The World, Back Then
June 12, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

How the World Was Imagined: Early Maps and Atlases — Depictions of the world from the Iron Age to the Age of Discovery and the emergence of modern geography. From Socks Studio, who have been producing great feature after feature.
posted by netbros (19 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you! I am a massive fan of older maps and reconciling them with reality. That is the main reason I have probably spent hundreds of hours in my life playing Microprose's Machiavelli just because it is the single most satisfying representation of interactive terra incognita I have ever seen.

Other reasons include me being a giant nerd.
posted by Shadax at 3:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is awesome. +10 for Anaximander, who also left us the very first words of Western philosophy that we have on record: into that from which things take their rise they pass away once more, as is ordained; for they make reparation and satisfaction to one another for their injustice according to the appointed time.

posted by Lutoslawski at 3:55 PM on June 12, 2012

Oh, Machiavelli did a great job depicting unknown parts of the world! As a player you had a general idea about where major cities were. But it was risky sailing to them, as they could be in very different places than you had been led to believe.
posted by Triplanetary at 4:15 PM on June 12, 2012

The tumblrification of the internet continues. Someone found the Wikipedia category: "Early World Maps", and decided to bring it to you -- sans context, without adding any insight or value, and without even a cursory understanding of the rich history of the magnificent maps they're presenting -- in an easily-digestable, easily-forwardable, thin schmeer of pablum.

Butt-hurt cartographer here, disgusted at what amounts to a cynical drive-by graverobbing of important works that mean quite a lot to me. Please excuse my overreaction; this is poesur link-bait carpetbaggetry, to its core.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 4:31 PM on June 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

BBC Four broadcast a series about maps a couple of years ago and the episode about medieval maps is excellent.
posted by dng at 4:55 PM on June 12, 2012

Thanks to this FPP I just emerged from a Mini-MetaHole where I was lost in competeing map projections. Personally, I'm digging the Hobo-Dyer, Equirectangular and the Winkel tripel. Tis both the beauty and the curse of having such a wealth of knowledge just a few clicks away.
posted by MikeMc at 5:21 PM on June 12, 2012

The Diogo Ribeiro map is very modern-looking although it's almost 500 years old. Good man.
posted by ersatz at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2012

Aw, I was just going to post this. Here's the other link I was going to include: Timeline Maps from the David Rumsey collection. This one of the discovery of the Americas is especially interesting to me because it depicts the history of discovery as clouds of ignorance receding from the land. (The execution is terribly Eurocentric, but the artistic concept is unique. Here's the entire series.)
posted by desjardins at 6:08 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was overwhelmed with curiosity/indignance, and I just rechecked the link. The page is quite literally just an automated strip of every single image in the Wikipedia "Early World Maps" article, in the exact same order, with all contextualizing/supplementary information removed.

Must've taken all of two minutes to write the script that did nothing but rehost and decontextualize a bunch of images while removing what must've been dozens of hours of collaborative research and effort.

Lazy linkbait bullshit.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 6:26 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ptolemy wasn't actually too far off. The Anglo-Saxon one made me laugh though.
posted by swedishmarsh at 7:36 PM on June 12, 2012

If this post was made with the first link being the wikipedia "Early World Maps" that jjjjjjjijjjjjjj pointed out, this would be a first rate FPP.

I remember truly and completely realizing that I had fallen in love with the internet in the late-ish '90s when I got my hands on HIGH RES jpgs of old maps of city-states of the Netherlands circa 16-somethings. They were all of, like, over a few megabytes. ENORMOUS!

Old maps are particularly fascinating to me when they're from eras where an average person living on one side might never be able to travel to the other edge in one lifetime.

/off to spend the evening on the wikipedia early maps page
posted by porpoise at 9:02 PM on June 12, 2012

as jjjjjjjijjjjjjj posted, is a website which copy-pasted images from wiki really FPP worthy?
posted by camdan at 9:02 PM on June 12, 2012

> I remember truly and completely realizing that I had fallen in love with the internet... when I got my hands on HIGH RES jpgs of old maps of city-states of the Netherlands circa 16-somethings. They were all of, like, over a few megabytes. ENORMOUS!
(Porpoise: if enormous maps are your cup of tea, I have a website that you might want to check out. The link is in my profile, if you are interested.)
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 9:07 PM on June 12, 2012

Thanks jjjjjjjijjjjjjj, especially for getting me to think about this for a bit-

Those jpg maps I got were very likely hosted on an university or library server, an institution who got grant money for the equipment which was likely the best-at-the-time and was billed at a premium (or a rig designed by grant-salaried researchers). Nevermind the physical scanning of the archived material. Stuff like that takes time, and effort, and expertise. Nowadays most anyone's niece can scan in family photos from a technophobic aunt at far higher resolutions on a flatbed scanner that's cheaper than a family lunch out at a fast food restaurant.

Curation is an incredible value-add multiplier. Stripping all of that by not even referring to the original collected source - much less attributing original and derivative sources - for page impressions, for eyeballs, for advertising revenue is incredibly insulting. A link to the source would all-but-vindicate, but this list? It's simply insulting. This is piracy, not fans wanting to watch movie before they are able to buy a ticket at a theater they can physically get to.

The early days of the internet were so optimistic. The internet is still a great thing, but just like civilized human society it, too, is also populated with grifters and cons and advertising.
posted by porpoise at 9:28 PM on June 12, 2012

Everyone go to jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj... 's profile and click on his website. You will not be sorry.
posted by desjardins at 7:02 AM on June 13, 2012

Well, you might be sorry when you get sucked into a black hole of looking at maps all day and realize that you haven't eaten or showered.
posted by desjardins at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2012

I got an email from the guy who runs the site. In it he makes some good points, and clarifies some of his motivations. I retract some of my vitriol.

He concludes his email by saying that he doesn't have a MetaFilter account, but would like me to post his message here so that his side could be heard.

In the interest of hearing all sides of the story, and at his request, I reproduce his email here, in its entirety, and unabridged except for removing personal details:
f_____ l______

Dear "King",
I'm F____, the editor of Socks. I came across a link on Metafilter to
a post of my site featuring some maps I liked so much I decided to
post about.

I also read your very harsh comments, and the reactions they produced,
about my posting that got me puzzled, to say the least.

First of all, I use Socks as my notebook, as a place where to store
and, sometimes, write about things that are interesting to me. It's
not a source of revenues (no ads, unlike your site), I don't sell
anything, (unlike your site), I don't really aspire at having a huge
traffic (which I haven't by the way). So please don't accuse me of

I'm not a cartographer, so I wouldn't naturally add something really
meaningful to the sheer beauty of those maps. I usually write more
thoroughly (not only on my site) about what I usually do and think
about, that is architecture. But, unlike you, I don't use to react to
complete strangers if they post images of buildings simply because
they are fascinated by them, instead of writing PhD thesis about!

My post didn't involve a mere copy and paste of the maps: every single
map links to the related Wikipedia post, in order for me in the future
to easily track back the text of reference. Furthermore, at the end of
the post, as I usually do, the original article on Wikipedia (Early
World Maps) is linked.

No information is stripped, in fact.

All this, without being, of course, a great deal of work, wasn't in
any way made by a robot or an automated script, like someone wrote in
that Metafilter post.

It is possible that someone, thanks to sites like mine, got interested
in maps in the first place, and thus made the next step, that is,
either become cartographer in life, or buy antique maps here on your
site, who knows?

As much as I was willing to do with [THE NAME OF A DIFFERENT PROJECT OF MINE LINKED ON MY SITE].

I would have commented back directly on Metafilter, bit I haven't got
an account there. I would be glad if you could post this reaction of
mine there, but I doubt you would do.

By the way,
While I disagree with some particulars about what he says (namely the "no information was stripped" sort of assertions) I do find myself swayed by the points he makes about how he uses it as a personal repository, and how he doesn't have advertisements, and how in light of this it's best not seen as a crass or money-grubbing venture.

In this light, I retract entirely my earlier assertions of "linkbait", and my implications that this was a project motivated by crass or cynical or commercial motivations. This appears to be incorrect, and these were irresponsible assumptions on my part and I apologize to Mr. L______ for leaping to them.

We're left with the much less serious charge of "lazy curation"; which, being occasionally guilty of myself, I find much easier to forgive.

Apologies for some of my earlier assumptions, Mr. L_______. I hope you can see why I made them; but they appear to be uncharitable and incorrect. We disagree about how these maps should best be presented; but this amounts to a stylistic disagreement and not, as had seemed to be the case before, an ideological one.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 7:19 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria Oregon has an exhibit up the earliest printed maps running until September 2012. It's cool because these are the actual 500-year old maps!
posted by vespabelle at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2012

Looks like that exhibit will also be coming to Victoria, BC and Annapolis, MD. The website is very nice. I think jjjjjjjijjjjjjj will be plenty happy with the context presented therein.
posted by desjardins at 7:53 PM on June 13, 2012

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