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Author Topic: PORTOLANS  (Read 3405 times)
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« on: September 30, 2007, 08:42:58 am »

                                         Mapping and Picturing: Maps as Records of History

Figure 1. Chios island (in Aegean Sea) map, Kitab-i Bahriye, Suleymaniye Library, Ayasofya, 2612.
This short article is taken from the full article (by Prof. Gunsel Renda) which is available here as 7 page PDF file

Researchers of cartography are often geographers or cartographers themselves who examine maps for their content in view of the science of map making, while the illustrations on the maps are often overlooked. A study of historical maps and sea charts indicates, however, that cartographers have often considered map making as an art as well as a science and aimed to record the different parts of the world not only with their topographical details but also with their history. Therefore, city views, costumes, ships, flora and fauna and even portraits found on certain maps have brought them close to works of art.

Certain illustrated maps have survived from the Roman and Medieval times but it is in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that a great number of maps and sea charts or portolans have been produced. It is the real explosion of geography in the sixteenth century that led to the production of maps and sea charts by the Italians, Catalan and Portuguese as well as the Ottomans. This was the natural outcome of the Portuguese expeditions that led to new trade routes and naval traffic especially on the Mediterranean.

To this must be added the conflicts that aroused in the sixteenth century between the ruling powers in the Mediterranean. For all purposes maps and sea charts were needed to provide current knowledge of geography and navigation. Maps and sea charts normally served to guide soldiers for military expeditions and especially mariners who sailed close to shore for refuge from corsairs and the ports they stopped for supply. Suitable harbours or towns were indicated with inscriptions and sometimes with sketchy vignettes. Maps and sea charts more or less have followed the same techniques over the centuries.

Portolans or sea charts drawn on vellum are either single sheets, the size of the animal skin used, or they are in the form of atlases made up of separate sheets. They have interconnecting rhumb lines; representing the 32 points of the compass, 32 winds main half and quarter which join in wind roses which are multicoloured and decorated with a variety of motifs. Coast lines are drawn in green or blue, the islands painted in different colours. They have decorative scale bars as well; the place names or legends are written at right angles to the shore in black or red. Some of these maps or sea charts were produced in Italian, Catalan or Ottoman workshops as special presentation copies prepared for rulers or wealthy customers.

Important cities which in the simple maps were no more than vignettes developed in these copies into plan views or ground level panoramas of certain cities and harbours with added legends concerning historical facts often indicating the political allegiance of a place. Venice and Genoa were the most frequently illustrated ports although other cities such as Marseilles, Jerusalem, Alexandria or Cairo were represented.

They also included figures of rulers or other humans worthy of attention, animals, birds, flags, etc. It is in these illustrated maps that the links between map and picture making bring aesthetic concerns and their artistic component needs to be explored.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2007, 08:46:15 am by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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