Skip to comments.Unusual and Marvelous Maps
Posted on 08/16/2009 7:15:48 PM PDT by BGHater
Hideous monsters devouring ships? Old map symbols, correctly showing storm fronts & dangerous currents
Ive always been fond of maps, from those antique ones showing sea serpents and hideous monsters devouring ships in the vast expanses of the ocean, to those showing what the world looked like in the distant, and not so distant, past. Maps have, of course, been with us in one form or another, for a long time.
Jerusalem is in the center - from "Itinerarium Sacrae Scipturae", by Heinrich Bunting, 1545-1606
Heres a world map according to Posidonius, from around 150-130 B.C. -
Ptolemy's version of the world, printed ten years before Christopher Columbus' first voyage - image via
The Cantino planisphere from 1502 is the earliest surviving map showing recent discoveries by Portuguese mariners in the east and west. This is thought to be the earliest map of America (other than the map called "America's Birth Certificate", read about it here) and shows the Caribbean islands and parts of Florida coastline, plus Africa, Europe and Asia, along with the coast of Brazil, only discovered a few years earlier (click to see the large version):
Fragment: Europe and Jerusalem
Fragment: Caribbean islands
Fragments: Brazil's coastline (left), Persian Gulf (right)
From a few years later, the Pietro Coppo map of 1520 is one of the last ones to feature the so-called Dragons Tail leading down from the edge of Asia, based on Ptolemy's idea from 1500 years earlier that the Indian Ocean was almost landlocked:
Heres a great map of the city of Venice, showing most of the major buildings from 1565. Maps in this style are still used quite often on tourist postcards and in guidebooks for the city:
From Asia's "Dragon's Tail" to the Fabulous Sea Beasts
The richly decorated Carta Marina, from 1539 might seem a little crude by todays standards but modern satellite imaging revealed that the sea monsters shown in parts of the ocean on the map actually correspond to well known storm fronts, dangerous currents and maritime hazards. This was perhaps just a method of depicting this at the time, as a warning to sailors venturing into these areas (click to enlarge):
Fragments shown. Click to see the full version (image via)
This is a similar one, showing the monsters living in the seas surrounding Iceland in the early sixteenth century:
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1570 - image via
A glorious catalog of "sea monsters" inhabiting old maps and mariner's imagination can be seen on this page. Here are some examples:
Natural History of Norway, 1755
Sea Serpents of Buffalo Land, North America, 1872
and finally: a whale as an island! - published in Novi Orbis Indiae Occidentalis, 1621:
Various incarnations of the "Land Down Under" include... Antarctica
The southern portions of the globe were among the last to be charted by Europeans following the Age of Discovery, but the idea of Terra Australis had been around since the time of Aristotle in the fourth century BC. There were various theories over the centuries the Indian Ocean was enclosed on the south by land, that the lands in the northern hemisphere had to be balanced by land in the southern half of the world, or Africa stretched all the way to the South Pole. In 1820, Antarctica was finally sighted in the region always associated with Terra Australis, but heres a map showing the mythical continent occupying a large chunk of the southern hemisphere from 1587:
This very decorative world map, with Antarctica, as well as parts of North America, still absent, was produced in Amsterdam in 1689. Click to enlarge, very large file, here are some fragments:
Fragments, click to see the whole map
Heres an Italian map of North America from 1566, one of the first ones to describe the northernmost portions as Canada:
Alternate history in hypothetical maps
The genre of alternate history has produced its fair share of hypothetical maps. Here are a couple depicting what Europe might have looked like had the Greater German Reich triumphed in the 1940s (click to enlarge).
Fragment, click to see the whole map
Fragment, click to see the whole map
In a similar vein, here is the world in 1964, according to the alternate history novel Fatherland, which was based on the premise that Germany won Word War Two. The Greater German Reich is shown in red, the European Union representing Nazi allies and subject races in maroon, colonial possessions in orange, US possessions and allies in blue with neutrals in yellow:
And here is the world as imagined in George Orwells novel 1984. The zones of the globe shown as being in dispute, leading to a perpetual state of conflict between the various power blocs, are reminiscent of the struggles of the Cold War in Africa and Asia between the superpowers:
(click to enlarge)
Back in the seventies, C. Etzel Pearcy, a professor of geography, suggested redrawing all the borders of the American states. The country would then comprise thirty eight states, rather than fifty, with each new name representing an areas physical or cultural distinctiveness. It was never implemented, of course, but very intriguing all the same:
Still on the topic of redrawing US borders, this recent Absolut Vodka ad campaign which ran in Mexico caused quite a stir. In the US there were calls to boycott the Swedish vodka, and yet the map has some basis in fact, since Mexico only lost the territories of Alta California and Nueva Mexico following the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Mexico ceded 42% of its territory, which later became California, Nevada and Utah, plus parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Absolut decided to issue an apology, pointing out that the ad was created for the Mexican market and did not mean they were protesting immigration issues, fostering anti-American sentiments, demanding a redrawing of borders and so on, in an attempt to defuse the issue:
For those non-believers, here is a genuine map of Mexico in 1824, showing the territory later lost to the United States:
(click to enlarge)
Most students of history will be familiar with this map of Africa, completely dominated by European powers just before the First World War. After 1918, the German colonies were divided between Britain and France and Africa remained under the foreign control for decades to come. Colour coding is as follows: Britain red, France blue, Portugal purple, Germany light green, Spain pink, Italy emerald green, Belgium yellow. Only Ethiopia and Liberia, established as a homeland for freed slaves in the mid-nineteenth century, remained independent:
On a similar note, these days its hard to imagine that a country as small as Britain once ruled over a quarter of the worlds surface, including huge populations such as those in India. Here is the British Empire in the 1920s, after the acquisition of the German colonies in Africa and the partition of the former Turkish territories in the Middle East between Britain and France:
This is a caricature map of England by Robert Dighton from 1795:
Here are some similar maps from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is an Asian view of the world situation around the time of the Chinese revolution of 1912. This map was actually published in Japan, but indicates the belief that there was a lot of foreign influence in China at this time. In this period just prior to the outbreak of war, the Russian bear looms large over Europe and Asia, Britain is depicted as a sea monster, reflecting the countrys position as the worlds predominant naval power at the time, while Germany is shown as a tusked warthog:
(image credit: Bibliodyssey)
This satirical map of Europe dates from 1870, indicating the political situation of the day. England holds Ireland, drawn as a vicious looking dog, tightly on a leash, while France struggles against Prussia:
(image via StrangeMaps)
The so-called Octopus Map is from a few years later. At the time, the Russian Empire was seen as very expansionist and already has its tentacles around Turkey and Persia, but is being held off by Germany:
See another version of this sort of comic map of Europe here
This one, showing an even more aggressive Russian octopus, was created in Japan at the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905:
"A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas of Europe and Asia" by Kisaburo Ohara (Japan), 1904 (click to enlarge)
Map of the "Hand of Moscow", pretty hilarious:
(map by R. M. Chapin, Jr., Time)
Superimposing modern political map with Lands and Magical Kingdoms from the Lord of the Rings lore, we get this "correct politial map" version (don't take it too seriously, folks):
Incredible in its philosophical and psychological depth Map of Humanity can be viewed here.
Click to see the full map. Map credit: JT Illustration
Also don't miss the bizarre post-war New World Map (for the establishing New World Moral Order) - click here. And finally, heres same old world, but with different perspective, in this reversed version showing north at the bottom of the map.
Order this map here - more info
Old map ping!
56K modems must hate you. =o)
Lol. Yeah, I was gonna put a graphics warning on there. Oh well, I blame Obama.
Thanks BGHater. Wow, that's a lot of graphics!
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Very nice. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks very interesting.
Very cool! Bumped for later viewing...
Interesting; thank you for posting them.
Good, I like maps too, thanks.
Whoops! [blush] thanks rdl6989!
Prophetic; he got Dearbornistan correct. OTOH, he missed badly on Ecotopia.
Like most 'propehts', 1 out of 38 is a good average. *<];-)
Map porn! :^)
Great post, thanks!.
What a fantastic post, thanks for sharing!
I just love this stuff. Thanks, from one cartophile to another. I also love historical maps showing ancient empires.
I have occasion to see evidence of trade into west Africa. It is still organized and carried out according to the old colonial map above.
The is one interesting fact. Although French trading companies are heavily involved in their former colonial holdings, they come to America to buy stuff rather than produce it themselves.
Very cool, thanks for posting this.
Very Nice! Thanks! I love maps, but then I guess that goes without saying! ;-)
BTW everyone is welcome to look over some of my own works at:
Still on the topic of redrawing US borders, this recent Absolut Vodka ad campaign which ran in Mexico caused quite a stir. In the US there were calls to boycott the Swedish vodka, and yet the map has some basis in fact ... For those non-believers, here is a genuine map of Mexico in 1824, showing the territory later lost to the United States:
I think the author completely missed the point of why people were outraged by that map.
I love maps. Thanks for sharing!
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