Monthly Archives: April 2024

The Carnation Revolution

Today, April the 25th, is the fiftieth anniversary of the Carnation Revolution*, when a military coup by left-leaning officers in the Portuguese army overthrew the Estado Novo, the anti-liberal, anti-socialist nationalist party that had been in power since 1933.

Il Portogallo…, c.1974. C32 (211)

This map hints at the Fascist style of art prevalent in Italy and Germany around the Second World War but the text around the helmet, ‘Il Portogallo non sara’ il Chile d’Europa’ (Portugal will not be the Chile of Europe), is anti-fascist, this was the slogan of the revolution and refers to the hope that this mostly peaceful coup (4 were killed on the 25th by government forces) wouldn’t run the same course as the take-over by forces loyal to Augusto Pinochet in Chile the year before, which resulted in deaths, disappearances and executions in the thousands.

This way of using a part of the body to portray something separate is called anthropomorphism. Considering the shapes of many countries and the amount of maps with some sort of allegory in their cartouches (see here and here) it’s surprising that there aren’t more maps like this. One notable example is  Europa Prima pars Terrae in forma Virginis  which comes from Heinrich Bunting’s Itinerarium et chronicon ecclesiasticum totius sacræ Scripturæ, a book of woodcut maps first published in 1581 of the Holy Land. Despite appearances this Queen represents Mary the Virgin, not the Virgin Queen Elizabeth.

From Itinerarium et chronicon ecclesiasticum totius sacræ Scripturæ, 1597. B 7.3. Th

The use of women to depict the four known continents was a common cartographic motif, with each continent represented by an idealized version of a female. Europe, as was the thinking of the time, is often depicted as the dominant continent, often portrayed as being above the rest, though that’s not the case in this dramatic example from Joan Blaeu’s Grand atlas, from 1663-67.

From Grand atlas, by Joan Blaeu. 1663-67. Map Res 45

Here Europe is the figure in the blue and red dress, centre left, and carrying a sceptre. America stands behind her, Asia is in pink with Africa behind. All four have their associated animals; Europe leading a horse, Asia a camel, Africa an elephant and America an armadillo, which usually narrows down this figure to Mexicana. The figure in green is Cybele, the Greek Goddess of the Earth, symbol of eternity. Her crown is made of the walls of a city and she is often shown holding a key sitting in a chariot drawn by lions, who are themselves symbols of imperial power (we bloggged about lions here). Cybelle is also the protector of cities, hence the crown made up of city walls, she appears in an earlier blog in this guise here

Here’s a lovely variation on the theme, this time the four continents represented by putti, winged spirits that were often found on maps. Here Europe faces us holding a crown, behind is Africa holding a scorpion, Asia has his back to us with an incense burner and America peeps out from behind the pillar. This image comes from Carel Allard’s Atlas Contractus from 1703, and it is Allard we see confidently staring out of this frontispiece while pointing at the map he has made

From Atlas Contractus, 1703. Map Res 18

*So called because of the carnations handed out to soldiers by the people on the streets

The U.S.S. Jeannette

Two different versions of the same map, separated between editions not only by 14 years, but also by differences in quality. The later map also includes fascinating additional manuscript text showing the ‘Probable drift of articles from the “Jeannette”‘.

Nord-Polar-karte, 1905. M1 (173)

The pages come from Adolf Stieler’s Handatlas, first published in 1817 and going through numerous editions with contributions from some of Germany’s leading cartographers, including Hermann Berghaus, who designed the 1905 Arctic map, and Augustus Petermann, who will play a further part in this story. An interesting and complex character as well as an outstanding cartographer, here’s a link to an earlier blog about the man.

Nord-Polar-karte (with manuscript additions), 1891. M1 (172)

The map, especially the later coloured version is good in itself, giving a high birds-eye view of the top of the World with insets showing a more traditional approach to topographical representation at the edges and two gridded circular maps at the bottom corners showing ocean currents  and coverage of the Northern Lights (see inset). But it’s the manuscript additions that make the earlier map more interesting, despite its condition. The Jeannette was originally a Royal Navy ship called the Pandora, one in a long line with that name, the first being the ship sent to capture the Bounty mutineers in 1790. In 1879 she was  sent on an expedition to the North Pole. The main aim of the expedition was to follow the Kuroshio Current, a warm current system in the Pacific similar to the Gulf Stream which it was believed, incorrectly, to flow through the Bering Strait and then into the ‘Open-Polar Sea’, an imagined sea set in the Arctic Sea free of ice. This sea was mapped by Mercator in 1569 but believed to exist even before Mercator’s famous map of the World. It was Petermann, a firm believer in the existence of the warm sea current theory, that proposed the expedition that would lead to the Jeannette setting sail in 1879.

Polus Articus, from Atlas Minor, by Gerardi Mercatoris, 1621. Map Res 100.

This map of the Polar region comes from a 1621 edition of Mercator’s Atlas Minor. Mercator went further than most in his views on the Pole, believing that not only that there was an ice-free sea but that the Earth was hollow and the ocean flowed through holes at the Pole into the Earth.

Leaving San Francisco in July the Jeannette passed through the Bering Strait in late August and continued her journey towards the Pole, but by the 7th of September she became trapped in ice, and spent the next 21 months drifting according to the currents and movement of the ice until finally the pressure put on the ship caused it to break apart and sink in June, 1881.

This extract from the earlier map shows two islands discovered as the ship was trapped, Jeannette and Henrietta, with a further island, Bennett, discovered as the crew tried to reach land after the ship sank. The map dramatically shows the location of the ship’s final moments, ‘Untergang [doom] d. Jeannette, 13 Juni 1881’ and the manuscript additions show the path taken by the ‘articles’ of the ship, the remains left on the ice after the ship went down, which slowly floated on currents down the east coast of Greenland before beaching on the southwest of the island.

Stanford’s map of the countries around the North Pole, 1875. M1 (107)

This beautiful map of the North Polar region was published 4 years before the voyage of the Jeanette by Stanford’s, the famous map publishers and sellers out of 55 Charing Cross. This map highlights the hardship faced by Polar explorers, with vast areas of the Arctic labelled ‘Unexplored Polar Region’. It’s to the credit of these intrepid explorers that there is so much red text and lines on the map, indicating what the map calls ‘chief Arctic worthies and the dates of discovery’.  The inset from the map shows the same area as shown earlier in this blog, with the group of islands round New Siberia before the discoveries made by the Jeanette.

It’s a story reminiscent of Shackleton and the Endurance in the South Pole, with one crucial difference. Like the Endurance the Jeannette’s crew survived the hardships of the ship’s entrapment. But 20 of the crew of the Jeannette perished in the attempt to reach safety, including the captain, George Washington de Long, although 13 of them did survive.