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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Antiquarian Maps as Travel Writing


Thinking more about the stories antiquarian maps tell. This map of Spitsbergen, 1625, is illustrated with scenes of whaling as well as bear and walrus hunting. The detail below shows one of the illustrations--a Seamorce, or, as we would say, a walrus.

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Antiquarian Maps

Barentsz map

I've just returned from the Miami Map Fair, and I've been thinking about how antiquarian maps, which are based on journeys, represent a pictorial kind of travel writing.

This is the so-called "Barentsz map" of the arctic. It's a beautiful map--my favorite in my husband's extensive arctic collection. (I especially love the sea monsters.)

This map is claimed to be based on charts drawn by the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz, containing information gained from his three voyages to the north in 1594, 1595, and 1596-7 in search of the Northeast Passage. In the last of these voyages, Barentsz and his crew were trapped in the ice and forced to overwinter in Novaya Zemlya, where they fought off polar bears and struggled to survive. In the long retreat south in the spring, Barentsz died.

There are powerful stories in these old maps.
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