JF Ptak Science Books Post 1295
The idea of representing a view straight down, of looking straight down from some height, is a relatively recent occurrence, this view being somewhat rare in the antiquarian world pre-balloon or pre-heavier-than-air flight. The pre-human-flight reason for its scarcity is understandable, but even after the first Montgolfier ascension in 1787, there’s another 120+ years of scarcity yet to come before these views would start to pop up in common (and uncommon) literature.. Now I’m not talking about cartography, which is basically a straight-down view of the world—what I’m referring to is that same view but not as a map per se, but what you would see if you were dangling out of a plane or balloon. The extraordinary map of Imola by Leonardo would certainly classify because of its you-are-there qualities: essentially it would be like a bird’-eye or oblique view, but straight down.
All of the images are available to purchase from our blog bookstore, here.
The first image is that made from a balloon, a lighter than air affair, and engraved and printed around 1810 or so. It has a very uncommon vertigo-ey affect, like a map of Dante's leveled creations, though what we're seeing is a very
...which is a detail from this engraving, made in London around 1810.
There are of course a number of other lovely design elements, not the least of which is the man in the parachute, bottom left. (My guess is that the flag held by the man was not for patriotic reasons but rather for more practical concerns, light judging wind strength and duration.
Another interesting image is this instructional from a source printed around 1620 (I don't know the source here, either--I purchased the print loose many years ago like many of the others here at Pageant Bookshop in NYC). It shows a slightly oblique angle (below) and then the flat-perspective view at top:
Then there's this beauty, showing an idealized town square, presented in mosaic as though seen from above, continuing this thread of flat-perspective--basically looking at some central part straight down, and then taking the objects surrounding the central figure and simply laying them on their backs, as so):
Lastly for now is this quite flat persepective of the remains of the Hastings Castle (East Sussex), which was built right after 1066 but before the battle. The (limestone) cliffs that did so much damage to the castle are clearly visible, though what was left of the castle is not. The view of the area of the castle shows the grounds both in perspective and plan and also from directly above. Its a more-naive approach to imaging that was done so well (on occasion) by the U.S. Coast Survey when it rendered a coastline with an inset of what the coastline looked like from the water--both were superior efforts, but a little odd if you took the map at face value. This map makes no pretense on perspective correctness, though it is overall a fine map, nicely displaying the necessary details accureately though not correctly (?)