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On first impression, today’s map suggests that the cartographer fell asleep partway through drawing a map of the world.

But in actuality, this was intended to just be a map of places as they existed in the ancient world, divorced from all territories which had been encountered since then. It was made by the dutch cartographer Jan Jansson (or Johannes Janssonius) in 1650. Back then, it was all the rage to make maps using current geographic knowledge but limited to places which were known in ancient times, using ancient place names.

“Orbis Terrarus Veteribus Cogniti Typus Geographicus”, by Jan Janssonius in 1650.

It’s a startling sight because the “world” in this map is surrounded by so much ocean, even though we know there are extra continents and islands there. That leaves the remaining part of the world looking rather small, whereas ancient maps of the ancient world had the land taking up most of the map.  Perhaps all that exploration to exotic new lands had the effect of humbling mapmakers about the scale of the Old World…

Map nerds will especially enjoy opening this map in a new window and zooming in to read all the place names. Reading an unfamiliar name on a familiar piece of land is a kind of puzzle that begs to be researched. A few names that I noticed are Hibernia for Ireland (it was the old Latin name) and Taprobana for Sri Lanka (sort of a mythical island off the coast of India which was later associated with Sri Lanka). We also see the names of once powerful empires, like Persia and Ethiopia (labeled Aethipum Regio and placed at the bottom of Africa, as the name was often used to refer to everything south of Egypt in ancient times).

What other curiosities can you find? Happy mapping!

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