Lesson II

Who’s On Top of the World

Lesson II

Modern maps are generally oriented to the north, so, aside from some minor scaling issues, the Outremer Map does not seem particularly unusual to us. In drawing this map, however, Matthew Paris was breaking with a cartographic tradition.

To get a better understanding of this tradition and of Paris’ break with it, consider the maps below (you can click on the maps for links to larger images).

Psalter Map. London, British Library, Additional MS 28681 f. 9r.

missing image

  1. For what purpose(s) might these maps be useful? For what purpose(s) might they not be?
  2. What ideological assertions do these maps seem to be making?
  3. What do these maps accomplish that the Outremer Map does not?

Now compare the Hereford Mappa Mundi and the Outremer Map and answer the following questions:

  1. Locate Jerusalem on both maps. How does the location of Jerusalem change between the maps? What does this change suggested about the role that Jerusalem plays in each map’s depiction of the Middle East?
  2. Locate Babylon on both maps (hint: don’t look for a city on the Outremer Map). How does the location of the city/region with respect to the mise en page differ between the maps?  What can you tell about the map from this difference?
  3. What ideological conclusions can you draw based on the different orientations of the two maps?