact one from which they drew intellectual and material sustenance. No text more vividly personified this process than the development of Ptolemy's Geographia, a text which retained the marks of its hybrid cultural emergence between Christian west and Islamic east, rather than defining the social and cultural separation between the two cultures. It is clearly impossible to neatly separate out the visual and intellectual development of the T-O, mappae-mundi and Ptolemaic traditions within the complicated history of late medieval geography.

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However, it becomes clear that these diverse traditions defined certain geographical parameters within which the mapping of the known world began to achieve a consen- sual social definition. For all of these geographical traditions, the east was not a separate, mysterious space antithetical to the developing ideals of European civilization.


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  • On the contrary, this space which today would be referred to as 'the East' was filled with myriad territories from which early modern scholars imbibed spiritual, intellectual and material suste- 34 nance. It is not within the bounds of this study to account for the ways in which this situation changed and redefined itself through the powerfully divisive discourse of Orientalism, which has been so elegantly analysed by Edward Said.

    It is the impact of this new technology on the field ofgeographical production which should nowbe considered in looking at the ways in which print began to redefine the geographical shape and social status of maps towards the end of the fifteenth century.

    Printing the World It was a sign of the influence and intellectual authority which manuscript copies of Ptolemy's text had upon the elite of fifteenth-century Europe that it was the Geographia which became one of the most prominent texts to be reproduced within the revolutionary new medium of print. It was symptomatic of the importance and prestige ac- corded to the text that the Bologna edition of the Geographia was also one of the first printed books to contain engraved illustrations. Much has been said about the impact of the invention of printing on literacy and ways of reading, but less has been written about the equally momentous impact of print upon the circulation and communication of visual information within areas such as science, engineering, botany and, ofcourse, geography.

    The consequences of this innovation, for both the status of maps and their subsequent percep- tion amongst the elites of late fifteenth-century Europe, were profound. Printed editions of Ptolemy like the Bologna Geographia invariably ran to copies which, although still incredibly expensive, began to create a book-buying community across the city-states of western Europe who became increasingly familiar with the Ptolemaic world picture as it 35 12 World map from Ptolemy, Geographia, Bologna, The new technologies ofprint culture also allowed for an increasing diversity and complexity in the field of geographical repre- sentation.

    The advent of both the rolling press and line-engraving on copper plates allowed for not only more uniform and efficient mass repro- ducibility ofimages, but also for finer detail in the delineation ofthe wealth of territories recorded in Ptolemy's work. The use of the technique of copper-engraving in the illustration of maps offered a sharper and more detailed printed impression than the woodcut, and also allowed for detail to be added as new discoveries began to be made. Ptolemy's Geographia, with its wealth of place names and precise delineation of coastlines and islands, was not only a prestigious classical text deserving its transmission into the new medium of print.

    It was also a highly formal technical chal- lenge to the printers and engravers of the new printing presses, who were eager to exhibit their skills in integrating visual information and written text into one carefully crafted book. As a result, they began to establish new vocabularies in their symbolic representation of both land and sea. The subsequent search for standardization in the visual language of carto- graphy allowed for a level of geographical classification, definition and comparison which had been hitherto impossible with the unique and un- reproducible manuscript.

    Such classificatory possibilities were increased by the speed with which the medium of print came to dominate the field of geographical produc- tion towards the end of the fifteenth century. Within just ten years of its initial publication in , no fewer than six new editions of Ptolemy's Geographia had been printed in Rome, Florence and VImas well as Bolog- na, a testimony both to the popularity of the text and the success which the new medium of print had achieved throughout southern and northern Europe. It has been estimated that of the printed maps published up to the year , at least half were directly based on Ptolemy's writings.

    Whilst wealthy patrons of geography continued to covet lavishly illustrated manuscript volumes of texts such as the Geographia, they became increasingly aware of the need to acquire printed editions as well. Possession of a unique manuscript copy of the Geographia signified the wealth and power of a patron's ability to commission such an expensive object. However, it rarely moved beyond the confines ofhis studioIi, a con- spicuous symbol of consumption imprisoned within the confines of its own precious uniqueness.

    The printed Ptolemy, however, shared a com- munity of elite readers and commentators who built their discourses of geographical awareness around their ability to cross-reference geographi- cal nomenclature which was being increasingly standardized within the latest printed editions. Wealth and conspicuous consumption could be displayed in the possession of a manuscript copy of Ptolemy, but intellec- tual awareness and politic acumen were even more foregrounded in the study of a printed copy.

    Wealthy patrons and power brokers such as Fed- erigo Montefeltro and the d'Este family were quick not only to commission new manuscript texts but also to allow their names to be asso- ciated with new printing initiatives within the field. The establishment of such a widening community of readers also af- fected the social and cultural status of maps and atlases like the Geographia. Whilst the printed copy gradually lost its status as a unique object, its publishers and readers soon realized that such an infinitely re- producible, standardized text produced an imagined community who were beginning to construct their geographical knowledge around their understanding of such printed texts.

    As the dynamics of print culture began to dictate the intellectual development of geography throughout 37 the sixteenth century, the printers, engravers and geographers of the period began to market their products as valuable commodities which connected a highly disparate collection of scholars, diplomats, merchants and even monarchs scattered across the city-states of early modern Europe. The success of the great cartographers of the mid-sixteenth cen- tury, and in particular Abraham Ortelius and Gerardus Mercator, with whom this study concludes, was based as much on their adroit manipula- tion of the medium of print as it was on their ability to fuse the classical geography of Ptolemy with the latest seaborne discoveries made through- out the period in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

    In the 'Address' to his highly influential Theatrum Orbs Terrarum published in Antwerp in illus. Others there are who when they have that which will buy them, would very willingly layout the money, were it not that by reasons of the narrownesse of the roomes and places, broad and large Mappes cannot so be opened or spread, that every thing in them may easily and well be seene and discern'd This I having oft made triall of, I began to bethinke my selfe, what meanes might be found to redresse these discom- modities, which I have spoken of, and either to make them somewhat lesse, or, ifpossibly it might bee, to take them all cleane away.

    And at length me thought it might be done by that meanes which we have observed and set downe in this our booke, to which I earnestly wish that every student would affoord a place in his Library, amongst the rest of his bookes. How- ever, Ortelius' rapidly printed and distributed Theatrum could advertise its comprehensive collection of knowledge, drawn from an extensive body of geographers and antiquarian scholars who were united in their relation- ship to the medium of print and brought together in one highly marketable commodity: the atlas.

    I am certain that this work ofyours will always remain saleable, whatever maps may in the course of time be rep- rinted by others. This was a compre- hensive collection of maps and geographical descriptions collected together in one portable book which was reproducible on a mass scale. This was an atlas which was an attractive material object which could be proudly displayed in a library, but which was also made even more valuable and coveted for the specific geographical knowledges it contained.

    It was these knowledges which, as will become clear, were to be of particular commercial and political use to the diplomats and merchants who eagerly purchased their copies of the Theatrum. Like its medieval manuscript pre- 39 decessor the mappa-mundi, the Theatrum was a vast geographical encyclo- paedia. But if the esoteric aura of mystery and secrecy associated with the mappae-mundi appeared to be on the wane with the development of printed atlases such as the Theatrum, these atlases were to some extent re- invested with an aura of value equivalent to the access which they seemed to allow to a community of figures of power and influence who increas- ingly defined their geographical frame of reference through texts like the Theatrum.

    However, this rapid development of a highly sophisticated printed car- tographic tradition did not automatically lead, as has often been assumed, to a complete dismissal ofearlier traditions, and in particular those exem- plified by the Geographia. Both Mercator and Ortelius were instrumental in reshaping the global picture created by Ptolemy into a more recogniz- ably modern image. Gone were the most glaring omissions and erroneous assumptions in his descriptions.

    The territories of the Americas were painstakingly added, the Mediterranean and the entirety of the landmass of Asia, which had both been greatly overestimated by Ptolemy, were re- duced in breadth, and the Indian Ocean was no longer regarded as landlocked. However, geographers such as Ortelius and Mercator re- mained fulsome in their praise and regard for Ptolemy. In the Preface to his Theatrum Ortelius styled him 'the Prince of Geographers', whilst Mer- cator's homage to the Alexandrian geographer was even more impressive.

    In he printed a beautifully engraved edition of the Geographia in a series of plates, which remains one of the finest examples of sixteenth- century map-engraving. These responses were undoubtedly carefully executed strategies designed to ensure that the geographical output of the likes of Ortelius and Mercator was perceived to complement rather than reject the thinking of the revered Ptolemy. However, perhaps more signif- icantly, these celebrations ofhis work reflected an identification ofthe early printed development ofthe Geographia as a text which opened the possibi- lity for technological innovation and the incorporation of new geographical information unknown in earlier manuscript maps.

    In this sense, atlases such as Ortelius' Theatrum were the logical outcome, rather than intellectual antithesis, ofearly printed texts of the Geographia. These early editions of Ptolemy thrived on technical innovation in print culture as well as gradually assimilating new geographical discoveries.

    Editions based on the Geographia, printed in , incorporated contemporary in- formation into their maps, and by the time of the publication of the Strasbourg edition in new sheets had been added to the atlas, as well as detailed information on the shape and extent of the African coastline gleaned from Portuguese reports.

    This allowed for the possibility of collating an enormous stream of new geographical information within one comprehensible framework, the skeleton structure of the Geographia. For this, later geographers such as Ortelius and Mercator were grateful in their attempts to collate the di- versity of geographical information into one saleable item: the printed atlas. However, just as this increasing authority of the printed atlas did not necessarily dispel the authority of Ptolemy, nor did it signal the eclipse of the importance ofthe unique manuscript map, as has often been believed.

    Such maps remained significant as the raw material which the more so- phisticated and technically polished printed maps produced by the early editors of the Geographia and, much later, Ortelius and Mercator drew upon in complementing their classical geographical knowledges taken pri- marily from Ptolemy. Particularly important in this respect were the so- called 'portolan charts', which were nautical aids used in the art of marine navigation, depicting key ports and basic coastal features of specific stretches ofcoastline. It should be stressed that it was primarily these portolan charts, and not the printed atlases of Ptolemy, which gave merchants and sailors concrete practical information on how to navigate from one place to an- other.

    They emerged alongside their topographical counterparts, maps and plans of developing urban centres, such as the anonymous 'Plan of Acre' drawn around illus. It was these hydrographical and topo- graphical manuscript maps, charts and plans which became the practical tools used in solving highly particular and local problems such as disputa- tions over land, military surveillance, movement ofcommercial goods and the maintenance of efficient techniques of irrigation and water supply. As will become apparent in the following chapters, such manuscript maps re- mained of immense value in the explanation and solution of certain sensitive and politically contentious social situations throughout the six- teenth century.

    The sheer scale and size of the majority of printed cartography produced during this period ensured that collections of maps such as Ptolemy's Geographia and Ortelius' Theatrum were invariably of little assistance in practical activities such as maritime navigation and land surveying. Political patronage, Scalia wrote, helped grease the wheels of politics and promoted strong political parties, despite the burden on the First Amendment rights of these nonpolitical workers.

    When it came to gerrymandering, Scalia also favored the incumbents, believing that courts were powerless to do anything about their geographical self-preservation schemes. For decades, the Supreme Court struggled with when and how to regulate the drawing of legislative districts for partisan and self-interested purposes.

    In , the court returned to the issue in Vieth v. Jubelirer , which involved allegations of a partisan gerrymander in Pennsylvania.

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    The court divided into three groups: four conservatives, four liberals and one moderate. The liberals believed Bandemer was right about the question of justiciability, but disagreed with its overly stringent standard—and then the justices disagreed with each other about what that standard should look like. Even if an extreme gerrymander were unconstitutional, Scalia believed that the courts were powerless to do anything about it.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for himself, agreed with the liberals that partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable, but agreed with Scalia that none of the proposed standards delineated between permissible and impermissible consideration of partisanship—essentially challenging someone to come up with better standards in a future case. Now the issue has come to a head. Gerrymandering has become both more egregious and more effective. Rampant partisanship has inflamed the redistricting process, and leaps in voter data and technology have made it easier to draw effective gerrymanders that allow a party to gain seats in a legislature even as the opposing party wins a majority of the votes—as two leading political scientists wrote in a brief filed in a Wisconsin political gerrymandering case.

    With Benisek , the court has its last best chance to come up with a standard to police gerrymandering ahead of the Census and the redistricting that will follow. If he decides Maryland has gone too far in depriving Republican voters of their First Amendment rights, the court could well decide to start policing redistricting—not just in Maryland, but throughout the nation. But Kennedy will not remain on the court forever, and the forceful counterarguments Scalia made in the redistricting and patronage cases could well win out in the long run if President Donald Trump gets to replace Kennedy—or any of the aging liberal members of the court—with another justice like Scalia, as he has promised to do.



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