A Mapmaker's Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice

by James Cowan

Paper Book, 1997

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York, NY : Warner Books, 1997.

Description

A monk in 16th Century Venice creates a map of the world, based on the tales of travellers he receives in his monastery. Fra Mauro, official cartographer, interprets and speculates on the world, turning map making into a voyage of human imagination. By the author of Letters from the Wild Side.

User reviews

LibraryThing member benjclark
Jim Harrison blurbs that this book should be read with a glass of red wine -- maybe several would help. The fictionalized account of Fra Mauro, could be called "Let me do my work!". It wasn't quite what I was hoping it would be, but there are still gems to be mined. One thing I did not like was that the Renaissance narrative breaks down a bit stylistically about 2/3 through the book and stops reading like a translated text, which I liked in the beginning. It is aptly titled Dream.... Meditations.... there is sadly no speculation as to the more interesting and mysterious aspects of Mauro's famous map.… (more)
LibraryThing member dotarvi
I enjoyed this book very much, but wonder at the author's notes - he says he found the manuscript at the monestary, and that the book is a translation of the original. I hate it when such claim are used to create verisimilitude, but if that is true, it adds an interesting dimension to the story.

It is easily verified that Frau Mauro was a cartographer in the period mentioned, but not so easy to verify the manuscript claimed by the author.… (more)
LibraryThing member MeganAndJustin
I enjoyed this book very much, but wonder at the author's notes - he says he found the manuscript at the monestary, and that the book is a translation of the original. I hate it when such claim are used to create verisimilitude, but if that is true, it adds an interesting dimension to the story.

It is easily verified that Frau Mauro was a cartographer in the period mentioned, but not so easy to verify the manuscript claimed by the author.… (more)
LibraryThing member thejohnsmith
An interesting read detailing the discoveries of a monk who sets out to create a map of the known world from the stories of travellers who come to visit him. But he ends up learning so much more than he expected creating more of an atlas of personal enlightenment than a simple map. I thoroughly enjoyed this short, but very worthwhile novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member matt.kurjanowicz
To be blunt, I didn't get this book. Perhaps this is because I have never really read books like this. I don't see the point of repeated musings of visitors coming to speak about their experiences to a Monk who is making a map.

The main question I found posed by this book is that of how one searches for the truth and what the truth is. As the book progresses, the main character becomes more unsure of himself and his place in his mission of creating a map. Can he faithfully create a map that represents the truth in the world? How can he tell when he relies only upon the stories that are sent to him? Does he experience truth from his "cell", as he puts it?

These are good meditation questions, so perhaps that's the point of the book. I did find my mind wandering quite a bit while reading it.

I do think of this book as a challenge. I needed to look up words every 5 - 10 pages, which is quite unusual for me, and I enjoyed expanding my vocabulary. This book had no plot, and that resulted in a story that was difficult for me to follow. Hopefully the next book I read like this will be more understandable.
… (more)
LibraryThing member MusicMom41
I find it difficult to describe this quirky little novel. It essentially has no plot although you could argue that there is some character development as the one recurring character, Fra Mauro, seems to grow and develop as he processes the information that is brought to him. The sub-title is "The Meditations of Fra Mauro, cartographer to the Court of Venice." The basis of the story is that Fr Mauro lives in a cloistered monastery on an island near Venice and he wants to draw a completely accurate map of the world including not just the boundaries and geographic features of the lands but also all the inhabitants, creatures, culture-in short, everything about each country. Since he cannot and does not wish to leave his sanctuary travelers of all sorts come to him and describe what they have gleaned from their voyages. Each chapter is the story a traveler tells and Fra Mauro's impressions about what he has heard. At first I found the book rather irritating-a mishmash of unrelated and often seemingly outlandish ideas. I found, however, if I slowed down and read only one or two chapters at a time and tried to put myself into the time period of Fra Mauro-very early explorations and the making of the trade routes-that this was really fascinating. Some stories were fantastic-but don't travelers often have fantastic ideas when they see strange things? Some resonated with me as ways in which I sometimes perceive the world. Fra Mauro tried to keep an open mind when receiving all these ideas and images-and I did, too. One of the thoughts that occurred to me is that in today's information age we often feel bombarded with more ideas and images that we can process-much as Mauro must have felt. We, too, are surrounded with a myriad of ideas and world views that need to be considered. This is a book to expand your mind and to consider other ways of viewing the world-there is enough variety in these approximately 150 pages that every reader should find as least one idea that gives you that "aha!" moment. There is also enough to disagree with that this would make a good discussion book-as long as your group can vehemently disagree about ideas without getting personal or having it affect your relationships. Caveat: if you prefer to read only ideas that support your own world view this is not the book for you. If you enjoy expanding your mind to consider ideas foreign to you without feeling threatened by them, this is a delightful book-just take it in small doses.… (more)

Language

Barcode

6641
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