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Analysis of the Unique Features of Old World Maps

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Maps have been a way to communicate with other cultures and countries for centuries, and although cultures in this decade use maps found on the internet such as Google Maps, centuries ago, maps not only portrayed information, but had a political side to them as well. Some maps are created to outline the governmental boundaries of the locations within the maps and have a part to play in politics. They outline the borders, states, territories, and other regions. Just as it is done now, maps made in the past had various symbols, such as colour to point out significant regions, based on what access they had to dyes and paints. To this day, colours are used symbolize important areas, along with symbols to make it easier for observers to find. Colonialism was a large part of the world, as many people took over regions that others were already occupying. This is evident in many of the maps being discussed. Cartographers in the past used maps to get a point across to whoever read it, as symbols represented as colours or images such as ships all had their own meanings.

The first map being discussed is the Holy Land 1542 Terra Sancta XVI Nova Tabula, drawn by Sebastian Münster (1488-1552). He was a German comographer and taught Hebrew, theology, and mathematics as a professor. He influenced others in geography with his vast knowledge of cartography, and was well known as he published the first book about cosmographia called Cosmographia universalis, which spread geological knowledge all over Europe. Terra Sancta XVI Nova Tabula is a map that looks at the biblical sites in the south and Sidon which extends upwards. Although it is written in a foreign language, several aspects stand out such as the colours used and the symbols shown. The colours vary from orange to blue to green, and are a sign of possession of land.

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A significant part of the map are the symbols, specifically the churches and trees shown. In the brown area where it looks a little dull and simple, there are many trees covering the regions, while in the brightly coloured regions, almost no trees are found. This shows that the areas that they have not explored and documented are replaced with trees to let readers know it is an unknown region. All the churches with very few exceptions are located in the brightly coloured regions, adding to the presumption that the coloured regions are significant. From these aspects observed, the message that can be taken from this map is that religion is one of the most important features in a map drawn of the Holy Land. In the areas where no churches were found, there is no colour, and deserted with trees, deemed unknown areas.

The second map chosen is the Russia 1723 Johann Baptist Homann, drawn by Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724). Homann was a German cartographer and geographer who also created many maps of America. Other than the various colour choices used, a part of the map that stands out is the drawing of about ten people doing various tasks at the bottom left, and the most prominent character in the mix is the person in the middle dressed in a full suit of armour, a cape, and crown. From one perspective, it can be presumed that this is the king. He seems to be a regal king who receives respect from his people. This is shown as his followers are kneeling before him and admiring him as their king. There are also words written in latin on the cartouche that translates to, “All general; Russian government; last board; a large portion of the northern border, and China…” There are several words following this statement, however they are uneligible. This statement describes what is on the map. China, being under Russia, is not coloured in, but is mentioned. This statement has accordance with the relationship between Russia and China. When Russia decided to expand in the sixteenth century, they went as far as the adventurers and explorers could walk. However the expansion did overlap with China and as a result, a war began, and eventually ended with the Treaty of Nerchinsk. The battles stopped for the time being, and trade relations began between the two countries. This explains why the king is present in this image, as he could be creating a treaty or signing the treaty between Russia and China. The farthest member in the group of people seems to be an angel on the ground writing or drawing. This is evident as the angel has wings, and this shows that religion was permissive in this region. On the other corners of the map, there is a chart that can be assumed to be a legend, and a scale.

Another aspect of the map on the top left hand corner are sea monsters. This creature is large, and has a horn as a unicorn does. Sea monsters are common in early world maps, as cartographers and geographers did not know what lived in the unknown waters to let people know that there very well could be danger beyond what they have explored. A message that was taken from this is that this map does not show as much the political side of Russia, but the geographical sites, as there were scales, and various symbols.

The third map being discussed in this essay is the 1884 Map Victoria B.C. and Vicinity, drawn by Leo Samuel through Victoria, J.B. Ferguson & Co. This map is not a conventional map, as there is no actual overview of the land, but rather this map shows significant areas of Victoria, British Columbia. Some of the significant locations are in nature and ports in the sea. Internationally known for its beauty, this map takes advantage of the province’s natural beauty. The other pictures are of ships at sea near the ports. This is greatly significant because the use of ships shows that the economy is going well in the area, as boats are coming and going constantly as seen through the drawings. There is a lot of agriculture shown behind ships to also add to the evidence that their economy is thriving. British Columbia is rich in mineral resources, such as coal, iron, nickel. The message that can be taken from this map is that British Columbia is well resourced, and as a result has a great economy, along with being known around the world as one of the most well-resourced regions.

The last map chosen is the 1886 Map USA Rambles Through Our Country. It was drawn by Schaefer & Weisenbach in New York. This drawing is intended to be a board game for young children, for them to explore the United States through a fun game. The game goes through all the different states, and each section shares a part of the United States. By the title, it is clear that Native Americans have created this game to be fun, but the truth behind it goes as far as the 1500s. The map itself is colourful, and seems to be targeting the youth, as its colourful aspects attract them to it. An interesting aspect of it is the picture in the bottom left hand corner, showing some Native Americans holding sticks and looking upset as they watch a train go by. This picture is significant in this game, as it shows that the Americans have taken land from them, and they are furious about it, foreshadowing battles to come. The Americans and Native Americans have fought for centuries, but as time went on, the sizes of the colonies on both sides increased, increasing the amount of conflict between them. This map demonstrates how the Native Americans suffered from colonialism for centuries when settlers came and took over their land, and continue to do so. The message behind this map that can be observed is that Native Americans and Americans have had to share land for centuries and because of their different perspectives, conflict arose causing war between the two colonies. The artists that have created this piece perhaps wanted the youth to understand what type of problems arose between the two parties, and provide a perspective of the Native Americans through their drawings.

The maps chosen to be talked about, Russia 1723 Johann Baptist Homann, Holy Land 1542 Terra Sancta XVI Nova Tabula, 1886 Map USA Rambles Through Our Country, and 1884 Map Victoria BC Vicinity are maps that have been produced in the past by various artists that shared their perspectives of the world, along with including perspectives some may not always include in their work. These maps explain how the world was back in time and shows people interesting aspects of history not always found in plain sight. All the maps had some form of politics within it, whether it was colonialism, economy, religion, or treaties. Conventional maps in present day do not explain as much as maps did centuries ago. As it can be seen from the maps, geography is an important factor but before focusing on the scaling of the maps, symbols, colours, and drawings were added to appeal to certain audiences and to point facts out. They all had a part to play in history, and these maps expose how life really was in history.

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