A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
I found this arresting map in a tiny publication called ...Sans Condition, which was published in the first half of 1943. The publication is only 12 pages long but has a number of evocative images of Germany being bombed and lines of German POWs, in general a propaganda piece for French-speaking folk (which was printed god-knows-where) produced deep in the war and at a time when the tide has about turned on the Nazi regime.
The title of this post is the title of the map, "Ils ont decide ou, quand et comment les Allies lanceront leurs attacques"--and you don't need to know French to know what it says.
And the cover, which is basically "Surrender Without Condition":
In the history of cartography besides the construction of map-y maps there are maps that stray beyond the strict geographical diction of necessity, some of which edify the data and others which creatively explain or decorate it. There are unusual maps of hobo travel, the Garden of Eden, Hell, Heaven, moles, hair growth direction, slavery, suffering, invasion routes, time, prisons, aliens, population density, disease, education, paved roads, trolley, electric lights, sewers, fire damage, and on and on, some of which are created in a way to make the map more identifiable and to also make it, well, fun, or at least more accessible. Then there are maps whose explication or decoration or alliteration have little to do with the geographical reasons for the map existing in the first place. And this leads us to today's post.
I think it certainly possible to assemble a bestiary of maps--maps that take the qualities of an animal, or animals...I've seen a number of maps that show distributions of animals without taking their forms, and a lesser number representing a geographical area by an animal, but I do think it is possible to wrangle together not only the bestiary but also nearly an entire alphabet of animal maps. That will need a little work. For the start of it we have the following:
[Source: the Confederate Veteran, volume 11, 1903, page 184.] This needs little comment except to say that it is interesting and that it shows up in an interesting publication.
Next is a great and rare classic, I.W. Moore's 1833 map incorporating an eagle into the design of the early Republic, from the Library of Congress (here):
The full text of the book in which it appears here (At Archive.org) and the cumbersome text relating to the map (on pp 244-249) is included below in the notes section.
There are also the advertisement/comical efforts like the Porcineographic map of the U.S. of 1876:
And the Russian octopus map, John Bull and His Friends. A Serio-Comic Map of Europe By Fred W. Rose…printed in 1900, and found at the Yale University Library Digital Collections, here:
[With thanks to Mark Dylan Sieber's Les Curiosites de Cartes, whose Twitter feed started this interest.]
There are also more maps in a "series" similiar to the Leo Belgicus:
Well, this is a start, anyway, covering Elephant, Lion, Octopus, Eagle, Pig, Horse.. It may be a long haul...
THE EAGLE MAP.
On presenting to the public a map upon the con-
struction here imperfectly exhibited, if an apology
be not necessary, perhaps at least, some notice of the
origin of the idea, and some of the reflections of the
author upon it, may not be misplaced.
The first sudden impress of the form of the figure
upon his attention, was under a combination of pe-
culiar circumstances. A map of the United States
happened to hang upon the wall of his apartment,
upon which a dim lamp light was reflected. The ef-
fect of the light, in the particular position in which it
was accidentally placed, seemed, as reflected from the
various colourings of the map, to cast a shade over
the state of Maine, and to mark a kind of separation
between it and the adjoining territory. The close
connexion of this state, as, always, under a common
view, necessarily combined with the great general
ground plan of the Union, he conceives to be the
principal reason why the notion of the figure has not
before been apprehended.
On its first presentation, he was disposed to discard
the idea, as merely a sportive play of the imaginar
tion, unworthy of notice. The figure, however, once
impressed, could not be eflaced from the imagination;
but was ever afterward in view when his eye happen-
ed to glance on a map, till he was at length induced
to give the subject a share of consideration, regarding
its possible usefulness and moral bearing.
Arguments which presented in favor of construct-
ing a map embracing the plan of the figure, appeared
conclusive with relation to the youth engaged in the
THE EAGLE MAP. 245
study of the geography of our country. Those argu-
ments were founded upon an apprehension of the in-
creased facility with which lessons may be impressed
and retained upon the youthful memory, when the
aid of figure, adapted with a tolerable degree of accu-
racy to the subject of study, can be resorted to. To
this opinion it is presumed teachers in general will
readily yield their accord, without further remark
upon the questions of Why? or Wherefore?
When extending his reflections further, the recollec-
tion was of course present, that the figure of the eagle
was the figure adopted by our national councils, as our
national badge. In this point of view, the coincidence
appeared as a circumstance peculiarly striking. A fur-
ther singular and surprising coincidence presented it-
self, in the circumstance that the bird is placed in a
position perfectly correct, with respect to a corres-
pondence with the lines of latitude and longitude; no
variation from the common principles of constructing
maps being required, to place it in a natural position.
As the subject has occasionally occupied a further
extension of thought, a variety of serious moral reflec-
tions have occurred to the mind of the author, in
which he is not disposed to anticipate his intelligent
readers, who are altogether capable of reflecting for
themselves. He will, therefore, under this head, con-
tent himself with offering a supposition of a single
example, illustrative of the manner in which visible
objects, as they stand associated in the mind with
ideas of order or deformity, may possibly be more or
less productive of moral effects.
If, from a selfish, or misguided policy, the citizens
of any one state, should propose to separate their in-
terests from the interests of the Uiiion, and claim a
right to withdraw from the general connexion, the
ugly chasm which would be produced by carrying
their design into effect, would be aptly represented
by supposing a line of separation drawn round the
seceding state, and admitting its whole internal de-
clinations, and even its very name, to be blotted out
246 THE EAGLE MAP.
from the eagle map of the United States, — the signs
and notices, of all the delightful alternations of river,
mountain, hill, and plain — of cities, the seats of com-
merce and refinement — of villages, the abodes of in-
dustry and social enjoyment — of the rural residences
of friends whom we love — all shrouded, in a shade
of gloomy, impenetrable darkness — and then observ-
ing the distortion which would be thus effected, in the
beautiful figure before us. Thus, might not a moral
repugnance be strengthened, against the open or in-
sidious attempts, of artful, designing men, who might,
for some ignoble or selfish end, be disposed, by de-
ceiving their fellow citizens, to attempt a disorganiza-
tion of the republic?
In the common representations of the eagle as the
American ensign, an allusion seems to be generally
intended to a martial spirit; and it is therefore repre-
sented with an aspect of fierceness, and in an attitude
prepared for war. Here, on the contrary, having
possession of the whole country, and no enemy to
contend with, it is designed to appear as the placid
representative of national liberty, and national inde-
pendence; with an aspect of beneficent mildness, and
in an attitude of peace.
It is therefore to be conceived of, as having be-
come wearied and disgusted, with the oppressions,
perpetual discords, and tyrannizing of power over
right, prevailing from age to age in the old world,
and as having, in consequence thereof, taken its flight
across the western ocean, in search of a resting place;
where its administration of equal rights might be duly
appreciated and respected.
Having arrived at the shores of this western world,
and taken its aerial circuits with the continent under
review, it appears as though arresting its flight — its
wings raised with a graceful, natural, and easy curve,
as relinquishing their hold on the buoyant atmosphere
—and its feet extended, as in the act of gently settling
on the rocks of the Florida reef, to exercise a benign
THE EAGLE MAP. 247
presidence over a territory equal to the length and
l)readth of its own shadow.
Thus it appears as overshadowing the whole ex-
tent of the United States and territories, excepting the
state of Maine, and the home of the natives in the
distant regions of the west. The citizens of Maine,
it is presumed, will not be offended at the impossibi-
lity of comprehending their department in the Union,
within the regular form of the figure, when we assign
to it the appellation of the cap of liberty, attached to
the eagle's head.
The present small map, is supposed to be sufficient,
in its internal delineations, to serve the purposes of
illwstrating the subjects of the volume which it ac-
companies. It may also serve to impart a fair gene-
ral idea of the design of the figure. Yet it has not
the least pretension to showing a specimen of the
elegance, with which the combined circumstances of
coincidence of figure, and geographical utility, are
capable of being represented. By an enlargement of
the scale alone, the proportions of the figure would
be presented to the eye, with a general aspect greatly
It is contemplated to issue, simultaneously with
the present volume, proposals for publishing by sub-
scription^ an eagle map of the United States, upon a
large and liberal scale; to be executed by the ablest
artists in a superior style; and intended to furnish an
appropriate ornament, to decorate our halls of legis-
lation, judicature, literature, and science, with the
library of the retired gentleman, the office of the law-
yer, and the retreats of the farmer, manufacturer, and
merchant. It is conceived that the ornament would
be likely to be viewed with peculiar interest and gra-
tification, because of the circumstance of containing,
in correct proportion, a representation of our beloved
In the large map proposed, much of the common
minutia will be omitted in the engraving, in order to
show the figure with greater advantage and beauty.
All the most important items, will, however, be re-
tained, and the place of the smaller supplied by a
neatly printed and bound accompanying volume of
references; so arranged, as to render all the usual pur-
poses of a map of the United States complete. In
exchange for the omitted minutia, will be engraved,
the regions of our different mineral and vegetable pro-
ductions, with various other interesting and ornamen-
tal delineations, never heretofore presented in similar
This propagandistic political broadside and map had an influence in the thinking of voters in the 1884 presidential election--and in fact it was mostly wrong. That "wrongness" was perpetrated for the Democratic Party at the expense of the Republicans, and held influence for dozens of years in helping to form the idea that the Republicans gave away huge chunks of American land to railroad companies in corrupt deals.
The map: How the public domain has been squandered, map showing the 139,403,026 acres of the people's land - equal to 871,268 farms of 160 acres each, worth at $2 an acre, $278,806,052, given by Republican Congresses to railroad corporations , published by the Rand, McNally & Company, Chicago, 1884, is the culprit.
Well, some healthy percentage of those land deals were rigged/crooked--but not nearly all; and in fact there were huge sums of money raised by the government in granting enormous land offerings to the railroad companies, who were also monetarily encouraged to continue making their ways west. There were definitely multiple aspect in all of this.
When I had an open shop I almost always maintained an antique map/print part in the front,airy, high-ceiling space and had my hardcore science stock in the back. (People who were after that sort of book/info had tunnel vision, generally, so location hardly mattered, so long as the books were there, a trait and characteristic I highly admired.) Generally speaking this was not true with the map/print buyers, or at least the occasional purchaser, so they had "pretty" dedicated to their comfort.
Over the years I heard many thing from people trying to noodle out the reasons for old maps, and all of that was fine, and even the not-self-flattery comments flowed by like a lazy stream with a snapping turtle in it. The one comment I did not like and which I always corrected had to do with how "bad" a map of North America (or wherever) was when it was drawn in say 1783. Long story short, the maps were spectacular given the era and the technical capability and the amount of information on hand. (Also if people were told they needed to go out right now and make a map with standard 19th c mapmaking/surveying instruments, most had absolutely no idea how to procede.) There aren't all that many "bad" maps floating around, except for those determined to be misleading that have been issued by various intelligence and mapping agencies around the world.
That said, there are some badly designed maps, and when you have a map with a badly constructed premise for presentation that makes the thing difficult to use, you have created a "bad map".
I say this because I just bumped into one, and here's a detail of what I'm talking about:
Just because you pack data onto a map doesn't make it good, and this one is about as gritty as a half-cooked cornmeal pancake.
So, when you have the time and the capacity and the data and you produce a map that is unyelding and impenetrable in spite of all the good it has going for it (not the least of which is interest), then you have created a bad map.
"Map of the military operations during the war of 1861-1865 designed expressly to accompany The lost cause," a standard southern history of the war. George Woolworth Colton, 1827-1901, and published in New York by E. B. Treat & Co., ca. 1867.
It has seemed to me that an elevation map of the United States may be an interesting way of collecting and categorizing regional similarities and differences. For example, high desert folks probably have more affinity to one another than suggested by state maps--so to for Eastern states high elevation people in the Appalachian chain, similarities indicated more so by the number of feet above sea level than a state lines between North Carolina and Virginia (and so on). So far as I can tell no such map exists--but it came back to mind seeing this wonderful and innovative map of Manhattan building heights, brought to us by Bill Rankin of Radical Cartography.
I can feel the enormous hail coming down on me right now for this title--but by comparison, this 1981 map of ARPAnet must seem somewhat like the first three minutes of creation in the Big Bang saga, in its way. This was absolutely, positively a remarkable accomplishment for the time, but compared to what it would become--measured in any number of different ways--this map seems proto-historic. Compared to not being able to construct this map because there was no ARPAnet--well, that would have been a devastating thing.
The other thing about looking at the picture of the birth of something was that--unlike many other revolutionary creations--there were many people of high influence who saw the possibilities of the expansion of the thing. Even Graham Bell and Edison had a difficult time looking into the future of the telephone...
One of my favorite atlases of all-time is Adolf Stieler's Hand-Atlas(Hand-Atlas über alle Theile der Erde und über das Weltgebäude, published in Gotha, Germany, by Justus Perthes) and edited by August Petermann. I love this series (there were eight editions and a number of intervening printings to 1891) because the maps seemed so impossibly detailed for their scale. They have so much detail and such great relief that in some very odd way they almost do not look like maps. The sheets have massive amounts of info, particularly so with areas in which you do not expect it.
This post came to be because I bumped into an old Stieler-friend--the six-sheet map of the United States. I have four different flavors of the map, but the one I like the most is from 1891. The sheets are all produced to be pieced together contiguously, so that they form a map 28"x52"--and there is so much detail the work looks a little like carto-graffiti, except of course that it isn't, and that all of the extremely small and fine engraving piles one next to the other make for a very accurate and full map of the country.
Take, for example, the Four Corners region, mainly for north-east Arizona:
This is about 50% larger than the original, about a 2"x3" section of one 15"x18" section of the six-section map, and it is just packed with detail.
And here, a smaller detail, of about a one square inch section of map, concentrating on the Canyon de Chelly. Now I know this area a little, and about the history of its cartography (somewhat), and I can safely say that this is just tremendously detailed given the scope of the map. The remarkable thing about the Stieler atlas is that all of the maps are like this. Extraordinary--not particularly beautiful in the traditional over-the-fireplace sense f beautiful, but fantastic as, well, maps (of particular and perhaps peculiar scientific loveliness).
It is difficult to find children's art from the 19th century--original work, printed work, published work. Very difficult--perhaps even more so for the published work than the manuscript. It is easy to understand why: first, the children would need access to paper and pencil or pen and ink--items that had some cost, that were not inexpensive, not available to the vast majority of children. Their work was ephemeral, produced on slate, or in horn books, or in charcoal on a wall, or in dust. Then, if the children did manage to record their creativity, then it would have to survive a generation of possessionship within their own lifetimes--to survive from the first part of the 19th century, the paperwork would have to survive five generations or more, 150+ years of house cleanings. Tough odds.
That is why it is also a little special when I come across larger manuscript works that have survived against these odds.
This map of the United States isn't so simple as it seems--although there are no major cities located in any states, many rivers are, as well as mountain ranges. The coastlines get a very nice treatment with recessive blue lines, giving the map a certain dimensionality, and the lettering of the states is also distinctive, with the terminals of the letters in the state names ending with dots or lines.
I'd guess that the map was done around Centennial time, 1876 to the mid-1880's, the biggest clues being the inclusive of Wyoming (which sets a date after 1868) and the large Dakota Territory, which would become North and South Dakota in 1889.
As maps by kids go, this one is fairly large at 12x15"--it is about the largest single sheet artwork that I have in a 150-odd pieces of antiquarian children's art collection...also I wonder about how the kid in 1880-whatever got her/himself such a large piece of paper to work with, as it seems to me to be not a simple task.
Maps with unusual perspectives have long been interesting to me, and this map of the Mississippi River certainly fits this category. Printed in Harper's Weekly on July 6, 1861, and entitled "Bird's-eye View of the Mississippi River and the adjacent Country, from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico" it displays the river from north-to-south, landing New Orleans at the top of the United States. I'm not altogether certain why this perspective was used --perhaps it was just to acquaint readers with possible "western" battlefields for the brand-new Civil War, showing the terrain from a different position for the sake of running old geographic info through a news interpretative lens.
It displays this middle-ish section of the country from just east of Knoxville (and almost to the mountains in which I am sitting) and then south to Charleston, and north along that same line to Vincennes and the Wabash River; then on west to St. Louis and Rolla and south to Galveston. We can easily see the entire Florida peninsula--truncated, owing to the bird's-eye view part. There are probably dozens of cities shown, all of which are on one railway or another. The terrain is very interestingly cut and also very useful. And again, New Orleans sits on top of it all, perhaps to emphasize its importance in the future fight for the river and the middle of the country in the three-month-old Civil War.
Harper's Weekly published several perspectives like this--for example, here's another very creative and imaginative view of the theater of war looking southeast from high above Baltimore, and surveying the country that leads south and encompassing the entire coastline to just beyond Savannah. It is a very interesting portrayal of the terrain, especially for the Blue Ridge, and for giving a good idea of what was on the road between Washington and Richmond.
Non-representational art was still nearly twenty years in the future when this lovely cartographic artwork was published in 1894. And what we are seeing here in the collection of circles and spirals is a representation of three trials of a homing pigeon finding its way home in the Lake Monona region of Madison, Wisconsin. C.F. Hodge Ph.D. (of Clark University, psychology) wrote "The Method of Homing Pigeons" for Popular Science Monthly (volume 24, 1894), showing at least in this found instance that behavioralists (yet named at this point) enjoyed working with pigeons well before C.B. Ferster recommended them over rats to B.F. Skinner (mainly because, as Ferster said, he didn't like rats).
Actually Hodge was more of a neuro/pathology person, but for now I'm just interested in the artwork generated by his experiments.
The "Port Royal Experiment" established in 1862 by the Union Army at Mitchelville, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, South Carolina for freed slaves was certainly a very interesting and perhaps life-saving idea for many freed slaves. Well, the "freed" slaves weren't really that--they escapes their servitude when the Union Army took control of Hilton Head and surrounding areas early in the war on November 8, 1861. The island became a staging area for Union forces and was fortified--it also attracted the attention of escaped slaves,m who by 1862 had sought a form of asylum there, numbering around 600. They were not exactly welcomed to the island, as there were prejudices against African Americans in the Union ranks as well--in fact some needed protection as the lower low-lifes among the Northern ranks stole from the escaped slaves what little they had. In any event, it was a difficult situation, with no clear way of dealing with the new ex-slave population from a legal.administrative point of view. These ex-slaves were considered as 'contraband" of war, and my early 1862--on Hilton Head at least--the solution was found in establishing a town for them.
The town was created by and named for Kentuckian and Major General Ormsby M. Mitchel--he wouldn't survive the year, dying of yellow fever in Beaufort S.C., and then buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (and as it turns out his marker is not far from my mother's mother's family. Furthermore he is the O.M. Mitchel I know from the history of astronomy, his life before the military and before his country needed him. He wound up at the troubled Albany observatory right before leaving for the war).
Mitchelville was necessary and perhaps it was even sufficient for the time--certainly it had its share of trouble during the war, and then with ownership of land issues after the war, and so on.
What struck me about this map was the placement of Mitchelville.
It was mostly surrounded by poop.
Situated on a cotton field--some of the slaves who lived there used to work those same fields for the land owner who directed the Confederate unsuccessful defense of the island--the town had a huge swamp to its south, with a 'government corall" just west of that; the northern boundary of the town was a large "government cattle yard", and the to the west was a fort and horse coral. And then to he east was the ocean. Hot, swampy, and mostly surrounded by cows and horses, the town doesn't look particularly appetizing. On the other much larger hand, the people living there were no longer slaves.
The idea of the frontier in American history has been around for quite some time, made famous and mostly-invented (and closed) by Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893, and expanded, imagined, enticed, magnified, micro-analyzed, and generally messed with ever since. There have been all sorts of frontiers introduced into the study of the birth, expansion and filling-up of this country, from the very earliest colonial periods of Indian frontiers, “far-western” river frontiers of the Connecticut, Delaware, Hudson (!) and Susquehanna, to the Appalachian frontier of the early western reaches of the colonies, to the transportation frontier, the slavery frontier, the gold and mining frontier, the gun frontier and so on.
I’ve got another bit to add: the newspaper frontier.
I just happened upon a volume of the US Census of 1880, with a special report by S.N.D. North entitled History and Present Condition of the Newspaper and Periodical Press of the United States…and published in 1882. What provoked me was the map of Texas newspapers for 1880. It very clearly, and like no other map of its kind, delineates a fantastic line/frontier between the Texas with newspapers and the Texas without newspapers. We see very clearly that the frontier of the newspaper stops fairly abruptly (and wonderfully) at the 100th meridian, with only two newspapers in all of the rest of Texas found beyond that point (and those just barely beyond the 100th. And it’s the 100th meridian that mostly marks the vertical middle of the country, running through North and South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, the Texas/Oklahoma borders, and so into Texas—if you folded this map vertically in half it folds virtually on the 100th meridian. An odd bit, it is, half of the country and then approaching half of Texas.
I should report that the newspapers west of the 100th meridian were in Kinney County (population 4,440) with the Fort Clark News (established in 1880, at exactly the year of census) and Donley County (population 160, with the monthly Clarendon News and a 50-cent annual subscription rate). The newspaper development also sort of followed the frontier fort development, almos tall of which (but four) were east of the 100th.
Of course the population and easier-natural-resources are located east of this point, I know, but it is still quite a jolt to see the line of newspapers get drawn in the sand so vividly. There isn’t anything else quite like this so far as the newspapers go, except, a little, for Florida, where the line gets drawn north and south, splitting the peninsula roughly in half, the southern part holding only five counties at this point.. But it is a much more robust image for Texas given the number of newspapers that were being published—280 periodicals and newspapers for Texas versus 45 for Florida, with 11,374 in the entire country*—so that the difference between the have-newspapers and haven’t-newspapers in Texas is that much more vivid.
Texas needed more papers: there were 1.5 million people living in the massive state in 1880, almost twice as many as there were in 1870, and almost half of what there would be there in 1900. That was another story, entirely—even in 1880, which is only 130 years ago, there were only 270,000 people living in the entire state, not even close to half of the county population of Pinelas today.I’m just enjoying the surprise of the straight-edge frontier in Texas.
The deal too was that Texas wasn't at the top of the lisst for average area for each publication per square mile, with each periodical providing coverage for 936 miles. But that again is for Texas east of the 100th meridian--throw in the rest of the state, and that number skyrockets. (There were 13 states with a higher mileage distribution than Texas, topped by Indian Territory,m with basically nothing, with each paper servicing an area of 21,000 square miles.
Also, Texas' 225 counties had 119 counties publishing newspapers and/or peridoicals, compared to the national figures, which were 2,605 counties and 2,073 publishing papers.
*Just for the sake of comparison, the number of newspapers and periodicals per state for 1880 was as follows: Illinois, 1017; New York, 1411; Pennsylvania, 973; Ohio, 774; New Jersey 215. Also, oddly, the average circulation of the Florida and Texaspapers was roughly the same: 1,282 for Texas and 1306 for Florida (with an average for the country at 4137).
This magnificent piece of tidy work (below) was executed for a new edition of Johannes de Sacrobosco’s (latinized for John Halifax or Holywood, a teacher of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Paris, a monk/scholar/astronomer ca. 1195-1256) Tractatus de Sphaera Mundi by Fra Mauro Fiorentino (1492-1556), and gives us all a chance to have a bit of fun reading late Renaissance iconography. The work is entitled Sphaera volgare novamente tradotta con molte notande additoni di geometria, cosmographia, arte navicatoria et stereometria (and so on), published in Venice in 1537, and as stated in the title this is an augmented edition of Sacrobosco with Mauro adding segments on geometry, cosmography, navigation and perspective. (Full text of this classic here.)
The wood engraving is of particular interest because of the globe upon which Fra Mauro is writing—as you can more clearly see in the detail; shot (below) we can see a large continent labeled “America” just hundreds of miles off the coast of Africa. The Americas still make only guest appearances on globes at this point, and seeing it here, as a bit of an afterthought, is a treat (considering how easy it is to overlook it). There is another Fra Mauro, much more famous than our's above, whose cartographic workshop produced a seminal, magnificent map of the world in 1453, thus bringing the two Mauro's together, if only slightly, via their maps (one great, the other incidental).
From the Sphaera, chapter one:
THE FOUR ELEMENTS. -- The machine of the universe is divided into two, the ethereal and the elementary region. The elementary region, existing subject to continual alteration, is divided into four For there is earth, placed, as it were, as the center in the middle of all, about which is water, about water air, about air fire, which is pure and not turbid there and reaches to the sphere of the moon, as Aristotle says in his book ofMeteorology. For so God, the glorious and sublime, disposed. And these are called the "four elements" which are in turn by themselves altered, corrupted and regenerated. The elements are also simple bodies which cannot be subdivided into parts of diverse forms and from whose commixture are produced various species of generated things. Three of them, in turn, surround the earth on all sides spherically, except in so far as the dry land stays the sea's tide to protect the life of animate beings. All, too, are mobile except earth, which, as the center of the world, by its weight in every direction equally avoiding the great motion of the extremes, as a round body occupies the middle of the sphere.
Looking a little more closely at the elements of this image we find a number of interesting bits. Working from the upper right hand corner across and down we find a right angle (for the architectural and building parts of the book), then a sand clock, a decorative laurel wreath with a pocket sundial (!) right next to it, ending with an object that looks as though it might be a physical sciences demonstration tool (I’m guessing). Working down from the “what is it” we see the first cut of a three-times-repeated constellation that I think has nothing to do with the word “Antar” beneath it.
“Antar” probably refers to the famous Arab warrior-poet, subject of lots of attention over the centuries including two works by Bach and Rimsky-Korsikov (and also the name of Apollo as worshiped at Actium) Below Antar is an armed and clothed (?!) Venus, major domo goddess of love and beauty and for whom existed innumerable cults (witnessed by just some of the famous Venuses as Venus de Milo ,Venus de' Medici, Capitoline Venus, Esquiline Venus, Venus Felix, Venus of Arles, Venus Anadyomene (also here), Venus, Pan and Eros, Venus Genetrix, Venus of Capua, Venus Kallipygos, Venus Pudica, and so on into the sweaty night.)
Following Venus is, I think a complex compass rose, though it may also be a calendar—I can’t quite tell from the detail of the cut. This is turn is followed by a heavily fortified book (actually this sort of bonding, meant for heavy use, was relatively common at this time)and a score of (5-line staff) music.
Returning to the right angle and moving down we se the same constellation under which hangs a very stable-appearing wagon, with a triangle beneath it , followed by a representation of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, who in turn is positioned over a large set of dividers. On the wall over the head of Fra Mauro we see two precision instruments—a surveying tool and an astrolabe. The two small tools near Mauro’s head seem to be a scale and a pair of scissors.
The central panel shows two caravans (approximately 100-footers?), being driven by a favorable wind to hospitable shores beneath a starry and benign firmament.
The bottom tier is the most emblematic of the set of images, as we see the related Saturn-Jove-Mars all together. Saturn is also Kronos, which is why we see the old horned man caring the scythe of time’s reckoning; he is also the father of Zeus, also known as Jupiter (Juppiter Optimus Maximus Soter (Jupiter Best, Greatest, Savior)), also known as Jove, who stands here crowned and warning us with a sword and dividers. Jove in turn was the father of Mars, who here doesn’t look terribly war-like at all. Punctuating the spaces between these three are a keyboard instrument, a lute and a score of music. I’m not sure that these lyrical/musical devices had anything to do with the three generations of super gods, but there you have it.
The ending of the Sphaera:
ECLIPSE DURING THE PASSION MIRACULOUS. -- From the aforesaid it is also evident that, when the sun was eclipsed during the Passion and the same Passion occurred at full moon, that eclipse was not natural -- nay, it was miraculous and contrary to nature, since a solar eclipse ought to occur at new moon or thereabouts.
On which account Dionysius the Areopagite is reported to have said during the same Passion, "Either the God of nature suffers, or the mechanism of the universe is dissolved."
I was looking through a very heavy volume from 1924 of Military Engineer and came upon a very large folding map1. It was vanilla on the outside and stayed so, opening only the back of the map through one, two, three, four (!) unfoldings, not yet revealing itself, until it was at it full width, and then unfolded once down, which opened to the middle of the map, which was a mass of lines and shading of brown and gray. Another unfold up, and then another down, and more of the same, so much detail that the context still was hidden. I unfolded the bottom half of the map three more times and at the bottom was the town "Regret". My right hand obscured the name of the much larger and antique-fortified town, which turned out to be the military-sacred city of Verdun. When I unfolded the top of the map--making it about four feet long--I saw that it was for development of the battle and lines of communication and placement of troops and so on for part of the Autumn of 1918. And trenches.
(This was actually "Verdun B", the mate of "Verdun A", which together form a huge and wildly complex 4x4' map. )
This was a reprint six years later of the 34th edition of this particular map--that is a lot of editions. But this was a lot of place, Verdun. A fluid place of ordered killing chaos that was as dynamic as it was occasionally static, starting in a very contained space of massive fighting that took place from 21 February to 18 December, 1916. The map is of a place that was about the longest, costliest, and deadliest battles that humans have come to, so far. Casualties were about the same on each side (370,000 French and 340,000 German) and totaled about 710,000 people, though scholars argue the point, some coming to a figure much higher, approaching a million. That makes 70,000-100,000 per month for the battle, which was like a war in itself.
There were probably two million soldiers in motion here, at Verdun, in a relatively tiny area, with front lines extending about five miles or so, the battlefield being fairly narrow from point to point, perhaps totaling 20 square miles of heavily bombarded/shelled ground. It was a terrifying place to be, and I'm certain that it must have scarred forever hundreds of thousands who survived the ordeal.
Unfortunately Verdun 1916 was only about the half-way point of the war, with these maps generated to show artillery targets for the American entry in the war for action that would take place just before the end of the war on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This was the French Fourth Army and the American First Army which attacked on a front from Moronvillers to the Meuse on 26 September 1918 through the end of September, and from which the German army began its gradual withdrawal from the area, continuing right up to Armistice Day.
Ultimately whenever I think of this war things usually boil down to Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got his Gun, which was required reading in my freshman year of high school in 1970.
1. Journal of the Society of Military Engineers, volume 16, 1924; the map titles are "Tranchee Francaise schematique a la date de 1er Sept 1918" and "Carte Generale des Objectifs d'Artillery".
There are many places and objects named for the German Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)--even so in the United States--a recognition and honor paid to a great observer and cataloger of things, the first biogeographer, the scientific traveler's traveler, the man who Charles Darwin called the greatest scientific traveler ever.1 von Humboldt amidst much else also wrote--at the end of his life--a book that began as a composition of lectures that he gave in the 1840's, developing into a monumental work called Kosmos, a General Survey of Physical Phenomena of the Universe, which was published from 1845 until three years after his death in 1862. He meant what he said in the title, and tried to arrange all of the stuff of nature into a comprehensible and logical whole, gathered across five volumes. It is a brilliant masterwork of vision and orderliness, and from what I've read it is like walking into a 3-D library of what was known of much of hte scientific world of the mid-19th century, the very structure and organization of the book being a scientific achievement.
There was a sixth volume to the work, an atlas, that is one of the crowning achievements of the 19th century for the display of scientific data. It is about half-again as tall as the standard-sized text and twice as wide, so the book isn't very big, and the maps are all single-page--but for as relatively small as they are there is a ton of information in them, more so when you realize what must have had to go into the collection of the data to begin with.
I was very taken with this first representative because of its flowing lines (that show the range and occurrence of bird and reptiles) that make it a separate thing of beauty...had I the capacity to remove everything from this map save for the natural history lines, it would stand as an interesting work of very-pre-non-represnetational art. I'm certain that the folks of the 1860's poured over this and other maps in Kosmos, as well of course as the text themselves--this may have been among the first atlases to display some of its data in this way, and would've been fascinating. (Kosmos was actually a very popular work, the first volume selling out in a few months...it was a very popular book.)
1. Found in the Darwin Correspondence Project » Letter 13277 — Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D., 6 Aug 1881, just before Darwin's death.
You can purchase this map--my store has this and another 25 or so original maps from this atlas for sale. Send me an email and I'll send you descriptions...