Gerard Mercator drew Orbis Imago  in 1538. It is his first world map, based on an earlier map by Oronce Fine. It has a few unique features: ‘America’ was used to refer to both North and South America for the first time, with both parts of the New World joined together as one continent. Mercator also separated Asia and North America. It also has a particularly striking bicordiform (meaning two-heart shaped) projection. (Mercator is most familiar for his later projection onto a cylinder, particularly useful for sea navigation because it maintained rhumb lines as perfectly straight lines, and angles remain unchanged. This projection was the one that caused all the controversy in the 1980’s because it maintains rhumb lines at the expense of area accuracy, ballooning the north and south and contracting the equator. In practice this made Europe and North America disproportionately larger than Africa, Southern Asia and South America. Mercator’s projection was continually used in school text books and atlases, and was accused of being imperialistic. Ironically, Google Maps uses a variant of the Mercator, and a good explanation why humanities shouldn’t necessarily knee-jerk the apparent prejudices of science can be found here. But this is another story…)

My favourite part of Mercator’s 1538 map is the phrase written on Antarctica: Terra hic esse certum est sed quãtus quibusque limitibus finitas incertum. Latin for: It is certain that there is land here, but its size and the limits of its boundaries are uncertain. I feel like this defines my entire philosophy to land.

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Mercator | 2013 | maps, Surface, True History | Tags: , | Comments (0)

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