Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

by Chet Van Duzer

Paperback, 2014



British Library (2014), Edition: Reprint, 144 pages


The sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps, whether swimming vigorously, gamboling amid the waves, attacking ships, or simply displaying themselves for our appreciation, are one of the most visually engaging elements on these maps, and yet they have never been carefully studied. The subject is important not only in the history of cartography, art, and zoological illustration, but also in the history of the geography of the "marvelous" and of western conceptions of the ocean. Moreover, the sea monsters depicted on maps can supply important insights into the sources, influences, and methods of the cartographers who drew or painted them. In this highly-illustrated book the author analyzes the most important examples of sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps produced in Europe, beginning with the earliest mappaemundi on which they appear in the 10th century and continuing to the end of the 16th century.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member AndreasJ
Perhaps best characterized as a scholarly coffee table book, this is essentially a chronologically ordered selection of sea monster depictions from, obviously, medieval and renaissance maps, accompanied with texts explaining what's known about the maps' provenance and discussing trends and
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dependencies in sea monster illustrations.

The monsters themselves are a bit different from what one might expect from modern popular culture - there are relatively few sea serpents or giant octopuses, and hardly any monster sharks. Instead there are a lot of weird land-creature-fish hybrids (sea dogs, sea pigs, sea whatever), lots of sirens and similar half-humanoid creatures, and many oddly depicted cetaceans, in the 16th century regularly with "funnels" for spouting; the creature on the lower right on the front cover is a good example.
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LibraryThing member 2wonderY
The geography of the marvelous

Wow! What a particularity! It appears from some of the reproduced maps, that ships and other nautical images were used to break up the uninteresting large water expanses. Sirens, merfolk and any animal imaginable, and derivations of land animals as well. A flying
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turtle? An elephant with flippers and fangs? Sure, why not? One of each, please.
And then, I’m reminded of tattoo subjects.
The introduction especially has lots of interesting information.
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Original publication date


Physical description

144 p.; 8 inches


0712357718 / 9780712357715
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