Two of the major themes pursued in this book are the way knowledge spaces are created out of the messy motley of practice, and the ‘great divide’ between science and other knowledge traditions. Nowhere are these two themes better exemplified than in the synergistic relationship of science and cartography. That relationship is now so self-evident and yet so complex that it is best explored by going back to basics and asking what maps are, what they do and how they come to be so embedded in modern consciousness. The seemingly trite question, ‘what is a map’? is hard to answer because maps are the paradigmatic examples of the kind of spatial knowledge that is produced in the knowledge space we inhabit. Not only do we create spaces by linking people, practices and places, thus enabling knowledge to be produced, we also assemble the diverse elements of knowledge by spatial means. Unpacking such a transparent, lived-in, dual spatiality necessitates a fairly difficult reflexive exploration since it involves the attempt to understand the spatiality of knowledge from within the knowledge space that has been coproduced with that knowledge.
In this chapter I revisit the great divide to set up the possibility of recognising other ways of assembling knowledge, thereby gaining the perspective of an alternative space. Some of the recent discussions about the spatiality of knowledge then open up a discussion of the sociohistorical origins of our knowledge space in early attempts by the state to assemble cartographic knowledge in sixteenth-century Iberia. While these were ultimately unsuccessful, they were a precursor to the knowledge space that came with the integration of the state, science and cartography that began with the French national survey in the eighteenth century. Because all this raises profound reflexive difficulties, I have adopted the role of the jester—an approach suggested by the Fool’s Cap Map, one of the most revealing of cartographic images.
Although the author and origin are unknown, the Fool’s Cap Map (see Fig. 14) dates from the late sixteenth century, probably post-1587,