The Mapmakers' Quest: Depicting New Worlds in Renaissance Europe

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9780192100535: The Mapmakers' Quest: Depicting New Worlds in Renaissance Europe

In 1400 Europe lagged far behind much of the world in its understanding of the use of maps. And yet, by 1600 the Europeans had come to use maps for a huge variety of tasks, and were far ahead of the rest of the world in their appreciation of the power and use of cartography. The Mapmakers' Quest illuminates the forces behind this development--not only to tease out the strands of thought and practice which led to the use of maps, but also to assess the ways in which such use affected European societies and economies.
David Buisseret is one of the most eminent historians of cartography, and in this striking volume he offers a fresh and compelling approach to the cultural history of early modern Europe, revealing how the development of maps shaped and was shaped by larger movements. Taking as a starting point the question of why there were so few maps in Europe in 1400 and so many by 1650, the book explores the reasons for this and its implications for European history. It examines how mapping and military technology advanced in tandem, how modern states' territories were mapped and borders drawn up, the role of maps in shaping the urban environment, and cartography's links to the new sciences.

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About the Author:


David Buisseret is Professor of the History of Cartography at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is a former director of the Center for Cartography at the University of Chicago. His books include From Sea Charts to Satellite Images: Interpreting North American History Through Maps.

From Publishers Weekly:

Buisseret, professor of the history of cartography at the University of Texas at Arlington, intends this book to answer a simple question: "Why was it that there were so few maps in Europe in 1400, and yet so many by 1650?" One reason for the explosion was the 15th-century European rediscovery of ancient map collections, such as Ptolemy's supremely influential Geography; the book's first chapter is devoted to the cartographic legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Equally important was Europe's new outward expansion, with journeys of exploration to Africa and the New World. Portugal and Spain, Buisseret emphasizes, led the way in mapmaking just as they did in exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, though other nations, such as England and France, caught up by the 17th century. Cartography also came to be used for military purposes, for depicting battlefields, troop maneuvers and fortifications. Maps were also important for administrative purposes: nation-states were growing fast, and maps helped in governing them. In 16th-century England, Buisseret explains, estate maps were used by individuals to define the limits of an owner's property, and in the same period, town plans emerged in reaction to military and administrative requirements. This growth of mapmaking was greatly accelerated by the emergence of the printing press. Buisseret supplements his narrative with dozens of illustrative maps, in color and black-and-white, from some of the great Renaissance mapmakers such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Durer. Anyone interested in cartography will enjoy this book, though it may be a bit specialized for the general reader.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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