Looking towards East on 16th Century Maps

    • Cover Conference Prague
    • Presentation speakers
      • Ioana Zamfir, University of Bucharest, Romania


    The East is a cultural construct on top of a geographical reality. Etymologically, the term East means the place from where the sun goes up and it belongs as well to the cartographic tradition of Europe. The geographic encyclopedias and atlases of the 16th century are giving us some of the first systematic representations of the borders of Europe. In this article we will explore some of the most influential geographic publications of the 16th century (Mercator, Ortelius, Munster, de Jode) that appeared in western and central Europe. Following a classical model of Ptolemy, these first Atlases of the world always start from west so that the discussion of Eastern Europe comes towards the end of the book. And the descriptions given to the people occupying these territories are not always flattering. The golden age of cartography, the 16th century marks a moment of flourishing in the geographical knowledge, and as in any attempt to bring more light on the unknown, many assumptions are made, some of which latter become stereotypes or get abandoned for information of a better quality. But apart from remoteness and difference, which are at the base of myth creation about people and places at the border of Europe, we find also similarity and willingness to find what is common.