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kottke.org posts about Urbano Monte

Urbano Monte’s Massive Map of the Earth (1587)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

Monte Planisphere

In 1587, Urbano Monte made the largest known early map of Earth. The map consists of 60 panels that were meant to be assembled into a planisphere (a circular map that rotates about a central axis) measuring 10 feet across. The David Rumsey Map Center recently acquired a manuscript of Monte’s map and digitally assembled all 60 pieces into the full map (inlined above but click through to zoom/pan).

Of great interest is the attempt Monte makes to make his map not just a geographical tool but to show climate, customs, length of day, distances within regions — in other words, to create a universal scientific planisphere. In his dedication on tavola XL he specifies how to arrange the sheets of the mappamondo and makes it explicit that the whole map was to be stuck on a wooden panel 5 and a half brachia square (3.25m) so that it could be revolved around a central pivot or pin through the north pole.

The individual map panels looked like this:

Monte Planisphere

Of course, once the image is digital you can map it into all sorts of different projections like Mercator or Ortelius oval projection.

Monte Planisphere

Jeremy Ashkenas even created a rotatable & zoomable globe of Monte’s map that is incredibly fun to play with.

Monte Planisphere