Old maps, new horizons

February 23, 1996

Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography Edited by Catherine Delano Smith Imago Mundi, annually, Pounds 30.00 ISSN 0308 5694

Imago Mundi is the only international scholarly journal solely concerned with the study of maps. Begun in 1935, it has been of a consistently high standard. Its editors have been few; Eila Campbell (who died in 1994), undertook major editing responsibilities for 45 years. The new editor, Catherine Delano Smith, has continued the traditions established from the start, but has made some changes to bring the journal in line with modern times. When many academic journals are being cut from library lists, or reduced in size, Imago Mundi has increased in length, reflecting the broader study of maps by scholars from across the academic spectrum.

The current issue reflects the modern method of studying early maps from more than a purely geographical or historical view. Thus the discovery of a previously unrecorded Evesham world map of about 1390 enables Peter Barber to discuss the territorial, dynastic and commercial aspects of English patriotism at the time. Sarah Bendall looks at 16th-century maps of Romney Marsh to discover how the use of maps changed as awareness of their potential grew. Francesc Relano uses a map of Africa to show how perplexing it was for European mapmakers to discern whether new, and often better information was correct, or if it was safer to rely on old, classical models.

Matthew Seligman studies two maps of South Africa to understand their influence in later territorial land disputes. The boundaries of political territory are also discussed by James Akerman when he looks at early printed atlases.

Alice Stroup explains how papal influence denied cartographers new and correct astronomical information by controlling the distribution of maps.

Catherine Delano Smith uses probate inventories to provide evidence of map ownership in 16th-century Cambridge, which in turn throws up many other interesting sidelights on contemporary property and living standards. Wide knowledge of geological maps enables Karen Cook to study early methods of colour printing, while John Day searches for the origins of Matteo Ricci's maps of China.

This brief outline shows how wide the research into early cartography has become, and how beneficial it would be to researchers in other disciplines who have not previously thought that the study of maps has much to offer them. Despite cuts in library supplies, this is one journal that all academic libraries, both in humanities and sciences, should continue, since its discussions cover so many other fields.

Susan Gole is chairman, International Map Collectors' Society.

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