Oculi Mundi: A beautiful online archive of 130 ancient maps, atlases, and globes
When it comes to maps, your first hit is always free. For you, it might have been a Mercator projection of the world hanging on the wall of an elementary school classroom; Maybe the road atlas was in the glove box of your parents’ car. For Neil Sunderland, his first elevation to cartography seems to have come in childhood, from a humble map of Lancashire. When he found success in finance, his addiction grew in proportion to his means, and today his multi-million-dollar map collection includes works by famous 16th-century artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, and Giovanni Semirlino, who in 1566 painted the known world in the form of heart.
The Kurdish Land of Cemerlino (below) is just one of 130 historical “world maps, celestial charts, atlases, lore books and globes” now available for viewing at The eyes of the world, a detailed website containing digital holdings of the Sunderland Collection. “A platform to explore high-resolution images of these beauties, peek inside books, and discover information and stories,” it offers a chronological “Search” mode and a freer “Explore” mode for browsing.
Either way, with the oldest artefacts dating back to the early 13th century and the most recent to the early 19th century, it has a wealth of cartographic history worth seeing.
New York timesSusan Fowler quotes Helen Sunderland Cohen, Sunderland’s daughter, who is overseeing the Oculi Mundi project, describing a particularly revered atlas by the 15th-century humanist Francesco Berlingieri as “one of the earliest uses of copper plates, in atlases and prints. You can see how meticulously Engraved lines, and how they learn to use copperplates.” Perhaps all art cannot be separated from the state of technology of its time, but maps – whose makers have always been driven to visualize and organize as much knowledge of the world as possible – reflect it with particular clarity.
By exploring the Sunderland Collection through Oculi Mundi, you can also trace changes in the type of knowledge that belongs to maps in the first place. Sunderland-Cohen mentions a personal favorite as “Rudimentum Novitiorum” from 1475 (above), “an illustrated chronicle in Latin used by monks as a teaching aid for initiates.” Along with maps, the book includes “the history of the Bible illustrated with much fine woodcuts, and the clothes of everyone on that day, and in the houses of that time”; The connoisseur will notice techniques imported from illuminated manuscripts. As for the cost of such work today, well, if you have to ask, you’re not quite a map junkie yet. Enters The eyes of the world here.
Via Messy Nessie
40,000 early modern maps now available for free online (courtesy of the British Library)
Ancient Maps That Changed the World: See world maps from ancient Greece, Babylon, Rome, and the Islamic world
Download 91,000 historical maps from David Rumsey’s massive map collection
History of cartography“the most ambitious overview of mapmaking ever undertaken”, is freely available online
How did cartographers create maps of the world before airplanes and satellites? introduction
An archive of over 800 fictional propaganda maps designed to shape opinions and beliefs: enter Cornell’s compelling map collection.
Based in Seoul, Colin MaRashal writes and broadcastsTS on cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter books about cities, the book The Stateless City: A Stroll Through Los Angeles in the Twenty-First Century And video series The city in the cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @collinemarshall Or on Facebook.