HMML Exhibition

From Daniel Gullo, notice of an online exhibition from the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library: “Terra Incognita: Tracing Western Understanding of the Earth through Maps.”

In the 21st century, we have become accustomed to the ability to locate geographical information at the touch of a screen or a click of a mouse. Almost instantaneously we find physically accurate road maps, city maps and information about specific locations, and this can create a sense that all places are known through stored data. It is sometimes difficult to remember that such services have only become available in the last twenty years.

The maps in this exhibition may look foreign to you, and this sense of unfamiliarity is due largely to the changing understanding of the world over time and the attempt by early mapmakers to fill in missing data. This Terra incognita, or unknown land, was often filled with anomalous details such as California depicted as an island.

This collection of maps will give you a sense of how the conception of the world changed from the 13th to the early 19th century. Our understanding of the world continues to evolve, and the accurately detailed maps we know today may become the Terra incognita of the future.

Check it out.

Bayeux Tapestry at UNG

I’ll be speaking about the Bayeux Tapestry at the University of North Georgia a week from today, along with Kelly DeVries and Theresa Jesperson. On display from 11:00 to 4:00 will be a full-scale painted reproduction of this most important medieval artifact, on the second floor of the dining hall (at 404 Georgia Circle, Dahlonega, GA 30597) – apparently the only place on campus capacious enough to hold the whole thing! The evening program starts at 5:00 p.m., with words from Bonita Jacobs, president of UNG, and Judge Edd Wheeler, who financed the painting in the first place and whose decision it was to move the tapestry from West Georgia to UNG. Also present will be people from the Northeast Georgia History Center in historical costume.

I was pleased to discover today via Facebook an animated Bayeux Tapestry done by some students at Goldsmiths College. On account of my recent research I have come to realize that it’s unlikely that the Tapestry originally depicted Harold shot with an arrow in the eye, contrary to what I said last fall. Examination of the fabric reveals that the soldier (who might not even be Harold) was probably originally holding a spear pointing outwards, which at some point was changed to an arrow pointing inwards – the idea being that traitors were likely to meet such a fate. See a blog post by Mercedes Rochelle for more.

Something else from my reading: the frontispiece to Sir Frank Stenton’s “Comprehensive Survey” of the Bayeux Tapestry, published in 1957. I thought this was clever and edifying.

Tube Map

One of the best known and most influential pieces of twentieth century graphic design was the Tube Map, that is, a map of London Transport’s underground rail system:

What’s so iconic about this? Well, the great insight of its designer, Harry Beck, was that such a map did not need to be to scale or even correspond to precise geography – all that it needed to do was to show the relative locations of the different stations, like a schematic diagram of an electrical appliance. Here’s what an accurate map would look like (Wikipedia):

Here’s what it looked like until the 1930s when Beck’s map was adopted (Wikipedia):

In other words, there’s no need for any lines that don’t run horizontally, vertically, or on 45 degree angles. Designing a map on such a principle produces a clean, memorable and useful image, one that has inspired many other such maps (all images Wikipedia):

Moscow

Paris

New York

And like Bayeux Tapestry, the Tube Map has inspired any number of parodies or “pastiches,” including:

• A map with place names as they were in the Middle Ages.

• The Daily Mail’s Moral Underground, featuring Lady Gaga and Nigella Lawson on the Media Scum Line

• A Shakespearean themed map, which “delineates the important personality types that recur from play to play and shows the intricate connections between the characters” (from the RSC website).

• Finally, a collection of such maps, including the Anagram Map or the What if the Germans had Won the War Map.