Archive for April, 2008

An Temprary Exhibition on Maps in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore

I am just back from a nice trip to Baltimore that ended with a visit to the temporary exhibition on maps in the Walters Art Museum. The Museum displayed examples of maps coming from all over the world created through every ages and for very different reasons: itineraries from Japan, maps from China engraved on stones and reproduced for centuries, pieces of the Forma Urbis Romae , drawings from or for imaginary utopias such as Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Da Vinci’s attempts to represent relief with colours and not to forget Ptolemy’s representation of the world.

I would like to highlight here two elements. One is an at first sight rather enigmatic Inuit map. It represents the contours and slopes of a coastal landscape.
Part of Greenland Coast
Greenland National Museum and Archives

This object raises some important questions as it is an interesting mixture of a hodological description with the curves on the wood rendering the coastal line as a traveler would see it and a representation from a bird’s eye view. But it does not share some of the inconveniences of other materials. It is not a flat surface as a piece of paper would be and does not need special conventions in order to render the relief.
My second thought is about distortion. In one of the section the exhibition emphasizes that maps sometimes represent something else than geographical features, for instance in modern times they may represent social realities. In these cases the distortion are wanted in order to illustrate a special point the creator of the map what to make. This attitude is not restricted to modern usage of maps and distortion was not always a consequence of a not-yet-accurate representation of a landscape on a flat surface. It could also be seen as resulting from assumptions, beliefs or certainties adopted by a distant civilisation and the creating techniques used for a maps often disclose these assumptions.

Other Usage of Pictures

As my project on Demetrios is concerned I mainly thought about pictures as illustrations within the commentary written for each fragment. The previous posts are written from this point of view. There are however at least two extremely convincing examples using pictures at another stage of a scholarly work, more precisely at the very first stage of an edition.

CHS: Manuscripts from the Marciana Library

Corpus Medicorum Graecorum