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Oronce Finé, French mathematician and cartographer, created this map of the world in 1536.  He used the Werner projection, also known as cordiform, which gives the earth a heart-like shape.  It looks distorted, but it is actually more accurate than more common projections in some ways, because it keeps correct the distances from each pole and along all parallels.  Considering that the Earth itself is round, it makes sense for a 2-D depiction of the Earth to be rounded as well.

Oronce Finé’s Heart-Shaped Map from 1536 (via wikipedia)

This Heart-Shaped Map reflects the imperfect cartographic knowledge of the time, when the world was still being fully explored.  If you look closely, you will notice some curiosities.  Only South America is named America.  Across the top of the land mass at the top, covering North America and Asia, is written “Asia”.  Finé believed that North America really was part of Asia, as Columbus had believed, and so he connected the two continents into one in his maps.

At the bottom of the map is another interesting sight: Terra Australis.  It has a name that sounds like Australia, but the location and rough shape of the continent of Antarctica.  So what’s going on here?  Well, Terra Australis (which just means Southern Land) was placed on a lot of maps before any European had discovered either Australia or Antarctica.  They simply believed that there HAD to be a big Southern continent to balance out all the land in the North.

What is fascinating is that European explorers would actually find two Southern continents, proving right the hypothesis.  Maps during this age featured countless fictional islands and far-off kingdoms that explorers kept expecting to find but never did.  But Terra Australis really did exist, even if it was two continents instead of one.  Australia was discovered in the coming years, and it was given that name because it was not expected that a more Southern continent would be found.  In the 19th century, explorers finally found Antarctica and realized that it was an entire continent, just in the same position as posited by Finé and others.  Sadly, Australia had already taken its title away from it, so instead it was named Antarctica (“opposite to the North”).

Of course, I have greatly simplified the history behind all this, so if anyone is interested, please feel free to check out the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_Australis

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