Wednesday, May 23, 2018

This Map of Iceland Has it All!

This map of Iceland*, part of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum** by Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius has all kinds of interesting stuff going on.
From wonderfully detailed volcanoes,
to fantastic sea creatures with descriptions in the text keyed to letters.
This description is from a listing on Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps. Some versions of this map have the letters next to them and some do not.
H. The largest kind of Whale, which seldom shows itself. It is more like a small island than like a fish. It cannot follow or chase smaller fish because of its huge size and the weight of its body, yet it preys on many, which it catches by natural cunning and subtlety which it applies to get its food.
This map includes an early explanation of how polar bears arrived, drifting on sea ice.

In the right of this image are tree trunks that after some violent storms have been "torn off by their roots from the cliffs of Norway, tossed to and fro, and surviving many storms, finally cast upon and coming to rest at this shore."
The title block - differently colored in different versions.
In the lower right is a dedication to the "Illustrious and powerful Frederic the Second, King of the Danes, Norwegians, Slavs, Goths etc., his most merciful Majesty."
The level of detail of this map indicates that although it is credited to Ortelius it was probably drawn by an Icelander, most likely Gudbrandur Thorlaksson who mapped the island in the early 1600s. His list of churches and fjords was used and there is much local knowledge that is unlikely to have come from Ortelius.

There are several versions of the map online, the images above are from the following:

Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps - this page has the translations I used and some good historical context.



*Where I am currently staying.
** "Theatre of the World" - considered to be the first modern world atlas.

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