Mapping New Worlds:
The Cartography of European Exploration and Colonization, 1450–1750

globeIn the late fifteenth century, Europe was an isolated world, knowing other lands only through rumors, the occasional traveler's tale, and prized luxury goods from the East acquired through Levantine middlemen. Three hundred years later, Europeans were intricately connected to all parts of the globe, colonizing or controlling the economies of significant parts of it, and on the verge of dominating the rest. This exhibition looks at the transformation of Europe's position in the world and Europe's interactions with the newly-encountered peoples of Asia, Africa and the Americas through a particular form of visual documentation: the map. At one level, European maps from this period tell the story of how exploration led to an increasingly accurate knowledge of the contours of the earth's surface, coupled with a growing technical sophistication in translating a spherical, three-dimensional world onto two-dimensional sheets of paper. But on another level, maps reveal how Europeans viewed these strange new worlds, their inhabitants, and the political, economic, religious and scientific opportunities that they presented. This exhibition shows the development of maps as both scientific and cultural documents, and how a new form of craftsman created by European expansion, the mapmaker, both documented and helped to form the growing European sense of entitlement in the world.

Click on a region of the globe to enter the exhibition.

Mapping New Worlds was curated by Jennifer Barr, Eric Pumroy, and Christa Wiliford. The exhibition first appeared in the Rare Book Room of Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College, from January through May, 2005.


Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections
Africa self World self Asia self Americas