Category Archives: Exploration

A land of silver?

This beautiful map of part of the coast of Brazil has been in the Bodleian’s collections for many years. It was drawn to our attention recently by an enquiry from officials in the city of Fortaleza, part of the area which it represents.

The map is in an unusual style; a planimetric view of the coast from above gradually shifts as we look inland to a bird’s eye view of the mountains outlined against the sky as if in a picture. It shows the area around the fort, built by the Dutch West India Company in 1649 and first named Fort Schoonenborch (the name is spelt in several different ways on this map). The inland areas of forest around the river are beautifully depicted. North is towards the bottom of the sheet, as indicated by the compass rose. The text is in French, with a number of misspellings that suggest it may have been made by someone who was a not a good French speaker; the spelling of “Zud” instead of “Sud” for south in the title for example. The area was disputed by the Dutch and Portuguese, and the fort was handed over to the Portuguese in 1653. They renamed it Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora de Assunção; the area around it is now a substantial city, still called Fortaleza, capital of the north eastern state of Ceará.

The map includes a detailed plan of the fort, a section through and a numbered index locating its features. This would be useful military information. Some water depths are given around the fort; the map would be of practical use for anyone arriving by sea.

The map was found amongst the papers of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon. Why is this hand drawn map of part of the coast of Brazil amongst the state papers of an adviser to an English king? The answer is in the accompanying written text described as a “Remonstrance concerning advantages for his sacred Majestie”, directed to Charles II. It explains that the map is a “true copy of an original gotten out of the secret cabinet of the Amsterdam West India Company”, and describes the enormous value of silver that exists to be mined in the area. The text appears to come from Balthazar Gerbier (who also refers to himself by the name Douvilly, a reference to a probably invented noble ancestor). At this time Gerbier, formerly a courtier, diplomat and art consultant, had fallen on hard times since the Restoration. He had previously taken part in an unsuccessful expedition to Guiana in search of gold. His extravagant claims regarding silver around Fortaleza do not appear to have been followed up.The hope of finding precious metal was an important part of exploration of the Americas by Europeans. This cartouche from a Dutch printed map of South America, from around the same time, shows South American people apparently smelting metal before well-dressed European gentlemen in ruffs and flamboyant hats; miners can be seen carrying their pick axes uphill in the background.

La description dela contrée de Chiara en Amerique á trois degrez du zud du temp que la Compagnie des Indes Occidentalos la possedoit, et y avoient erigé le fort Schonenbourg. 1649-1653,  MS. Clarendon 92 (f.179a)

Tractus australior Americae Meridionalis a Rio de la Plata per Fretum Magellanicum ad Toraltum. ca 1650. (E) H1:7 (2)

Going South

The early 20th century was the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration with the competition between a handful of men really pushing the boundaries of discovery and survey. Ernest Shackleton was at the forefront of this but it wasn’t until after the Nimrod Expedition which he led from 1907 to 1909 that he was able to write about it.

The Expedition, named after the aging ship, Nimrod, was short on funds, lacking experience and preparations were rushed.  Finally the difficulties were overcome and team were underway southwards. The main target was to be the first men to the South Pole. Once the team arrived in Antarctica there were a range of geographical and scientific objectives to be undertaken but there would be long periods of inactivity due to the season and weather. However, Shackleton had put some thought to what the team could do in the long dark winter months.  He took along a printing press with which all the members of the Expedition wrote a book, Aurora Australis.

 

The challenges of writing, illustration, printing and binding this work in the frigid temperatures cannot be overstated and became the first book published in Antarctica. Published at ‘The Sign of the Penguin’ (Cape Royds) the extreme cold meant the printing ink became thick and difficult to work.  It can be imagined that to include maps in this work would just be too difficult. However, about one hundred of these volumes were produced and bound by another expedition member, Bernard Day, using recycled horse harnesses and Venesta boards from the packing cases.

Each copy retains stenciling indicating the provisions packed in that case which gives each copy a name.  The lettering on the Bodleian’s copy is “Kidneys”.

An Australian member of Nimrod Expedition, Douglas Mawson, created the maps of the expedition from surveys he and other members undertook. A geologist at the University of Adelaide by profession, he was ideally placed to do this work.

The maps show the Expedition’s Winter Quarters at McMurdo Sound, Cape Royds, and their routes on land and ice.  The style of the maps is attractively spare but almost illustrative. Printed in colour, the depiction of relief is mainly pictorially stippled with the names of the features are a mixture between prosaic (Brown Island, Snow Valley) and commemorational such as Mount Evans, Mount Doorly, both named by Captain Scott during the earlier Discovery Expedition after colleagues. Also notice the Royal Society Range – it’s always good to keep your sponsors onside. The routes show the first ever ascent of Mount Erebus, the second highest volcano in Antarctica, and the route southwards. It is poignant that the route stops not at the South Pole but at the map edge, dated “16.1.09 Lat. 72° 25’ Long. 155° 16’.”. However, this was the furthest south anyone had reached at that time.

 

The maps were drawn once the party returned to England and were issued in The heart of the Antarctica by Ernest Shackleton which was published in 1909 as a weighty two volume work.

The heart of the Antarctic  2036 d.17,18

Aurora Australis Broxb. 51.14

Golden Globes

Globes in various forms are an everyday sight but intriguing none the less.  Like maps there are increasingly being looked at in an aesthetic light, but were designed with a clear educational function.  An early example the ’Erdapfel’ or ‘Behaim globe’ constructed between 1490 and 1492

was thought to have come to the attention of Christopher Columbus before his famous voyage.  He would have consulted flat paper maps but it is only on a globe can you appreciate the directness of the Great Circle route. They also “contrived to solve the various phœnomena of the earth and heavens, in a more easy and natural manner” so said George Adams in his Treatise describing the construction and explaining the use of new celestial and terrestrial globes. (1777)

Globes were traditionally made using gores – 12 or 16 shaped paper or vellum strips pasted to a sphere with ‘calottes’ or caps to cover the inevitable untidiness at the joins at the north and south pole and subsequently mounted at 23½° off the vertical to replicate earth’s tilt in space. To maintain this angle lead shot was used to balance. Some globes were manufactured to be portable whereby they can be disassembled in 48 pieces.

Modern self-supporting globes use sections that bear very little resemblance to the elegant gore. The traditional skill of globe making has been revived recently by Greaves & Thomas a small company specialising in the production of all manner of globes “spanning cartographic history from 1492 to the present day”.

The Bodleian has never restricted itself to collecting justbooks and manuscripts. Indeed it was Sir Thomas Bodley who purchased a pair of extravagantly expensive terrestrial and celestial Molyneux globes (1592) and subsequently bemoaned the fact they were getting ‘slurred’ (smudged) and so their upkeep would become a continuous charge.  This proved to be the case as the Bodleian accounts show payments made to the joiner in 1629, 1636 and in 1644 for mending one or other of the globes.  This pair was discarded in favour of a pair of Blaeu globes which can be seen on a contemporary print by David Loggan of Duke Humfrey’s Library in 1675. It appears these were also rejected in favour of a more modern (and smaller) pair of John Senex globes dating from 1728.  It is this pair which reside in the Rare Books and Manuscript Reading Room of the Weston Library.  .

Today globes are more likely to be found as blow ups, pop ups or large installations.

Examples of this more public structure can be found in Boston, Massachusetts as the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library and De Lorme’s Eartha globe in Yarmouth, Maine but equally the inflatable globe functions well as a ball on a beach. ‘Three dimensional atlases’ are now being published as pop ups of hemispheres, illustrating text wonderfully for younger readers. Miniature globes were regarded as children’s toys with some educational value but the most peculiar is the ostrich egg. Sadly the Bodleian does not possess one of these wonderful objects but given its delicate structure it is only a decorative piece.

Mapparium photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/2dhfXcJ

Egg photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bellerby_%26_Co_Egg_Globe_Commission.jpg

 

Boats and Maps

Maps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and one recent purchase by the Rare Books Section was not one I’d seen before.  The artist’s book The last voyage by Tracey Bush is based on a poem by a seventeenth century wit John Taylor who undertook a journey in a paper boat with two stockfish tied to canes for oars from London to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.  The map is fashioned into a hand folded paper model of a boat which is accompanied by a booklet with extracts of the poem In praise of the hemp-seed written by Taylor to describe his journey. The booklet and boat are made entirely by hemp paper and are contained in a folder secured by a small piece of hemp rope.

This artistic use of maps is increasing with the popularity of maps as visual objects and you can see them everywhere – mugs, mouse mats and even the former First Lady’s dress. What is it about maps that is so appealing?  Is it the potential for a journey? The depiction of something (generally) real? Or do they just make pretty things to look at? Whatever the draw it has been going on for centuries as can be seen by Leo Belgicus which was first drawn in 1583 by Michaël Eytzinger, an Austrian cartographer.  He depicted the Low Countries as a lion rampant facing east, an image which was popular in various forms for many years.

As was closer to home James Gillray’s caricature of England as an old woman seated on a sea creature.  Otherwise it is the content, rather than the appearance of the map which is more important – who hasn’t seen advertisements for items personalised with a map of a significant location in cufflinks, necklaces and puzzles.

Whatever it is in this age of technology maps remain relevant as practical items (an Ordnance Sheet doesn’t require a mobile phone signal) and an artefact thus still fulfilling the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s definition of cartography as ‘the art and science of graphically representing a geographical area, usually on a flat surface such as a map or chart. It may involve the superimposition of political, cultural, or other non-geographical divisions onto the representation of a geographical area.’

Alaska before Alaska

This striking map of North America from 1836 first came to our attention because of the labeling of Alaska, here called Russie Américaine. Russia had started to explore the coastline of

Alaska in the 1720’s, with the Dane Vitus Bering the first to travel through the strait that now bears his name. This inevitably led to fur traders moving in and setting up posts, gradually spreading out into the hinterland meeting up with traders coming from the Canadian side in the next century. Never profitable, Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million.

But there is a lot more to the map than the Alaska question. The map was published at a time of major changes in the way that North America was beginning to develop into the countries and states we recognize today. In 1836 Canada relates to a small part of the country around the St Lawrence River north of the Great Lakes while the rest of this now vast country is left to Native Americans and traders. Mexico extends far up the west coast to the Oregon border, while Texas is shown as an independent state, not yet part of the United States but no longer part of Mexico after defeating the Mexican Army in 1835.

The importance of trade in the opening up of the west is best shown with the settlement of Astoria. Lewis and Clark’s Government-sponsored exploration to open up the West between 1805-06 had lead to further expansion, John Jacob Astor and his Pacific Fur Company being amongst the first to found a settlement, Astoria, on the banks of the Columbia River.

Exploration beyond the Arctic Circle was focused at the time of the map publication in finding the Northwest Passage. British explorers had first started the search for a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as early as 1576, but it wasn’t until the great naval voyages of Franklin and Ross in the early 1800’s that real progress was made, despite the harsh conditions and sea-ice. Franklin went on a number of expeditions from 1819 leading to the last final expedition in 1845 which ended in tragedy with the loss of all who took part.

Amerique de Nord par A.H. Dufour, 1836. (E) B9 (102)

Smoke on the water

This untitled map shows the route of the journey made from Siam to Brest by the French Ambassador for King Louis XIV to Siam, Alexandre, Chevalier de Chaumont in 1686. The journey taken is shown by the dotted line going through a large area of the South Atlantic (the distance between Ascension and St Helena alone is close to 750 miles). The map is undated but comes from the Libro dei Globi, by the Venetian cartographer, globe maker and Franciscan Monk Vincenzo Coronelli, published between 1683 and 1704.

fire

The map centres on the islands of St Helena and Ascension, discovered by the Portuguese in the previous century, important lands that break up the hazardous journey across the Atlantic. As well as the cartographic detail on display the map also features boats from Brazil and the Congo and fishing vessels from Guinea. Using fire as a way to attract fish to the boat the fishermen then spear the fish using a trident. One boat has a fire burning inside, with holes to allow smoke into the water, presumably to stun the fish. In the middle of the map are a group of putti, winged spirits (this time with additional fishes tails). Usually shown engaged in an activity here they are carrying a piece of Elephant ivory.

fire inset

Coronelli was a highly acclaimed maker of globes, with commissions from the great families of Europe, Louis the XIV amongst them. The Libro dei Globi is an atlas made up of the maps which were drawn for the globes. More correctly called Gores, the sheets are cut to fit around a spherical ball, hence the shape of the map shown here.

gore1

This example of a Gore map comes from a facsimile of the Libro dei Globi on the open shelves of the Map Room, in the Weston Library, G1 B1.21q

Unnamed map by Vincenzo Coronelli, circa 1683-1704. (E) K14 (124)

Carte de pilotage du Danube

Rising in the Black Forest region of Germany the Danube flows a curving 1770 miles through Central and Eastern Europe before reaching the Black Sea. As well as an important shipping route the river forms part of the national borders of seven European countries.

The first Commission to aid navigation and control safe and clear passage of the river was created during the Congress of Paris in 1856, following the end of the Crimea War. This was replaced by an International Commission during the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 which lasted until the outbreak of World War Two. Following German defeat in 1945 a new Commission was created, and it is this Commission that has produced a series of books of maps covering the course of the river as an aid to navigation.

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With a mixture of Russian and French text and German mapping the book shown here covers the river from Regensburg – the furthest upstream navigable by large craft – to Kachlet, in the Bavaria region of Germany. The cover gives no hint to the wonders within. A long and continuous strip map follows the river at a scale of 1:10,000 and provides information on, amongst others; bridges, ferry crossings and power cables. The red numbers in boxes show the kilometres remaining to the sea.

IMG_0261This photograph gives some indication of the length of the map folded within the book (the amount show here is approximately 2/3rds of the map) and gives an idea of the intricacy of the way in which the map has been created to show the curves and flow of the river. Special folds

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and additional sections have been added to create a practical as well as an impressive work.

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Carte de Pilotage de Danube, du Port de Regensburg (km 2379) A l’Ecluse Kachlet (km 2230.5), (1958). Published by the Commission du Danube. C22:11 c.8