New map collectors often ask us what to collect and how to decide which maps to seek out and invest in. There are many answers to this, and we regularly help collectors find maps made by a particular cartographer, maps showing a state or region of interest, or maps from particular time period. Maps offer rich representations of some of the most important historical, political, and scientific developments and discoveries to happen to our world. But maps can also be fanciful, ornate depictions of things unknown, whimsical, or mythological. And it can be not only fun, but truly fascinating, finding maps that show creatures and beasts so far beyond our imagination, swimming and roaming lands so intricately and scientifically charted. So today’s blog post will be a roundup of sea monsters found on maps we currently have in the OPG shop.
Sea monsters were used on old maps to indicate places where actual peril awaited sailors and to evoke the mythic, perilous nature of the sea. They served as a visual reminder of the danger of travelling to unknown lands, and the courage it took to set sail for uncharted waters. Many of these monsters show a faint resemblance to real ocean inhabitants- several share the scales or fins of fish or the sheer size and powerful blowholes of whales. But most seem to be true manifestations of the imagination: aquatic lions with whisker-like strands of hair, animals with bears paws and pig snouts, or sea dragons with long scaly tails. These maritime monsters were also joined by representations of the Roman god Neptune and Greek god Poseidon, or mermaids and mermen bare-chested and welding tridents.
We hope you enjoy these fearsome watery beasts!
From: Asiae XII Tab. (Ceylon.) by Gerard Mercator. Copper plate engraving, 1578.
From: China. By Jodocus Hondius. Published by J. Hondius, Amsterdam. Handcolored copper plate engraving, 1606, c.1628. WEB LINK.
From: Africae nova descriptio. Willem J. Blaeu. Handcolored copper plate engraving, 1630, c.1640. WEB LINK.
From: Asia noviter delineata. Willem J. Blaeu. Published in Amsterdam. Copper plate engraving, 1617-30, c.1650. WEB LINK.
From: America. Jodocus Hondius. Published by J. Hondius, Amsterdam. Copper engraving, French issue, 1630. WEB LINK.
From: Terra Sancta. Abraham Ortelius. Copper plate engraving, 1584. Shows Jonah falling off his ship into the jaws of the “Whale”. WEB LINK.
From: Guiana siue Amazonum Regno. Joannis Blaeu. Published by Guiljelmum Blaeu, Amsterdam. Copper plate engraving, c.1642. WEB LINK.
From: Palestinae Sive Totius Terrae Promissionis Nova Descriptio Avctore Tilemanno Stella Sigenensi. Abraham Ortelius. Handcolored copper plate engraving, 1573 German text edition. WEB LINK.
From: Tartariae Sive Magni Chami Regni typus. By Abraham Ortelius. Handcolored copper plate engraving, 1570. WEB LINK.
From: Mappa Aestivarum Insularum Alias Barmudas Dictarum… Willem J. Blaeu. Published by W. Blaeu, Amsterdam. Handcolored copper plate engraving, c.1633. The highly embellished cartouche features Neptune astride the royal coat of arms of England, trident in one hand and a galleon in the other. WEB LINK.
From: Africae Tabula Nova. Abraham Ortelius. Published by Abraham Ortelius, Antwerp. Copper plate engraving, c.1612. WEB LINK.
*And if you are interested in more watery beasts, I suggest reading the newly published Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps by Chet Van Duzer.