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Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps Paperback – September 15, 2014
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About the Author
- Publisher : British Library; Reprint edition (September 15, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0712357718
- ISBN-13 : 978-0712357715
- Item Weight : 1.45 pounds
- Dimensions : 8 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #339,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Van Duzer’s focus is on the sixth through tenth centuries. Maps were decorated with creatures real and fantastic to show believed dangers in specific areas, to emphasize the breadth and wonder of Creation, or just as decoration, especially on maps commissioned by the wealthy as art. The creatures are sometimes absurd, sometimes intriguing, and sometimes even believable (a swordfish and a whale on the Gough map of Britain, c. 1400, look perfectly accurate). An illustrated copy of Ptolemy’s Geography, made about 1560, was the pinnacle of sea monster art, including in its maps 476 creatures. Often creatures shown on maps turn up in other places, such as illuminated manuscripts, bestiaries, and church decorations.
Monsters on maps declined in the more scientific era that followed the Renaissance, but the older maps left us some magnificent art as well as a window to the thinking of their times. Do any possibly indicate cryptozoological creatures, the modern sea serpents that never quite vanish into myth? Van Duzer does not address it, but there is something in here to match up with almost any maritime tale (I don’t know what one artist used a guide for a half-fish half-rooster, a literal chicken of the sea.)
This is a great reference to the real and imagined monsters of the period as well as a thing of sometimes-breathtaking beauty. 299 endnotes add details to the main narrative.