Asia secunda pars terrae informa Pegasi’ (Asia in the form of Pegasus)

Description

Figurative maps such as this example occasionally appeared after the advent of printing and were meant to be either items of whimsy or of symbolic significance.

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Figurative maps such as this example occasionally appeared after the advent of printing and were meant to be either items of whimsy or of symbolic significance. Heinrich Bünting’s map illustrated here was probably intended as the latter. Bünting was a Protestant theologian from Hanover whose book 'Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae' (Travel in Holy Scripture) was published in 1581. Describing the journeys of figures from the Old and New Testaments, it is a kind of geography of the Bible. Alongside crudely drawn but conventional maps, the book contains three figurative maps: one of Europe personified as a crowned queen; a world map with three continents in the shape of a clover leaf, signifying the Trinity and honouring Hanover ‘my dear fatherland’, whose crest it was; and Asia in the form of the mythological winged horse Pegasus, the offspring of Medusa and Poseidon, God of the Sea and ‘tamer of horses’. Pegasus was himself captured and ridden by Bellerophon so the Greek hero could kill the monstrous chimera.

The inscription below the map explains the symbolism. Bellerophon is identified as Jesus Christ and Pegasus as Asia ‘where Jerusalem is and where his teaching originated. Dying there he conquered the chimera, a horrible monster breathing flames, with the head and breast of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a dragon; thus the Son of God killed that old dragon the Devil doing away with sin, death and hell.’

In spite of – or perhaps because of – its oddity, the book was printed at least ten times during the next seventy years. Moreover, it was translated into English, Danish, Dutch and Swedish. Copies are now rare, but it is one of the best-known cartographical curiosities.

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Dated

1581

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Materials

» paper (fibre product)

Technique

» woodcut (process)
» hand colouring

Production place

» Magdeburg (national district)

Collection

» Dallas Pratt Collection of Historical Maps

Dimensions

302x385mm

Object number

1988.208

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» Europeana
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