Mapping the New World
Renaissance Maps from the American Museum in Britain
Anne Armitage; Laura Beresford
- Showcases the finest examples among 200 exquisitely detailed maps in the collection of the American Museum in Britain.
Mapping the New World charts the changing shape of the Americas as Renaissance cartographers (working from Ancient and medieval sources) learned more of the New World, following the arrival in 1492 of Christopher Columbus in what is now the Bahamas. Although not the first European adventurer to find his way to the Americas, Columbus initiated a concerted European campaign of mass colonisation. Spurred on by thoughts of treasure – particularly gold, silver, gems and spices – European cartographers changed the shape of the ‘New World’ as they mapped the Americas from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. European dominance of the Americas was achieved by exquisitely detailed maps. Medieval maps had illustrated theology rather than geography; the Renaissance revived the classical discipline of scientifically mapping landmass. The pursuit of accuracy was entirely practical; only by exact measurement could the rich New World territories be claimed, plundered and ruled by its Old World conquerors.
In 1988 Dr Dallas Pratt, the co-founder of the American Museum in Britain, gave the Museum over two hundred Renaissance maps of the New World – a collection acclaimed by scholars as one of the finest holdings of rare pre-1600 printed world maps in existence. Over fifty of the Museum’s greatest cartographical treasures are showcased in detail in this lavishly illustrated book.
Anne Armitage worked as the Librarian and Editor of the American Museum in Britain for twenty-one years, until her retirement in 2007. Laura Beresford has worked with many types of historic collections in New Zealand, Canadian and British museums – she has been the Curator of the American Museum since 2006.