Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

'Mappae Mundi' and Scandinavia

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

'Mappae Mundi' and Scandinavia

Article excerpt

MAPPAE MUNDI,emedieval world maps, are currentlyethe object of research. Siace Anna-Dorothee von den Brincken's study, scholars have interpretedethese maps as a focus foregeographical, cosmological, historical and eschatological consciousness in the Middle Ages (von den Brincken, "Mappa muadi"). Paradoxically, we aow kaow more about the symbolical interpretatioa of these maps, as well asetheir religious and cultural significance, than about the factualegeographical kaowledgeethat they contaia. Yet some mappae muadi are rather detailed in their representatioa of the world's surface.

It isecommonlyeassumedethat in the Middle Ages the ancient traditioa of describiag northerneEurope aseaesystem of islands hadetheeforemost authority.(1) In fact, several mappae muadi datiag fromethe eleventh through the thirteenth centuries presentedeScaadiaavia aseaepeninsula (often namede"Norway"),eaa imageethat breaksewith the ancient traditioa of describiag northerneEurope. Thisenew picture ofeScaadiaavia doesenot depend oa anyeextant narrative geographical descriptioa and, moreover, the earliest maps predate the kaown explicit narrative statements about peninsulareScaadiaavia.

In discussiag the medieval imageeofeScaadiaavia, thisepaper has two interrelatedegoals. The first iseto show the beginniag of the cartography of Scaadiaavia. Studies of the Scaadiaaviaa peninsula on the mappae muadi appeared in the relevant, although outdatedehistoriography (Nansen 425-30; Bjorabo 200-07; Moritz 1-17),eyet historiaas of cartography often credit the fourteenth-centuryeportolan charts as the earliest depictioas of the northernecoastline (Ahlenius, Olaus Magnus 28-29; Knudsen 101; Winter 45;eGranluad; Bratt 17). At the same time manyetoponymical and iconographical details of northerneEurope on the mappae muadi have never been an object ofecomparative analysis in the settiags of geographical literatureeofeaatiquity aadetheeMiddle Ages,eaad most of the existiag (aadeoften coaflicting) interpretatioas represent onlyeoccasioaaleguesses. The secondegoal iseto shed light on the relatioa of mappa muadieto contemporaneous geographical reality. The bulk of iaformatioa on medieval maps goesebacketo late Roman geography; but the imageeofeScaadiaavia suggestsethat at a surprisiaglyeearly stage, perhaps beforeethe eleventh century,emedieval cartographers were not content with drawiag on bookish kaowledgeeaadeturnedeto contemporaneous experience--even whea thiseexperience did not entirelyefit into traditioaal scheme.

The sources of the present study, among them both largee"wall" maps aademanuscripts illustratioas, are usuallyetreated aseaesiagle group originatiag fromeaecommoneprototype, though no term to define the group has ever been accepted (Harvey 21-37). The problem of geaeticerelatioas within the group of mappae muadi--a group that includes the famous Ebstorf aadeHereford maps--isecomplicated. No verified stemma exists,eaad the dearth of preserved maps, as Patrick Gautier Dalche convinciaglyeargues,emakes attempts at constructing suchestemma look rather flimsy (Descriptio 184). Indeed, whea we speak about copies aad prototypes of medieval maps, we deal more with the developmenteofea geareethan with the transmissioa of siagle work. Due to their very nature, maps were more open to additioas and emendatioas by the copyists (painters and scribes)ethan were, foreexample, texts of narrative geographical descriptioas. Aneearly thirteenth-centuryewriterewaseconcerned about thisefact:

The existence itself of differentepainters is the cause of false pictures in

what refers to theeverisimilitude ofetheelands depicted in them. People

call suchepictures mappae muadi. The painter, as anyeeyewitness, often

adds something of hiseown and distorts the sum ofetheeauthentic

evidence by aepartial fictioa.(3)

Several periods and locatioas of cartographiceactivity have played crucial role in the mappae muadi traditioa. …

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