“The Intermingling of Cartography and Literature in the Early Modern Period”

A CMRS-CEGS Conference, organized by Chet Van Duzer (Lazarus Project, University of Rochester) and Stephen P. McCormick (Romance Languages, Washington & Lee University).

  • "Cartographic Designs of Early Modern French Writing: A Preface"

    Tom Conley (Harvard University)

    Book historians have amply shown how maps make their way into literature, and as a result, how printed forms acquire cartographic latency. Correlatively, they note how maps make reading a function of seeing, and vice-versa. If, unfolded in an open book or displayed on a table, maps invited viewers to move about and around them, to behold them from different angles, it would appear that carefully printed works—especially books of poetry—were fashioned spatially, to be read, heard, and imagined from different perspectives. Such the practice of poets whom Paul Valéry called créateurs par la forme: the wager of this brief study is that albeit clumsily (or so it seems upon cursory glance), Pierre Levet, editor of Le Grant Testament et codicille francoy villon (Paris, 1491) the first printed edition of the poems of François Villon, infuses a work rooted in both popular and erudite culture with allusion to maps, charts, and checkerboards. Time permitting, Levet’s edition, printed in lettre bâtarde, will be compared to that of Clément Marot (Paris, 1532), whose “critical” counterpart (in roman typeface) brings forward a poetic and a geographical “quadrature” that had been either latent or implicit in Levet or other incunabular counterparts (e.g., Antoine Caron or Jean Trepperel). Herein the beginning of a relation that prevails throughout much of the French Renaissance.

  • "Naming and Ordering the World in the era of expansion: Locating places in 16th century French translations of romances, poems and chronicles"

    Oury Goldman (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)

    During the early modern period, the depiction of the globe by the Europeans was considerably enriched, notably in relation with the imperial and colonial expansion. As a consequence, a vast number of new names of places and locations from different linguistic origins were conveyed and incorporated from maps and texts to the literary world. This phenomenon meant new opportunities for poets and writers to enlarge the repertoire of places that could be evoked or where literary actions could take place. At the same time, this new catalogue of names provide a challenge for ordering these linguistic realities according to a coherent geography and make them understandable for a readership, notably when these toponyms were themselves translated from one European language to another. Our contribution aims to explore some of these opportunities and challenges by examining the strategies deployed by some French sixteenth-century translations of romances, poems and chronicles in order to make sense of the onomastic diversity of world. By doing so, we’ll try to examine some of the crossroads between literature and cartography in the early modern European societies.

  • "Maps as narratives of a “closed-off” Japan: the case of Tōkaidō bunken zu (Sectional map of the Tōkaidō, 1690)"

    Sonia Favi (The University of Manchester)

    In the first half of the 17th century, the Tokugawa family, who controlled Japan’s (partially centralized) government from 1603 until 1868, outlawed travel abroad, and banned non-essential domestic travel, as a way to preserve political stability within the country. Some people did manage to work their way around the restrictions, and to create occasions for recreational journeys, buttravel was, as a general rule, only allowed for reasons of duty, business, health and religion (Vaporis 1995; Nenzi 2008; Vaporis2009).

    In this context, publishing houses, encouraged by innovations in printing techniques and by a growing literacy, capitalized on the“public” curiosity about near and distant lands, producing and distributing travel narratives, guidebooks, and landscape prints, addressed to consumers of all social standing (Berry 2006). These materials stepped in where physical journeys weren’t possible, creating opportunities for virtual travel. They also “popularized”travel, familiarizing the new urban and educated rural classes with the landscapes represented in former elite poetry and art.

    At a time where a solid cartographic culture was first emerging in Japan (Kazutaka 2004; Wigen, Sugimoto and Karacas 2016), theproduction of commercial maps became part of this process. Commercial maps were not necessarily built with accuracy (or practicality) in mind, and in some cases they were specifically devised as forms of armchair travel. This often led to contamination between different genres and materials.

    In my paper, I will discuss these contaminations by focusing onthe intermingling of cartography and literature in Tōkaidō bunkenzu (Sectional map of the Tōkaidō, 1690). This was a (heavily pictorial) road map, representing the main highway of Tokugawa Japan, the Tōkaidō, which connected Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. Based on an official, administrative map made in 1651, it deviated from it, incorporating elements of guidebooks and popular literature. It followed the 52 post-stations of the Tōkaidō, reproducing distance markers, stone guideposts and checkpoints, but also richly depicted life on the road, and created a visual narrative where the reality of contemporary Japan overlapped with long-established images of utamakura (places of lyrical interests) and other meisho (famous landscapes).

  • "Picturing Greenland: Cartographic Images and Geographical Knowledge in the Making of a Boreal Utopia"

    Carolina Martínez (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas)

    In 1720, Simon Tyssot de Patot (1655-1727) anonymously published La vie, les avantures et le voyage de Groenland du révérend père cordelier Pierre de Mésange. Avec un Relation bien circonstanciée de l´origine, de l´histoire, des moeurs, et du Paradis des Habitants du Pole Arctique, an imaginary travel account in which its protagonist discovers an underground society in the furthermost limits of the Northern Hemisphere. Printed in Amsterdam in a single volume divided into two parts, Patot’s work recounted the misadventures of Pierre de Mésange, who having escaped from the United Provinces in 1679 encountered a utopian society in Greenland.

    The choice of Greenland for the novel’s setting was based on the narrative possibilities offered by the marginal condition of a still unexplored territory. A plausible but elusive scenario, the proximities of the North Pole had been the depository of the most varied theories inherited from classical antiquity as well as an object of speculation among early modern travelers. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the expectations regarding the possible existence of an interoceanic northwest passage that would allow commerce with the Far East coexisted with the remnants of the ancient belief in the Hyperboreans and the debate on the habitability of the Frigid Zone. The geographical knowledge on these boreal territories was endorsed by the cartographic images of the North Pole proposed by Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) and the information provided by Isaac de La Peyrère (1596-1676) in his Relation de Groenland (1647) or the many editions of Olaus Magnus’ (1490-1557) Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (1555). The presence of these elements in Tyssot’s imaginary travel account will be examined with the aim of understanding the circulation of still diffuse visual and narrative representations of the furthermost North in the early 18th century.

    In so doing, this presentation intends to trace the adaptation of geographical knowledge and cartographic images of the northern Antipodes in an early modern imaginary travel account. In other words, Patot’s boreal fiction will allow us to observe how a specific set of cartographic images of the Northern Hemisphere was appropriated and introduced in the fictional world proposed by the son of French Huguenot refugees in the United Provinces. Finally, the study of the landscape depictions made by Patot, who held a modest position as a teacher of mathematics in Deventer, will contribute to show the how the circulation of this kind of cartographic knowledge went beyond academic or scholarly contexts.

  • "Map, Text, and Cosmogony: Perspectives of Land and Sea Borders in Andrea da Barberino's Guerrino Meschino"

    Stephen P. McCormick (Washington & Lee University)

    Contact between text and reader, as Certeau sees it, is productive: “qu’est-ce que le lecteur fabrique avec cet objet tatoué de graphes?”[1] In regard to hand-traced maps and hand-copied texts, Certeau’s theoretical insight speaks to the idiosyncrasies of the map-text synergy in the pre-print paradigm. In this talk, I will examine the dynamics at work between narration and cartography in Carolingian prose epic Guerrino Meschino, by Andrea da Barberino, a Florentine translator of the gesta francor who wrote copiously at the end of the fourteenth century and through the first third of the fifteenth century. Using the theoretical contributions of literary scholars like Certeau and Lefebvre, I posit that Andrea’s geographic epic deploys space to engage the reader in a process of self-fashioning, a narrative mechanism that brings to light at least one result of the pre-print map-text system. I suggest that the shifting forms of hand-copied texts and cartographic contours, an idea building on Paul Zumthor’s mouvance, empowers the reader to construct a simulacrum of agency within a customizable cosmos. My discussion limits itself to land-and-sea borders, an example of cartographic contours embedded within Andrea’s epic that furnish to the reader a variety of vantage points. In some moments, the author introduces first-person vivacity through portolan-style depictions of coastlines; in other occasions, Andrea’s extended use of Ptolemaic principles lifts the reader to a panoptic position above seas and continents. Andrea’s sudden shifts between first- and third-person narration (io and lui) mimic these alternating geographic perspectives. The author’s detailed study of Ptolemaic projections, knowledge of which arrived in Florence only very shortly before writing Guerrino Meschino, underscores the epic composer’s interpretation of Ptolemaic principles through the Macrobian imago mundi, a widely diffused topos in medieval cosmological writing.

  • "Mount Qaf and Early Modern Ottoman Geographical Imagination"

    Işın Taylan (Yale University)

    Mount Qaf corresponds to an abstract legendary and folkloric concept as well as to a real mountain surrounding the earth and/or separating the heaven from the terrestrial grounds. Feray Coşkun refers to this mountain as a “cosmic border” between the terrestrial world and the heavenly realm. Moreover, “Mountain Qaf is encircled by seven concentric oceans and identifies the domes of these oceans with the seven heavens. This picture is reminiscent of the Quranic portrayal of seven heavens and seven earths built one above another, which also corresponds to the epicylical heavenly spheres of the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic model.”[1] Kazvînî’s Mount Qaf in the Acâ’ibül-mahlûkât supports the pillar-position of the mountain and signals to the legendary mountain that encircles the world. Yet its existence casts doubt:  according to some interpreters, it is regarded as a concrete, physically tangible mountain in contrast to the interpretation that considers this mountain an abstract and mystical one. The cosmological verses in the Koran, especially the ones in the Qaf Sura, have been interpreted concluding that Allah has created the earth, which is surrounded by the sea and behind which stands Mount Qaf. According to Taberi, Mount Qaf surrounds the earth like a ring and keeps it still. Another interpretation holds that angels and other worlds exist behind the scenes of the Mount Qaf.

    Mount Qaf traces the course and transformation of Ottoman intellectual activities, through both a dynamic continuation of older traditions and the appropriation of perspectives. Mount Qaf straddles or represents the border between the physical and the spiritual worlds, through its very ambiguity posing questions about the links between the apocalyptic expectations of early modern Ottoman intellectuals and their complex geographical “knowledge” or interpretation. Such a study would be an opportunity to rethink aspects of the Ottoman geographical vision intertwined with eschatological interpretations, medieval-legendary categories, and the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic model embedded in European, Mediterranean, and Islamic contexts.

    In this paper, I aim to study Ottoman geographical imagination through a study of this legendary mountain in geographical treatises, atlas translations, bibliographical dictionaries as well as religious and literary texts. This study brings together approaches to the abstract and the material, the physical and the spiritual, and the legendary and the real in cartographic and literary traditions.

  • “Monsters Traveling from Map to Book: An Unexpected Journey”

    Chet Van Duzer (The Lazarus Project at the University of Rochester)

    The idea of cartographers using books as sources for their maps is a familiar one, and some cartographers—such as Martin Waldseemüller in his Carta marina of 1516—list the books they used in compiling their maps. In this talk I will examine three cases in which information traveled in the other direction: the authors of books used maps as their sources for monsters. First I will show that the monstrous races of men in two bestiaries of the so-called the B-Is family came from an early mappamundi. Second, Jacques de Vitry in his early thirteenth-century Historia orientalis says that one of his sources for the monstrous races of India was a mappamundi. And finally, Conrad Gesner in his Historiae animalium(Zurich, 1551) used a map by the Swedish clergyman Olaus Magnus titled Carta marina, printed in 1539. These cases show that maps could play an unexpected role in the intermingling between maps and literature.