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Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500

Alida C. Metcalf

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How did intricately detailed sixteenth-century maps reveal the start of the Atlantic World?

Beginning around 1500, in the decades following Columbus's voyages, the Atlantic Ocean moved from the periphery to the center on European world maps. This brief but highly significant moment in early modern European history marks not only a paradigm shift in how the world was mapped but also the opening of what historians call the Atlantic World. But how did sixteenth-century chartmakers and mapmakers begin to conceptualize—and present to the public—an interconnected Atlantic World that was open and…

How did intricately detailed sixteenth-century maps reveal the start of the Atlantic World?

Beginning around 1500, in the decades following Columbus's voyages, the Atlantic Ocean moved from the periphery to the center on European world maps. This brief but highly significant moment in early modern European history marks not only a paradigm shift in how the world was mapped but also the opening of what historians call the Atlantic World. But how did sixteenth-century chartmakers and mapmakers begin to conceptualize—and present to the public—an interconnected Atlantic World that was open and navigable, in comparison to the mysterious ocean that had blocked off the Western hemisphere before Columbus's exploration?

In Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500, Alida C. Metcalf argues that the earliest surviving maps from this era, which depict trade, colonization, evangelism, and the movement of peoples, reveal powerful and persuasive arguments about the possibility of an interconnected Atlantic World. Blending scholarship from two fields, historical cartography and Atlantic history, Metcalf explains why Renaissance cosmographers first incorporated sailing charts into their maps and began to reject classical models for mapping the world. Combined with the new placement of the Atlantic, the visual imagery on Atlantic maps—which featured decorative compass roses, animals, landscapes, and native peoples—communicated the accessibility of distant places with valuable commodities. Even though individual maps became outdated quickly, Metcalf reveals, new mapmakers copied their imagery, which then repeated on map after map. Individual maps might fall out of date, be lost, discarded, or forgotten, but their geographic and visual design promoted a new way of seeing the world, with an interconnected Atlantic World at its center.

Describing the negotiation that took place between a small cadre of explorers and a wider class of cartographers, chartmakers, cosmographers, and artists, Metcalf shows how exploration informed mapmaking and vice versa. Recognizing early modern cartographers as significant agents in the intellectual history of the Atlantic, Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500 includes around 50 beautiful and illuminating historical maps.

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Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500

Alida C. Metcalf

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Reviews

Reviews

In this wonderful book, richly detailed yet concise and clear, Dr. Alida Metcalf examines the rapid accumulation of European knowledge about the Atlantic World during roughly the decade on either side of the year 1500.

In this wonderful book, richly detailed yet concise and clear, Dr. Alida Metcalf examines the rapid accumulation of European knowledge about the Atlantic World during roughly the decade on either side of the year 1500.

The extensive notes and bibliography of maps and images, historical events, and modern sources reflect the depth of the author's study and are rich resources for further investigation.

Mapping an Atlantic World, Circa 1500 is a light and entertaining read, especially for those who are not familiar with the cartographic history of the Renaissance.

The book is well written, and it is clear that the author has a strong grasp of the material.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6.125
x
9.25
Pages
248
ISBN
9781421438528
Illustration Description
12 color illus., 28 halftones, 6 line drawings
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
A Note to the Reader
Introduction
Chapter One. The Atlantic Ocean on the Periphery
Chapter Two. The Year 1500
Chapter Three. Chartmakers
Chapter Four. From

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
A Note to the Reader
Introduction
Chapter One. The Atlantic Ocean on the Periphery
Chapter Two. The Year 1500
Chapter Three. Chartmakers
Chapter Four. From Manuscript to Print
Chapter Five. Parrots and Trees
Chapter Six. The Cannibal Scene
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Alida C. Metcalf
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Alida C. Metcalf

Alida C. Metcalf is the Harris Masterson, Jr. Professor of History at Rice University. A codeveloper of imagineRio, the digital atlas of Rio de Janeiro, she is the author of Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaíba, 1580–1822 and Go-betweens and the Colonization of Brazil: 1500–1600.
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