On the epistemology of maps and mapping: De la Cosa, Mercator and the making of spatial imaginaries

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    This chapter tells a story of how the making of early modern cartographic representations at the transition between the Majorcan Portolan mapping tradition and the geometric projections that appear in the second half of the sixteenth century help reveal some of the most outstanding and useful elements of mapping for understanding the making of orders of governance in time. The chapter focuses on two maps, Juan de la Cosa’s 1500 Mappa Mundi, the first cartographic representation to show the Americas as a separate and single continent, and Gerardus Mercator’s World Map of 1569, a projection which allows for a flat representation of a globe considered as the first modern geometrical depiction of global space. Both maps reveal a particular quest in the development of a European understanding of spatiality: the problem of location. They also reveal the usefulness of maps as instruments for travel and imperial business offering an opportunity to explore the particularities of how geopolitics were understood in the context of time. By focusing on issues such as how maps located waters and lands, how they represented latitude and longitude in their projections, how they plotted imaginary lines with political significance, how they represented empty and ‘silent’ spaces, how they presented and employed scales, how they integrated imagined and discovered lands into single cartographic charts, and how symbols, forms of writing, languages, and images constituted forms of rhetoric which help reveal specific forms of power (e.g. Harley 2006; Tegeler 2018; Boria and Rossetto 2017), it is possible to reconstruct narratives that shed light on the making of a European ordering of global space; or, in other terms, of a making of European globality.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMapping and Politics in a Digital Age
    EditorsPol Bargués-Pedreny, David Chandler, Elena Simon
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Print)9780815357421
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2018


    • Epistemology of maps
    • historical epistemology
    • mapping

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