30 January 2014

Terra Incognita to Australia

Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus by Johannes Blaeu (1659)
The National Library in Canberra is currently exhibiting a large and magnificent collection of some of the world's greatest and rarest maps under the title of "Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia."  The exhibit hosts treasures such as an eleventh-century Macrobius-style chart, a thirteenth-century Psalter map, and the fifteenth-century Fra Mauro map on the early end of the Age of Discovery, down to maps by explorers Captain James Cook and Matthew Flinders.  The exhibition, which is open until March 10, 2014, was opened in November 2013 by film star Russell Crowe, who exclaimed he was a "map geek."

Maps range from charts made by Australia's Aborigines, to sea charts, to great world maps showing Australia as blank conjectures.  Artifacts include chronometers, bowls from the Dutch East India Company, and mariner’s calipers.  Online extras for "Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia" include YouTube videos, podcasts, checklists, and interactive maps.

Head of maps at the British Library Peter Barber said: "You wouldn't get this exhibition in Europe because the institutions would never lend."  The National Library’s curator of maps, Martin Woods, gushed, "I don't know how much more excited I could be!"

21 January 2014

Does a kangaroo in 400-year-old manuscript prove the Portuguese discovered Australia?

A kangaroo in a circa 1600 sheet of processional music from Portugal?
If so, it could prove the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Australia.
(Source: Les Enluminures Gallery)
An illuminated manuscript recently acquired by the Les Enluminures Gallery in New York which dates to between 1580 and 1620 has a drawing in a capital letter of an animal that looks conceivably like a kangaroo (or wallaby) munching on a plant.  If it is a kangaroo, it may be persuasive evidence that the Portuguese reached Australia before the first accepted European landing there by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606.

The manuscript, a sheet of liturgical music, also has a images of half-naked men wearing a chaplet of leaves that could be a depiction of Australian aborigines.

An Australian aboriginie?
(Source: Les Enluminures Gallery)
Laura Light, a researcher at the Les Enluminures Gallery, said that "a kangaroo or wallaby in a manuscript this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travellers' reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal."  The theory of the Portuguese discovery of Australia has been around for at least two centuries, but still lacks definitive proof.

Dr. Martin Woods of the National Library of Australia said the kangaroo-like animal could be "another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species."  Dr. Peter Pridmore of La Trobe University suggests that the animal depicted could be an aardvark.

Les Enluminures Gallery plans to display the manuscript, with many others from January 24 to February 21, 2014, in an exhibit entitled "Sacred Song: Chanting the Bible in the Middle Ages and Renaissance."

The debate about the possible European discovery of Australia before 1606 continues.

17 January 2014

The International Society for the History of the Map's Discussion List: New E-Mail Listserv

A large number of individuals miss the old MapHist e-mail listserv. The Society for the History of Discoveries is pleased to pass along the announcement that the International Society for the History of the Map (ISHMap) has opened a new e-mail listserv.  Sign-up information is at: http://lazarus.elte.hu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/ishm

From the (ISHMap) moderators: 

Dear ISHMap-Lister,

Welcome you at our re-opened, free and open discussion list, hosted by the International Society for the History of the Map (ISHMap).  After the short test period the Moderators invite you to contribute to the discussion.

Please, send your messages to the list - and reach the global community of historians of the map.  The list is devoted to international scholarly communication regarding the history of the map.  For more information visit the Society website.

Best wishes for 2014 with ISHMap-List,

Sarah, Thomas and Zsolt
(The Moderators)

For more information:

Mapping Nature Across the Americas at the Newberry Library

Geographie der Pflanzen in den Tropen-Ländern,
Louis Bouquet after Alexander von Humboldt, Schönberger and Turpin (1807).
The following announcement of the 2014 NEH Summer Seminar at the Newberry may be of interest to you (or your students). Please see the link at the bottom of this email for more information.

Here is a short description of the program:

The Newberry Library's Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography is now accepting applications for its 2014 NEH summer seminar for college and university faculty and up to three graduate students, "Mapping Nature across the Americas." The four-week seminar will be led by James Akerman (Director of the Smith Center) and Kathleen Brosnan (Travis Chair of Modern American History at the University of Oklahoma). Participants will explore the interplay between mapping and environmental knowledge across the Americas from the transatlantic encounter into the 21st century. By bringing together environmental history and the history of cartography, this institute will illuminate their essential relationship, broadening participating summer scholars' understanding of how maps and depictions of nature shaped and were shaped by diverse cultural and historical contexts. Applications are encouraged from college and university faculty teaching a broad range of courses and involved in a diversity of research topics. Qualified independent scholars and scholars engaged in museum work are also eligible to apply. A limited number of spaces are also available for full-time graduate students in the humanities. Successful applicants will receive a stipend of $3900 to help defray travel and housing expenses. Completed applications must be postmarked no later than March 4, 2014.