During the late Renaissance, many gold-thirsty European explorers set sail on a quest to locate the fastest route to the Orient. What they found, instead, was how little they really knew about the world. And despite the lack of information, cartographers scrambled to document it.
Thirty hand-colored maps published between 1511 and 1757 are currently on view in (Re)Discovering the “New World”: Maps & Sea Charts from the Age of Exploration at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut. Made long before the invention of color printing, they’re achingly gorgeous — though wondrously misinformed.
“They all show the world as it never was, isn’t now, and never is expected to be,” Jack Somer, who owns the collection, told Hyperallergic. Brimming with blob-shaped land forms, non-existent islands, and completely made-up fantastical beasts, the maps feature many decorative details like cartouches and ribbons that downplay their general inaccuracy. Five hundred years later, they are an incredible homage to human error.
(Re)Discovering the “New World”: Maps & Sea Charts from the Age of Explorationcontinues at the Bruce Museum (1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, Connecticut) until June 3.
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