Carta Marina

The Carta Marina (“map of the sea”) is the earliest detailed map of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway) drawn by the exiled Swedish Catholic ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus (1490–1557) in Rome between 1527 and 1539 and first published in Venice. Olaus had arrived in Italy on a diplomatic mission on behalf of the Lutheran king Gustav I of Sweden but stayed on possibly because of his brother Johannes’s religious feud with Swedish authorities. Because of their Catholic attachments, both Olaus and Johannes were banished by the reformed church of Sweden and later enjoyed successful careers in Italy.

Prior to the Carta Marina, only two cartographical attempts had been made at depicting the Nordic countries, one by Danish geographer Claudius Clavus (late 1300s-early 1400s) and another by the Bavarian theologian and geographer Jacob Ziegler (1470/71-1549).

The Carta Marina influenced the Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (“A Description of the Northen Peoples”), a monumental commentary on Nordic matters, which was printed in Rome in 1555 in Latin and later translated into Italian, German, English, Dutch and other languages. For the long time, the map was considered the stuff of legend until a copy was discovered in Munich in 1886. Another copy, found in Switzerland in 1962, now resides at Uppsala University in Sweden.

In medieval Europe, when travel was limited, marvellous and exotic creatures – often deformed and menacing – were frequently drawn to stir the imagination and to fill the empty spaces in maps. Sometimes they were warnings against unknown perils. Scary, fanciful figures were also used to show that every being, no matter how imperfect, was a creation of God and played a role in the providential order. They helped maintain a balance in the world and in the larger cosmos.

The Carta Marina was made at the beginning of the Age of Discovery (or Age of Exploration), when a residual belief in fantastic beings such as unicorns and hybrid human-animal races, still persisted in the European imagination. As a result, the map teems with imaginary characters. But that is not all. It also shows a “variety of marine activities, commercial traffic, fishing, the measuring of water depth and boats in distress” (T. Rossby, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island), which is unusual for the time.

 

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

The map is huge and divided into 9 parts:

Section A – Section B – Section C

Section D – Section E – Section F

Section G – Section H – Section I

Click to enlarge.

 

Section A – ICELAND

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section B – LAPPLAND, FINLAND

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section C – THE NORTH POLE

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section D – WESTERN ISLANDS

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section E – NORWAY AND SWEDEN

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section F – MOSCOW

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section G – SCOTLAND, ENGLAND

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section H – DENMARK, SWEDEN

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

Section I – RUSSIA

Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota

 

 

A beautiful interactive version of the Carta Marina with more information is available on Slate.

Further reading:

Sea Monsters: A Voyage around the World’s Most Beguiling Map (2013) by Joseph Nigg

Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps (2014) by Chet Van Duzer

Great Maps (DK Smithsonian) (2014) by Jerry Brotton

Mapping the World: The Story of Cartography (2015) by Beau Riffenburg

 

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Carta Marina

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s