Examine Important Maps in History

Take time to examine the earliest cartographic records of Columbus’s voyages, visual equivalents to accounts of battle, and the most beautiful atlas (book of maps) ever composed.

India and the Middle East (1596) by Jan Huyghen Van LinschotenKalakriti Archives

Importance of Historical Maps

Maps are one of the most important human inventions as they allow people in different countries to be able to explore and explain the world. Historical maps depict past interpretations of reality and events, reflect cultural and social trends of the time, offer artistic value, and track the evolution of cartography.

The Piri Reis World Map (16th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Piri Reis World Map of 1513

The Piri Reis World Map of 1513 is a portolan-style world map that was created during a time when positioning of recently discovered places on maps was almost technically impossible. It produced a detailed, largely accurate depiction of coastlines and islands of newly discovered regions of the world and contains a rich variety of illustrations.

Columbus’s Oceanic Voyages and Terra Australis

The Piri Reis represents the earliest cartographic record of Columbus’s oceanic voyages (New World discoveries), is among the earliest work showing Terra Australis (first map to depict its unique fauna), and stands out with distinction among the maps of the Age of Discoveries. 

Four-map collage of the Great Siege of Malta of 1565 (1565) by Giovanni Francesco CamocioUNESCO Memory of the World

The G. F. Camocio Maps of the Great Siege of Malta of 1565

Printed from the same copper plate, these four maps collectively make up a series. Each map or state represents an updated account of military action recording siege developments. Together these maps collate a sequence of those significant events that marked the final stages of the Great Siege of Malta.

State 3 (16th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Visual Equivalent to Written Accounts of Battle

The G. F. Camocio Great Siege of Malta map series is a precious primary source that acts as the visual equivalent to written accounts of this highly important military event which determined the course of history of the Mediterranean and Europe in the 16th century.

Atlas Blaeu (17th century) by Laurens Van der HemUNESCO Memory of the World

Atlas Blaeu-Van Der Hem

Representing the entire surface of the Earth, the 50-volume Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem atlas contains more than 2,400 maps, prints, and drawings and offers a pictorial encyclopedia of 17th century knowledge ranging from geography and topography to warfare and politics.

Escorial (1662) by Laurens Van der HemUNESCO Memory of the World

Inspiration for the Great Atlas

Dutch lawyer Laurens Van der Hem used the largest and most expensive book published in the 17th century, Joan Blaeu’s Atlas Maior, as the base for an even more ambitious collection of luxuriously painted maps, charts, townscapes, architectural prints, portraits, etc.

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