Matters of the Heart
It is February the 14th, and heart-shaped things seem to be everywhere. In keeping with the theme, I would like to talk about heart-shaped maps. While heart-shaped chocolates and decorations are omnipresent on Valentines day, heart-shaped maps are less often seen. Yet there are quite a few surviving from the sixteenth-century, when the cordiform (=heart-shaped) projection was first designed. Although these are not connected to the celebration of romantic love associated with February 14, recent research suggests that they may carry symbolical meaning.[Mangani 1998] They were produced in only a short period of time, from 1511 to 1566 (the dates are based on the dates of known examples).[Kish 1965: 13] We know of such maps produced by Oronce Fine (in 1519, although it does not survive), Peter Aplan (in 1530) , Gerard Mercator (in 1538) and Abraham Ortelius (in 1564). [Mangani 1998: 59; Watson 2008: 182] The earliest such map, a heart-shaped map of the world by Bernard Sylvanus, dated to 1511, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s on 14 November 2017 and a reproduction can be viewed on this page the Sotheby’s website. Whilst their appearance is striking, and the image instantly recognisable, the cordiform maps remain something of a mystery, for their mathematics, for their brief popularity, and for their meaning.
Ruth Watson, ‘Cordiform Maps since the Sixteenth Century: The Legacy of Nineteenth-Century Classificatory Systems‘, Imago mundi 60 (2008), 182-194 (free to read online on JSTOR with registration [last checked 13 February 2020])
Giorgio Mangani, ‘Abraham Ortelius and the Hermetic Meaning of the Cordiform Projection’, Imago Mundi 50 (1998), 59-83 (on JSTOR)
George Kish, ‘The Cosmographic Heart: Cordiform Maps of the 16th Century‘, Imago Mundi 19 (1965), 13-21 (on JSTOR)
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