|Roberto Borri's new foray into the world of old maps (he is the author
of the definitive carto-bibliography of maps of the Italian peninsula)
is a lavishly illustrated introduction to the cartography of Europe from
earliest times, divided into five parts.
The first part briefly discusses and illustrates cartographic perceptions of the World, with modern redrawing of various projections by classical geographers, then advancing through mediaeval manuscripts, with a series of high quality colour illustrations of mediaeval mappae mundi, including the so-called Ebstorf map, one by Andreas Walsperger from 1448, a mappamundi from the Biblioteca Estense, and Fra Mauro's map.
The second part, of two pages, illustrates early perceptions of the shape of Europe, in three quite different forms. The third part, while largely drawing on world maps, focuses more closely on the European section, and includes the European part of the Peutinger table.
The fourth part, of just over fifty pages, is a progressive account of the evolution of the delineation of Europe from the earliest manuscripts, from a T-O manuscript of the seventh century, to mediaeval mappae mundi, demonstrating the influence of different authors, such as the maps found in Isidore, Beatus and Ranulf Higden, maps by Arab cartographers, then into early modern cartographers such as Pietro Vesconte, Fra Mauro, Giovanni Leardo and Henricus Martellus.
The fifth part, forming the bulk of the volume, deals with printed maps, from the Bologna Ptolemy world of 1477 to Delamarche's map of Europe, published in 1802. This section gives a selective but representative listing of the maps of Europe in this period, illustrating a number of rare wall-maps, as well as some more familiar maps.
|As such, the volume gives a good general introduction to the subject.
Covering such a wide time span, and with so much of the volume given over
to illustrations, the descriptive text accompanying the maps is rather
short, but this is more than made up for the wealth and quality of the
illustrations, the majority shown in full colour.
One slight criticism is that the balance in the illustrations is sometimes awry, with some small maps being illustrated either almost full-size or on an enlarged scale, while some of the multi-sheet maps are shown reduced to such an extent that the finer detail is not legible, for example the 1520 edition of Waldseemuller's map, (figura 13.5). A number of maps are also illustrated twice, once in a small version, and then again enlarged. With the limited space, one might have preferred this space to have been given over to other illustrations. These are minor complaints as overall the quality of the illustrations is excellent, for example the four-page spread devoted to Contarini's sixteen sheet map of Europe from 1564 (figura 16.5.1).
With the wide ranging of illustrations incorporated, this is not merely a carto-bibliography of maps of Europe, but a larger and wider sumptuous visual foray through European mapping from the eighth to nineteenth century, and as such should - and deserves to - appeal to a much larger and broader audience interested in early maps.