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Early printed maps

Isidore of Seville map of the world Europeans living during the late Middle Ages saw few visual representations of the world similar to our concepts of maps. The most common images were mappaemondi, highly schematic pictures derived from classical and early Christian sources and designed to illustrate religious or philosophical concepts rather than to serve as an accurate depiction of the earth's surface. The best known of these images was the "T-O" map associated with the encyclopedic and highly popular works of Isidore of Seville (ca. 560-636). The map shows a circular world divided into three parts by a "T" or cross. Asia occupies the top half of the globe, separated from Africa and Europe by the combined Nile and Don Rivers, while the Mediterranean serves as the down stroke of the "T".  Macrobius map of the world The religious nature of the image is suggested by the placement of Jerusalem at the center of the world, and the association of each continent with the sons of Noah. "T-O" maps were regularly included in Isidore manuscripts throughout the Middle Ages, and one of them was the first printed map, appearing in a 1472 edition of Isidore. The map shown on the right is from the 1483 Venice edition of Isidore's Etymologiae.

A more recognizable map is the one that frequently accompanied the cosmography of the fifth-century writer Macrobius. Macrobius, following Aristotle, divided the world into polar, temperate and torrid climatic zones, and posited a southern continent to balance the known northern ones. There are more than one hundred surviving manuscript copies of this map produced during the Middle Ages, and it appeared in the six editions of Macrobius printed before 1500, including this 1485 edition printed in Brescia.

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