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Anais do Museu Paulista: História e Cultura Material

Print version ISSN 0101-4714On-line version ISSN 1982-0267


TEIXEIRA, Dante Martins. Todas as criaturas do mundo: a arte dos mapas como elemento de orientação geográfica. An. mus. paul. [online]. 2009, vol.17, n.1, pp.137-154. ISSN 1982-0267.

Vague in the outlines and abounding in figures of real or fabulous creatures, the iconography of medieval maps played a significant role in helping users to recognize lands that were virtually unknown to Christendom. In a world with no reliable latitudes and longitudes, the land contours, inhabitants and even certain elements of fauna and flora could become variables of utmost importance for geographic orientation. Notwithstanding the higher levels of precision achieved in their efforts to represent geographic space, the considerable advancements made in latitude determination, and their continuous pursuit of a practical method for the establishment of longitudes, the cartographers of the Age of Discoveries still went to the trouble of depicting notable elements - whether real or imaginary - to help travelers get their bearings around different regions of the globe. As the presence of Europeans continued to expand and an authentic scientific revolution took place in the 17th century, the lengthy notes and eye-catching representations of nature and local inhabitants soon lost their utility as points of reference on 17th-century maps to become mere accessories of aesthetic and commercial value. The advent of the 18th century consolidated, once and for all, the transformation of such illustrations into essentially decorative elements with no other relevant role to play in mapmaking. In addition to decreasing in number, the figures became more stylized and moved to the borders of the maps as ornamental motifs. Although they often maintained some sort of relation with the geographic space depicted on the map, the motifs chosen could also constitute a rather independent element. In fact, allegories, compositions with a variety of mythological figures, and historical representations were often used to underscore the power of certain political agents.

Keywords : Historical cartography; Dutch cartography; 16th-century cartography; Iconography; Iconology.

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