Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New World order

In Italy at the turn of the 16th century, someone used Leonardo da Vinci's technique for applying a flat map to a 3-dimensional surface – in this case the 2 bottom halves of an ostrich egg. The globe incorporated the latest geographic information from the most recent explorations of Henricus Martellus, Marco Polo, Gaspar Corte-Real, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Amerigo Vespucci, and Christopher Columbus. The globe-maker and its current owner, who purchased it in 2012 at the London Map Fair, both remain anonymous. But the globe shares many details witthe oldest globe to depict the New World, the copper Hunt-Lenox Globe, which resides in the Rare Book Division of the New York Public Library and has been dated to 1510. These details include the wave patterns of the water, the disproportionate size of continents (including the 2 tiny islands that represent the Americas), the handwriting, the typos, and the phrase in the ocean above Asia: “Hic Sunt Dracones [Here be Dragons].” Belgian scholar Stefaan Missinne has spent a year analyzing the ostrich egg globe and dated it to c. 1500 based on the loss of the egg's bone density over the centuries. That, combined with the remarkable similarities, has convinced him that this egg (IMAGE ABOVE) not only predates the copper globe but was the prototype for it!

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