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© August 2005
revised 26 June 2008

Baroque-era printer's ornament

on maps of Brazil and the Atlantic
passage from Europe

This is another companion gallery exhibit for Letters XXIII and XXIV from Richard Flecknoe’s A Relation of Ten Years Travells in Europe, Asia, Affrique, and America (e-text in the library, LIB. CAT. NO. FLECK1656), describing his pleasure cruise to Brazil in 1648–50.

Flecknoe probably assumed that his letter from Brazil would be read in conjunction with maps illustrating the region of his travels, as was customary at the time. As such, he gives placenames and other geographical details which would have helped readers plot his narrative on a map, or series of maps.

In his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton described in detail the process and pleasures of such cartographic scholarship:

Methinks it would please any man to look upon a geographical map, suavi animum delectatione allicere, ob incredibilem rerum varietatem et jucunditatem, et ad pleniorem sui cognitionem excitare, chorographical, topographical delineations, to behold, as it were, all the remote provinces, towns, cities of the world, and never to go forth of the limits of his study, to measure by the scale and compass their extent, distance, examine their site. Charles the Great, as Platina writes, had three fair silver tables, in one of which superficies was a large map of Constantinople, in the second Rome neatly engraved, in the third an exquisite description of the whole world, and much delight he took in them. What greater pleasure can there now be, than to view those elaborate maps of Ortelius, Mercator, Hondius, etc.? To peruse those books of cities, put out by Braunus and Hogenbergius? To read those exquisite descriptions of Maginus, Munster, Herrera, Laet, Merula, Boterus, Leander, Albertus, Camden, Leo Afer, Adricomius, Nic. Gerbelius, etc.? Those famous expeditions of Christoph. Columbus, Americus Vespuccius, Marcus Polus the Venetian, Lod. Vertomannus, Aloysius Cadamustus, etc.? Those accurate diaries of Portugals, Hollanders, of Bartison, Oliver à Nort, etc., Hakluyt’s Voyages, Pet. Martyr’s Decades, Benzo, Lerius, Linschoten’s Relations, those Hodoeporicons of Joh. à Meggen, Brocard the monk, Bredenbachius, Jo. Dublinius, Sandys, etc., to Jerusalem, Egypt, and other remote places of the world? those pleasant itineraries of Paulus Hentznerus, Jodocus Sincerus, Dux Polonus, etc., to read Bellonius’ Observations, P. Gillius his Surveys; those parts of America, set out, and curiously cut in pictures, by Fratres à Bry. To see a well-cut herbal, herbs, trees, flowers, plants, all vegetals expressed in their proper colours to the life, as that of Matthiolus upon Dioscorides, Delacampius, Lobel, Bauhinus, and that last voluminous and mighty herbal of Besler of Nuremburg, wherein almost every plant is to his own bigness. To see birds, beasts, and fishes of the sea, spiders, gnats, serpents, flies, etc., all creatures set out by the same art, and truly expressed in lively colours, with an exact description of their natures, virtues, qualities, etc., as hath been accurately performed by AElian, Gesner, Ulysses Aldrovandus, Bellonius, Rondeletius, Hippolytus Salvianus, etc. Arcana coeli, naturae secreta, ordinem universi scire, majoris felicitatis et dulcedinis est, quam cogitatione quis assequi possit, aut mortalis sperare. What more pleasing studies can there be than the mathematics, theoric or practic parts? as to survey land, make maps, models, dials, etc., with which I was ever much delighted myself. Talis est mathematum pulchritudo (saith Plutarch), ut his indignum sit divitiarum phaleras istas et bullas et puellaria spectacula comparari; such is the excellency of these studies, that all those ornaments and childish bubbles of wealth are not worthy to be compared to them; Crede mihi (saith one), extingui dulce erit mathematicarum artium studio, I could even live and die with such meditations, and take more delight, true content of mind in them, than thou hast in all thy wealth and sport, how rich soever thou art.

This exhibit juxtaposes 4 period maps which illustrate Flecknoe’s Brazilian cruise:

  • Walter Bigges’ “The famouse West Indian voyadge” of Sir Francis Drake (1588)
  • De Bry’s map of the West Indies, “Occidentalis Americae” (1594)
  • Ogilby’s map of the Americas, “Totius Americae” (1671)
  • Ogilby’s map of Brazil, “Brasilia” (1671)

with a modern map of the Brazilian coastline for those 21st-century viewers who wish to plot Flecknoe’s travels in multiple space-times.

TOPICS:  reintegrating the philosopher’s gaze (“the external perspective of the observer”) with a participant’s gaze; maps as models of the collective intellectual; the still-shifting orientation of 17th-century printed maps (north is not always at the top of the map); mapping as “the imposition of a colonizing culture”; the psychology of mapping

Baroque-era printer's ornament

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