Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps

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Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps

October 4, 2012 to January 27, 2013
On loan from the Sonoma County Museum, California, USA

Hartman D. Schedel, German, 1440-1514
Untitled Map of the world
Nuremberg, Germany, 1493

This collection of the earliest printed maps of the world reveals the rapidly unfolding understanding of geography and our place in the universe from the early Renaissance through the scientific Age of Enlightenment.

The 30 rare and stunning maps (complemented by an optional audio guide), drawn from the extensive Wendt collection, also portray the first attempts to come to grips with the shape, size, and nature of the Earth and our solar system.

The revolutionary invention of printing in the 1450s made it possible to distribute consistent cartographic and geographic information throughout the major cities and centres of learning in Western Europe. A mix of geography and art, these first printed maps are visually-appealing and artistic attempts to comprehend the essential qualities of the Earth, its relationship to the sun and other planets in our solar system, and, eventually, the universe.

The audio guide offers visitors a chance to dig even deeper into the significance and appreciation of these historical works of art. Listen to a sample track with video below. Audio guides are available on a first come, first serve basis for an additional $5.

One map from the Royal BC Museum’s historic map collection in the BC Archives will be on exhibit with Envisioning the World. Dated from 1696, the illuminated double-hemisphere view of the world is adapted and redrawn from the original work of the important French cartographer Nicholas Sanson (1600-1667). It provides a fascinating look at how European mapmakers of the time viewed the North Pacific with mythical wonder and scanty facts.

In our present age of space exploration, Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps takes visitors back to the early intellectual awakening to ponder our planet and its place in the universe.

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful 104-page catalogue available for purchase from the Royal Museum Shop.

Header image: Willem Jansz. Blaeu, Dutch, 1571–1638 | Nova totius terrarum orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula auct: Guiljelmo Blaeuw. (1606) | Amsterdam, 1630

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