Here Be Wales (and other countries)

13 Dec

This week is Cartography week, a series of posts loosely linked together, a bit like I was, to that gang who stole that herd of ducks, which I don’t want to talk about….

For the execution of the voyage to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps – Christopher Columbus.


Old maps are great.  I like them for the simple reason that back in olden times, accuracy was always edged to the side a little in favour of the current religious or political beliefs, which is understandable as those map makers would have wanted patronage, not to mention wanting to avoid a visit by the inquisition.  It’s part of their charm these days and each one shows the richness of our heritage.

Reading one of these old topographical charts really is reading these days.  It’s an insight into the time of its conception and who was the most powerful around, in short it’s a propaganda fest, focusing on the frivolous bits that are often at first glance overlooked or dismissed as mere frippery.  Those symbols and drawings were not only there to fill up the map but in a good amount of cases also told their own stories.

Whether it be the frolicking of sea monsters or fleets of ships, each holds an interesting tale, perhaps some were just there to fill in the gaps and make these works of art look even more creative.  Some though were – for example – to show the fertility of the land and the military might that occupied it or the extent of kingdoms (and equally the direction they had in mind to advance) with some well placed ships or an undaunted explorer.

Lots of images that were used to fill up the gaps as the world was being explored…sea monsters…rumoured things from the wild and fanciful stories brought back by excitable adventurers for the impressionable audience. It is fascinating to see how early cartographers married the fanciful with the known world and how news travelled on a local as well as international level. On a more satirical note, these images could be more dangerous when viewed as subtle or childish jibes at states, politicians or the religious order of the day.

From my personal American perspective, everything is different from Europe, of course .  Being more isolated from the many ‘doorstep’ countries of other is interesting to see the other side of the coin, when I am blinkered to such a viewpoint as the European news which appears more balanced to world news as well as national.  Having the internet just isn’t the same…except for the football scores, now those are universal!

Chatting about this always infuses me with the need to travel and experience far-flung places and strange (to me) customs. I want to see the less well-known, not the familiar touristy stuff. Whilst we are on the subject, what is it to have a country these days and be patriotic?  Is the mix of culture, communication and transport links making us a global society?  Either way I like to celebrate it all.


Posted by on 13/12/2013 in History


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19 responses to “Here Be Wales (and other countries)

  1. Yesterday Unhinged

    13/12/2013 at 12:03

    Maps were better when they had monsters on them.


    • Ste J

      13/12/2013 at 12:06

      Haha, that is true, the only monster on the new ones are the lack of borders between China and Tibet…I like to be topical!


  2. Al

    13/12/2013 at 13:06

    I love looking at these old maps. I brought my sister an old copper one from her kids, and you can spend hours looking at them for the different things there. Plus giggle at the shape of the countries and continents where they were so drastically wrong.


    • Ste J

      13/12/2013 at 14:55

      You’re right, so fascinating…I do love how they evolved the shape and how random shapes were made up to begin with…I feel like hunting out an Atlas now for hours and hours of fun.


  3. cricketmuse

    13/12/2013 at 16:26

    This is one of the appeals of the Narnia series–great flyleaf maps. It’s a real place if there is a map–right?


    • Ste J

      15/12/2013 at 13:58

      It must be a real place, otherwise there wouldn’t be a map…I like your theory. I miss Narnia…not sure why thougb as it is on the book shelf…I may journey through my Narnia memories again.


      • cricketmuse

        15/12/2013 at 14:04

        Narnia and Christmas go well together. It would be a lovely visit.


        • Ste J

          15/12/2013 at 14:11

          It’s only Christmas after the evil wench (I believe that was her name) has been defeated.


  4. sakuraandme

    13/12/2013 at 18:40

    Morning!! 🙂
    Ohhh I would have been that impressionable audience. Lol And then? And then? Hahahaha.
    I love a great story! Clearly I haven’t grown up! Haha
    Old maps are just beautiful. I like the idea of being a global society, why not, I say!
    Please tell me that LochNess Monster is real? 🙂 When I went to Scotland I looked for it and I so wanted it to be real! I think it’s hiding from us all and wants to live in peace. I love the Scotts and if they say it real? Then I believe them!! Haha
    When you awake, have a great day. Hugs from OZ, Paula and her toes! Lol xxxx


    • Ste J

      15/12/2013 at 14:10

      stories are great and all the best ones have maps as well so that’s always a plus point. I think it is increasingly easy to be a global society, the problem being when we all get to know each other our cultures blur and we lose a sense of our differences which makes things more exciting.

      The Loch Ness Monster is real, apparently when people hunt for it, the monster goes and hides out under paris, so that is alright then. I’d like to live in peace as well if I was a big paparazzi shy sea creature. Have a great day yourself! xx


      • sakuraandme

        16/12/2013 at 05:09

        Hahahahaha! You make me laugh so much. Ohhh and I’m soooo happy that the Loch Ness Monster is real. Yay!! Lol Hugs xxx


  5. RoSy

    13/12/2013 at 22:11

    Re maps: Interesting indeed.

    I like to visit non-touristy spots when I get a chance to venture out to other parts of the erf too.


    • Ste J

      15/12/2013 at 13:59

      Ha erf, I like being in this not touristy bit of murica for this time of year. I refuse to go to the Svalbard peninsula alone though!


  6. anna amundsen

    16/12/2013 at 02:11

    Favorite things on those old maps: beautiful ships and sea monsters of all kinds. I like thinking they all existed. Not having a map of my own, I love seeing documentaries on sea creatures. I don’t know if I have mentioned Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World – it tells about scientists on Antarctica, and penguins, and underwater magic. It is amazing how otherworldly it all feels. How deep ocean and space are so much alike..
    I got the impression you like mermaids. For weeks I cannot find time to see a documentary ( a friend told me about. Apparently, there are some clues they might be real..


    • anna amundsen

      17/12/2013 at 01:23

      Update: don’t watch it – it’s desperately bad.


      • Ste J

        20/12/2013 at 12:01

        Thanks to a dodgy internet connection I hadn’t gotten around to watching it but I am glad now that the internet was broken…I do think though that every red blooded male has a certain fascination with mermaids…

        I haven’t seen Encounters at the End of the World but I do fancy watching it. You always put these things in a fascinating way and inspire me to watch them. Space and the deep oceans are wonderfully similar. The romantic in us likes to think these creaures and lands exist and I for one will never give up that hope even when I am proved wrong.


  7. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    20/12/2013 at 18:11

    To me, they are beautiful. Works of art. I tried collecting old maps until I realized my budget had other ideas. But I love them. Merry Christmas, Ste J.


    • Ste J

      21/12/2013 at 10:47

      Ha, budgets, they always get in the way with their new fangled ideas about being non existent. Thank goodness the internet is on hand. Merry Christmas to your good self have a most excellent one!



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