Hanns Rüst: Map of the World (1480)


(The Morgan Library&Museum, New York, USA)

A print from a woodblock which made by the German artist Hanns Rüst (..-1485). This print shows a map of the known world, through Medieval eyes. The map itself is a so-called T and O map and it represents the physical world as first described by the 7th-century scholar saint Isidore of Seville in his Etymologiae. Virtual all the Medieval scholars thought the world, the idea that people in the Middle ages people thought the world was flat is a modern misconception. The known lands are divided into three continents which are named after the three sons of Noah who's descendants these lands after the great flood: Africa (Ham), Asia (Shem) and Europe (Japeth). On the map Europe is in the lower left corner, Africa in the lower right corner and Asia is the top half. The city of Jerusalem forms the hart of the world. East is the top of the map, West the bottom, North on the left and South on the right. At the top of the page is a banner which states: "This is the mappamundi of all the lands and kingdoms which there are in the whole world". At the top of the map is the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and the Tree of knowledge. Flowing from the garden are the 4 rivers mentioned in the book of Genesis: The Nile, Tigris, Euphrates and the Pishon (an unknown river, commonly identified as the Ganges). Surrounding the world is the Oceanus with islands on which fantastical beasts are living, including Purgatory. The organisation of the map itself is very chaotic and the places named on the map are partly real and partly fictional. Europe is located at the lower left corner of the map with France, Greece, Rome, Venice, the devil who is apparently living in Northern Europe, Frisia (the Netherlands, on the map an island in the Mediterranean) and England. In the lower right corner is modern North Africa with Carthage, Mauretania etc. In the Northeast is the rest of Africa located with Ethiopia, 'Moreland' (the lands of the Moors), the place were pygmies are fighting the cranes, the appel smellers, the Tree of the Sun and the Moon (an Oracular Tree that told the future. Two parts of the tree trunk spoke depending on the time of day; in the daytime the tree spoke as a male and at night it spoke as a female. Alexander the Great and Marco Polo are said to have visited this tree.), Egypt etc. In the Northwest is Asia located with Persia, Media, Persepolis, Parthia, the Caspain mountains (mentioned here as 'Caspian Mountains gog and magog enclosed' - Gog and Magog are people/ persons from the Old Testament). At the bottom of the map are three columns - the Pillars of Hercules. At the bottom of the page are two small circles which contain more abstract visions of the world: the four elements (fire, water, earth, wind) to the left and the division between country, town and the sea to the right. Woodblockprint from around 1480.

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