Home to an exceptional density of features that can be mapped, all contained within a concentrated area, cartographers have long been drawn to towns and cities as a subject for their work. The theme of this year’s Cambridge Science Festival ‘structures and patterns’ provided an excellent opportunity to examine how the styles of cartography used in this genre of mapping have changed and developed using some fascinating original examples from the Library’s collections.
This post follows on from the Festival talk titled ‘Pictures, Perspectives and Plans’, given at the University Library on Tuesday 11 March, which focused on printed town mapping from the 15th century to the present day and takes a look at some of the styles of cartography that were explored during this event.
Early printed maps of towns and cities often took the form of a generalised pictorial view and in many cases were nothing more than an imaginary sketch, often reused with no alteration to represent multiple locations.
The Liber Chronicarum (or Nuremberg Chronicle as it is widely called) by Hartmann Schedel is a fine example of this. Printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger in 1493 the Chronicle is one of the most important German incunables and most extensively illustrated book of the 15th century. Inside are over 100 named views of places. The depiction of Venice, for example, provides a recognisable view of the city where as the plans of Naples, Verona, Siena and Damascus are all identical and bear no relation to reality – over half of the views depicted were made from just 14 woodcuts and less than a quarter are approximate to the actual scene. This pictorial style, which some may question whether it can truly be classed as a map, remained a popular method of portraying towns well into the sixteenth century. Detailed and accurate depictions of place were clearly not as important to the creators and audience of this work as they were to become to many in the following centuries. Continue reading 'Pictures, Perspectives and Plans'»