About this Website

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This web site presents four time periods that describe selected cartographic efforts in the form of monographs. This is a revised and expanded version of my original web site established in 1994 and hosted by the generosity of Henry Davis Consulting. Each of these sections contain monographs that elaborate on, and illustrate maps from, four distinct periods of history. The first one covers selected cartographic works from Antiquity (6,200 B.C. to 400 AD.); the second one, the Early Medieval period (400 AD. to 1300 AD.); the third, the Late Medieval period (1300 to 1500); and the fourth, the Renaissance period (1500 to 1800). Also additional monographs address particular themes on maps such as cities, real and imaged creatures, ships, Antipodes, etc.

The selection of particular cartographic works was purely a personal one, based more upon the map’s aesthetic appeal than any other criteria; although the more one knows of their history, the more certain maps take added interest and aesthetic appeal due to their particular, or relative, significance.  Each monograph is arranged somewhat chronologically according to the date of either the “author”/cartographer/printer, and/or, especially in the case of unknown authorship, the actual or estimated date of the work itself as determined by various recognized scholars in the field of cartographic history. The numbering system that is employed corresponds to the set of 35 mm photographic slide transparencies that originally accompanied each volume; these slides have now been transferred to digital format.  

The original motivation for these monographs came out of my frustration when, after reading about a significant and/or curious cartographic work, I could not find an accompanying illustration of the map in question. Conversely, I often would find fascinatingly curious maps that contained, at best, only an accompanying caption, but little or no written background on its history, relative significance, and/ or explanation of the legends, curious cartouches, figures, imaginary geography, etc. (It is an enigma to me how any author/publisher could tease their readers with such omissions.) Therefore, what started out as an attempt to establish an annotated set of slides on curious old maps, has grown to its present form. I merely wanted to bring together, in one place, all of the scattered bits of information relating to each map that I have found through canvassing various libraries from California to Great Britain to Japan. I became interested in maps during my undergraduate research in history at the University of Texas, forty years ago. Later, while in graduate school, as a teacher and while a member of the U.S. Navy stationed in Wales (U.K.), my interest became more intense when I found myself surrounded by such impressive collections of cartographic history such as in the Hereford Cathedral, the Bodleian and British Libraries and all of those wonderful map dealers in London.  In order to obtain additional information, or find an illustration of a described map, meant researching and gathering bits and pieces from many different sources - from general works or articles on cartography, travel and exploration, geography, history, etc. Of course, this continued research merely led me to find even more interesting specimens for study. 

During this time (the 1970’s) there were very few books and periodicals dealing with cartography compared with today. My meager income also made collecting, acquiring, or even accessing maps, or the out-of-print reference books such as Bagrow’s History of Cartography, Bunbury’s History of Ancient Geography..., Stevenson’s Terrestrial and Celestial Globes, Beazley’s The Dawn of Modern Geography... or Miller’s Mappamundi; Die äeltesten Weltkarten nearly impossible.  What to do? I decided that the only pragmatic way to pursue my growing passion to “collect” and study these intriguing and beautiful expressions of man’s curiosity, science, history and knowledge was through photography. This is when I began to compile a collection of 35mm slides (transparencies) of maps and globes that I found particularly fascinating, together with documenting as much information that I could find about each one. I found that this approach allowed me to satisfy the collector in me, as well as a means by which to study and appreciate maps and globes in greater detail. 

The maps that most fascinated me were from the period before the invention of printing and “scientific discovery”. Unfortunately, this meant that, even as my financial means appreciated, actually collecting such one-of-a-kind artifacts was even more difficult since most of these were in the possession of major world libraries and museums. The European pre-Renaissance period, Middle East and Asian cartography has attracted very little scholarly or public attention which reduced the likelihood that even facsimile copies would be available. It should also be noted that most libraries and museums will not allow just anyone without “proper credentials” to even view their collections, let alone photograph them. The relevant books which were out-of-print that could be found in libraries were often classified as non-circulating reference material. What to do? I was not a college professor or recognized scholar, published author, map dealer or any one with “connections”. I was just someone who loved maps and wanted to know more about them. Because of the unscrupulous thieves that have visited libraries, even “sweet talking” a librarian does not work like it used to. Since my visits to many high profile libraries were often a target of opportunity associated with a business trip, advanced introductions for entrè were not always possible. Using the inter-library loan system became one solution, since I had only to establish a trusting rapport with just one local librarian.  In spite of all of these obstacles, however, I was able, over the past twenty years, to accumulate over a thousand 35mm slides of maps, globes and related material of particular interest to my research. 

The source for these images included personally photographing maps/globes on exhibit and in books, catalogues and periodicals, direct purchase of slides from the libraries/museums from my travels to London, Amsterdam, Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Tokyo, and now on the internet. Whenever I happened to be on a business trip, I tried to carve out some time for the “hunt”. Along the way I did engage in traditional map collecting (who could resist the temptation) and soon found that one quickly runs out of wall space, closet space, garage space and a wife's patience. So it was back to the photography and the ability to satiate my collector impulse to my heart’s desire. The photographs that I take normally contain one shot of the entire map; and, through the use of close-up lenses, I take detail blow-ups of particularly interesting or significant portions of specific maps or globes. Therefore, in this way I have been able to acquire copies of many of my favorite maps and globes most of which are not “collectable” in the normal sense, even as facsimiles. They are finally all easily accessible in one place for further study, instead of residing in countless libraries, museums, books, periodicals, etc. Now with the advent of computer technology at an affordable price, I have transferred my 35mm slide collection to this new digital format so that they can now be examined in much more detail on a computer, and interactively correlated with amplifying background and reference data. I have now developed a relational database that contains a “record” for each map, with cross references to a detailed description, associated cartographers, reference material, and the location(s) of the actual map or globe. This database facilitates my future research activity by providing easy access to a single reference source.  In the 1990’s there were the lavishly illustrated and specialized reference books on cartography, such as Shirley’s The Mapping of the World..., Harley and Woodward’s series on The History of Cartography, Goss’ The Mapmaker's Art, Perez's The Beatus Maps, Edson’s Mapping Time and Space and Harvey’s Medieval Maps, Karen Pinto’s Medieval Islamic Maps, just to name a few. I have subsequently acquired an extensive ;ibrary of books, periodicals and electronic articles (see the attached list)

I established an internet web site in 1994 that receives many inquires for additional information. My goal is to continue my efforts to explore additional cartographic treasures and to create an extensive collection of illustrations dealing with ancient, medieval, Asian and early Renaissance cartography, along with ample supporting documentation and references. These efforts may benefit some future young scholar and leave behind a hopefully useful research tool.  

Technically, these map images were originally photographed with first a Minolta 35mm single reflex camera, and later with a digital camera, scanned electronically or found on various internet web sites. The map is then imported (copied) into the database software called FileMaker Pro™ that is a cross-platform (Windows/Macintosh) compatible. Each map/globe illustration has a corresponding monograph written about it that may run from one to fifty or more pages and that provides a detailed description and related background information that, as a minimum, includes: the title, author/cartographer, size, date, location(s), references, the source for the illustration, the projection/shape, the orientation, the type (e.g., woodcut, stone/copper engraved, MS, reproduction, facsimile, reconstruction, etc.), the style (e.g., T-O, Beatus, Macrobius, Ptolemaic, etc.) and as much descriptive material as I can extract from the map itself and/or from previous researchers. All in all, as a result of my passion for maps I have also learned a considerable amount about photography, computer hardware and software, desk-top publishing and database design. And, of course, along the way I have learned a great deal more about my favorite cartographic works. With the popularity and accessibility of the internet, it should provide a means for databases like this one and for map collections in the great libraries and universities of the world to be shared with any map lover anywhere that has access to a personal computer and an internet connection. Although, in my opinion, nothing replaces the printed page. 

 “Screen-shots” from my FileMaker Pro database:

The act of gathering, synthesizing, and formatting this information into these monographs is in no way meant to imply any real authorship on my part. This was purely a personal endeavor at compiling and editing the type of information on the particular selection of maps in which I was interested, from the sources that were accessible. The list of literary sources used in constructing these monographs are specifically identified at the end of each monograph, and a more comprehensive list of references is provided in the bibliographies. 

All of these monographs have been “vanity” published in five volumes (13 books) in both hard-bound and soft-bound book versions, consisting of a total of 6,301 pages and an accompanying DVD, or USB thumb-drive, with “extras” such as the associated FileMaker Pro database (in .pdf format) that contains all of the period’s images and relevant data, in addition to related articles and the latest electronic version of each monograph in each volume.

 All five volumes/eight books are available (FREE) on a series of DVD discs, or a USB drive


USB CONTENT. On this thumb-drive you should find the following content. Each of the first four books is arranged in somewhat chronological order, reflecting the time period during which the maps were constructed (or represented by modern reproductions/ reconstructions). These four books are followed by Book V that contains monographs that are “theme” oriented. Altogether, 300+ monographs (approximately 5,390 pages), over 500 relevant research articles and 6,000+ map images are presented on this thumb drive.

Book I Ancient Maps 6,200 B.C. to 600 A.D.

24 monographs .pdf format

(plus a Preface, an Introduction & a Bibliography) 

Ancient Map FileMaker Pro™ Database in .pdf format (in native FileMaker format on DVD only)

40+ relevant articles in .pdf format

760 images

Book II Early Medieval Maps 600 A.D. 1300

54 monographs .pdf format 

(plus a Preface, an Introduction & a Bibliography)

230+ relevant articles in .pdf format

1,294 images

Early Medieval Map FileMaker Pro™ Database in .pdf format (in native FileMaker format on DVD only)

Book III Late Medieval Maps 1300 to 1500

46 monographs .pdf format 

(plus a Preface, an Introduction & a Bibliography)

2,337 images

Late Medieval Map FileMaker Pro™ Database in .pdf format (in native FileMaker format on DVD only)

A Chronological Listing of Portolan Charts

Book IV Renaissance Maps 1492 to 1848

162 monographs (plus a Preface) .pdf format

Renaissance Map FileMaker Pro™ Database in .pdf format (in native FileMaker format on DVD only)

270+ relevant articles in .pdf format

Book V Cartographic Images

The Depiction of Cities on Maps

When America was part of Asia for 270 years

Early World Maps in China

Old Maps with the Great Wall of China

Early Japanese World Maps

The Concept of the Antipodes in Maps

A Survey of Anthropomorphic Maps

Indigenous People on Early Maps

Ships on Early Maps

The Origin of the Continents & the Display of Countries

The Legend of Prester John

Closing & Opening the Indian Ocean

The Evolution of Africa in Early Maps

The Evolution of the Western Hemisphere in Early Maps

Gog and Magog on Early Maps

The Evolution of Asia in Early Maps

The Evolution of Florida in Early Maps

The Evolution of Japan in Early Maps

The Evolution of South America on Early Maps

The Evolution of Greenland on Early Maps

The Evolution of the British Isles on Early Maps

Creatures on Maps: Real & Imagined

Mythical Atlantic Islands:

     o Antillia

     o St. Brendan

     o Frisland

     o Hy Brasil


The Great Sea of the West

The Depiction of Paradise on Early Maps

Noah’s Ark on Early Maps

California as an Island

* The Art of Cartouches

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Email: jsiebold@me.com© Jim Siebold 2015