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Mapping Early Modern Worlds
Mapping the "Other"

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Mapping the "Other"




Samuel Purchas. Purchas his pilgrimes. London, 1625

Explorers who enlarged the boundaries of their world through travel brought curious objects and eyewitness accounts back to Europe. The new objects were collected by the wealthy in their cabinets of curiosities, but the new information was disseminated more widely by atlas and map makers such as Ortelius, and by those who published compilations of travel narratives, such as Ramusio, Hakluyt, and Purchas. Gradually, pictures of strange but real animals, plants, and people replaced the mythical beasts and monsters of earlier accounts and maps. Samuel Purchas tells the prospective reader of his book:

Here therefore the various Nations, Persons, Shapes, Colours, Habits, Rites, Religions, Complexions, Conditions, Politike and Oeconomike Customes, Languages, Letters, Arts, Merchandises, Wares, and other remarkeable Varieties of Men and Humane Affaries are by Eye-Witnesses related more amply and certainly then any Collector ever hath done. . . .

The contemporary French philosopher Descartes saw the use of all this, arguing, "It is good to know something of the customs of various peoples, in order to judge our own more objectively."

 
Leo, Africanus. A geographical historie of Africa. London, 1600.



Wenceslaus Hollar. Unus Americanus ex Virginia. Etching, 1645.



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