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What better way to honor your homeland than to create the whole world in its image?  That is essentially what 16th century German cartographer Heinrich Bünting did.  In this 1581 map, “Die gantze Welt in ein Kleberblat”,  Bünting arranged the world in the shape of a clover leaf, which is the emblem for his home city of Hanover.  Sure you can’t use the map to guide you from Point A to Point B, but that’s not the point of it.  The Clover Leaf map exists as symbolization, reflecting both the city of Hanover and the devout Bünting’s theological beliefs.

“Die gantze Welt in einem Kleberblat”, by Heinrich Bünting, 1581 (via Wikipedia)

The original map was published in Bünting’s book of biblical woodcut maps, “Travel Through Holy Scripture”.  During an era when new lands were being discovered on an regular basis, and cartographic accuracy was improving at a rapid pace, Bünting looked not to the current world around him, but the world of the past.  He assembled the most complete collection of biblical geography at the time, showing the Holy Land at the time of Jesus and the routes taken by important figures in the Old and New Testament.  Bünting was a very popular Protestant pastor and theologian for a time, but controversy over some of his teachings forced him to retire early.

As for the Clover Leaf map, the three leaves of the clover double as symbolism for the three persons of God in the Holy Trinity (this is also how the clover came to be associated with St. Patrick, because he used it to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish when converting them to Christianity).  In the center of the clover leaf is the city of Jerusalem, which has always held a special importance for members of all three Abrahamic religions.  World maps throughout the middle ages usually placed Jerusalem at the center of the world, but by the time Bünting was mapping, this had largely fallen out of favor, as new maps were shifting focus to a more objective viewpoint.  Note how Bünting includes America as a little blob in the lower left-hand corner almost as an afterthought, a pesky continent that did not fit into his three-pronged view of the world.  In retrospect, this map symbolizes not just the city of Hanover, or the Trinity, but the last gasp of the outsized importance placed on the three continents of the Old World, even as the shift of geopolitical power toward the New World was already underway.

For more information on Bünting and his map, check out this link to the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center of the Boston Public Library: http://maps.bpl.org/id/m8795

Happy Mapping!

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