14.10.10, Harvey, Medieval Maps of the Holy Land

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Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.

The Medieval Review 14.10.10

Harvey. P.D.A.. Medieval Maps of the Holy Land. London:The British Library, 2012. Pp. xvi, 160. ISBN: 9780712358248 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.
University of Notre Dame

This beautifully produced folio-format volume is presented by its author as representing "no more than a staging-post along the road" (ix) that will hopefully lead to a definitive edition covering not only the regional maps of the Holy Land drawn in Europe but also Islamic and Hebrew maps, and the plans of individual cities. It examines, in the meantime, eight regional maps of Palestine (used here as purely as a geographical term, with no historical or political implications) of the Christian tradition that originated between the late twelfth and the mid-fourteenth century, and that survive through various versions and derivatives taking the form of twenty-three individual artifacts. They are the Ashburnham Libri map, the three Tournai maps, Matthew Paris's Oxford map, and his Acre map, the large Burchard map, and the small Burchard map. All are of great interest for the history of cartography, and "contribute to our understanding of the way Palestine was viewed at a period when the Crusaders gave it particular interest, not only to chroniclers and historians down to the present day, but also to devout Christians throughout contemporary Western Europe" (i).

The first four of the book's thirteen chapters are preliminary to the discussions of the maps. They provide concise yet detailed descriptions of the historical (Chapter 1), literary (Chapter 2), and cartographic contexts (Chapter 3) for the medieval maps of Palestine analyzed in the chapters that follow, as well as a discussion of other medieval maps of the Holy Land that show all or much of the region (Chapter 4). These well-focused introductory chapters make the book more easily accessible to non-specialists who will want to read it, including students of art and art history, history, literature and religious studies. A distinguishing characteristic of the book is the way it meets the needs of both specialist and non-specialist audiences. The 76 illustrations (about half in color), for example, range from a simple map of Palestine showing the principal places mentioned in the book (illustration 1) to elaborate critical reconstructions of the palimpsests of the first and second Tournai maps (illustrations 26 and 28), while the references feature both the latest authoritative general works, such as Jonathan Riley-Smith's The Crusades: A History, as well as current specialized contributions by leading historians of cartography such as Patrick Gautier Dalché, Catherine Delano Smith, and the author, among others.

Each of the introductory chapters foreshadows broader research questions that are variously developed in the chapters that follow. What is the significance of the fact that, before the fifteenth century, Palestine was the only area of the world for which we have a significant number of regional maps? What is the relationship between the maps of the Holy Land examined here and the encyclopedic world map developed in northern France and England during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries on the one hand and the portolan or nautical charts on the other, whose earliest examples come from Italy? The question of the relationship between literary sources and the maps is pervasive. Biblical sources (especially Jerome and Eusebius), classical accounts of Palestine (by Pliny the Elder, Solinus, Martianus Capella), together with descriptions by late-antique and medieval authors such as Orosius, Bede, Isidore of Seville in the seventh century and Lambert of Saint-Omer in the twelfth all had an influence on the world maps in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that played a major role in the making of the regional maps of the Holy Land examined here. Accounts of the Holy Land, of varying length and varying degrees of detail naturally represent essential sources for the maps of the Holy Land examined in the chapters that follow, in particular, the account by Burchard of Mount Sion written in the late thirteenth century, which is the longest and arguably the most impressive of these works, although a definitive critical edition of this text is currently unavailable. Chapter 4's reconnaissance of maps other than the eight regional maps examined in the book discusses potential cartographic sources, including twelfth century plans of Jerusalem that appeared in the Chronicles of the Crusades and the encyclopedic Floral book (Liber floridus) by Lambert of Saint-Omer, and the depictions of the Holy Land found on the Ebsdorf, Hereford and Vercelli world maps.

Chapters 5 through 12 focus on the description and analysis of the maps themselves: the Ashburnham Libri map, late twelfth century (Chapter 5), the Tournai maps, late twelfth century (Chapter 6); the Oxford map of Matthew Paris, mid-thirteenth century (Chapter 7); the Acre map of Matthew Paris, mid- thirteenth century (Chapter 8); the earliest large Burchard map, circa 1300 (Chapter 9); and its derivatives, including the Grid Maps, 1320-1339 (Chapter 10), the later large Burchard maps, fourteenth to early fifteenth century (Chapter 11); and finally, the small Burchard map, mid-fourteenth century (Chapter 12). Each of the chapters includes an historical account of the provenance and material making of the artifact, a thorough review of the previous scholarship about the map under discussion, and a description of the maps' cartographic contents. The author conducts detailed readings that compare and contrast the maps' contents in order to uncover the relations between the different testimonies and the broader cartographic context, and to construct hypotheses about the genealogies of the maps and their sources.

The provenance of the Ashburnham Libri map (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ashburnham Libri ms 1882) is perhaps the most colorful of all. Originally among the nearly 2000 manuscripts collected and in many cases stolen by the notorious Guglielmo Libri (1803-1869), the map was crudely altered by Libri so as to appear an erotic drawing produced in a monastery (the Red Sea made to assume the shape of a phallus), which would have increased its sale value for collectors. Setting aside such alterations, an important map emerges: Europe's oldest surviving sheet map (besides the ninth century monastic plan of St. Gall), that is, one drawn on the loose piece of parchment, not on a page in a bound volume. The map records crusader castles that appear in no published twelfth century text nor in any known world map: Toron, Chateauneuf, La Feve, among others. The Ashburnham Libri map presents an eloquent picture of the Holy Land while much of it was in Christian hands; and it was a map of some beauty before it fell victim to the vandalism of Guglielmo Libri.

Generally speaking, before Medieval Maps of the Holy Land, scholarly attention to the eight maps treated here has been uneven and spotty relative to their great importance (with the possible exception of the Matthew of Paris Acre map). Most of it was done more than a century ago. Only the third of the Tournai maps discussed in Chapter 6 had been spoken of in a work on medieval cartography before now. Misleadingly known as the Jerome maps, the three Tournai maps of Palestine are found on the last leaf of a late twelfth century manuscript containing two original works by Jerome and his Latin translation of the Onomasticon (London, British Library, Add. MS 10049, f. 64r,v.) The book belonged to St. Martin's Benedictine abbey at Tournai, now in Belgium, which is where the texts were copied and the maps drawn. The author finds no evidence that Jerome drew a map of any kind, let alone the archetypes of what Konrad Miller in 1895 first called the Jerome maps. A thorough analysis reveals that there are not three maps but four: a map of Palestine on the recto has been overlaid and replaced by a map of Asia, while on the verso a second map of Palestine has been so thoroughly altered as to create a new, third, map of Palestine. The chapter represents a first attempt at unraveling the tangled composition of the Tournai maps, which considered in relation to a twelfth century manuscript identified by Patrick Gautier Dalché in the Biblioteca Nazionale of Naples describing a world map that corresponds to the Tournai map of Asia, [1] are found to "set before us a considerable portion of a world map of great antiquity" (59).

The influence of medieval mappae mundi on the regional maps of Palestine is an important focus of analysis throughout. The discussion of the Oxford map of Matthew Paris (Chapter 7) as well as his Acre map (Chapter 8) reveals that the frameworks for both were taken from a world map, as well as such characteristic iconographic features as the river Jordan passing straight through the Sea of Galilee, the figure of Lot's wife, or the star of Bethlehem. The Oxford map of Palestine was not a fair copy but rather a rough draft made in haste from a map to which Matthew had only limited access and which he may have encountered at St. Alban's just twenty miles northeast of London where he was a Benedictine monk, or at Westminster or some other monastery he visited. The map, whose most remarkable feature is that it has north at the top, was likely made with the intention of making a full copy of the exemplar at some later date. The three maps of Palestine, one of which is included in each one of the three volumes of Matthew's Chronica majora (Greater Chronicles), feature the only plan of Acre of the thirteenth century, itself "a considerable achievement, imaginative and innovative" (83). The maps of Palestine have been interpreted to be part of a larger literary and iconographic program that creates an imaginative pilgrimage made up of an illustrated itinerary from London to South Italy, followed by the map of Palestine. [2] The maps of Palestine are not identical but are different versions of the same map that was based on a world map integrated with other sources painstakingly reconstructed here, including literary accounts and perhaps first-hand reports of visitors to St. Alban's who had been to the Holy Land.

Chapter 9 treats the earliest known map to be based on Burchard of Mount Sion's description of Palestine (c. 1300), a book written between 1274 and 1285, and which survives in more than one hundred manuscript copies and fifteen printed editions by 1624 (princeps 1475) including translations into German and French. The map's debt to Burchard's description becomes clear when one considers the long notes that are not quotations but paraphrases so close to Burchard's words that there is no doubt about their origin. The earliest large Burchard map (Florence, Archivio di Stato, Carte nautiche, geografiche e topografiche 4) is one of the outstanding monuments of medieval cartography (it is 5 1/2 feet long and 20 inches deep, drawn on four sheets of parchment), although it has been neglected, perhaps because it is badly faded. The map, which is beautifully illustrated here by a color fold-out reproduction, is a copy of an existing map, now lost, not an original production. Copied by someone with limited knowledge of the area, as evidenced by mistaken place names, it nonetheless is "a magnificent map and of great interest and importance" (103). The outlines of the coast, rivers and mountains appear to be entirely the original mapmakers own work and to reflect very considerable local knowledge.

Chapter 10 discusses what are known as the "grid maps," which are nine maps of Palestine associated with the project of a new crusade to restore Christian rule to the Holy Land after the fall of Acre in 1291 that was promoted throughout Europe between 1321 and 1332 by Marino Sanudo the Elder. Sanudo's Book of secrets of those faithful to the Cross (Liber secretorum fidelium cruces) included an atlas of maps that "played an important part in Sanudo's argument in favor of a crusade, enabling his strategy to be easily visualized at successive levels of detail" (112). These included a map of Palestine, as well as plans of Jerusalem and Acre. All the original maps were drawn in Venice in the workshop of Pietro Vesconte of Genoa, one of the most important figures in the early development of the portolan chart and six of them are all or partly in his hand. Some of these maps reappear in four manuscripts of the Great chronology (Chronologia magna) by Paolino Veneto, two of which include the map of Palestine.

The most striking feature of the nine "grid maps" of Palestine executed in Venice and Naples between 1320 and 1339 is a grid of 28 squares from east to west, 83 from north to south. There is no parallel in contemporary or earlier European maps. Vesconte or Sanudo realized that such a grid might be used not just to copy the map accurately, but to provide a guide to the places on the map. In the later versions of the Book of secrets Sanudo explained this innovative idea, which is analogous to today's tourist maps on which the grid serves as a finding tool for places on the map. There are few differences between the nine maps of Palestine, maps A to J. They are all versions of a single map, though it seems likely that two slightly different exemplars were used, one at Venice, the other at Naples. Naples map H (Paris, Bibliotèque nationale de France, ms. latin 4939, ff. 10v-11r) is "unquestionably the finest of all nine grid maps" (121). The source of the maps is without doubt a reduced version of the large Burchard map.

Chapter 11 discusses three later large Burchard maps from between the fourteenth and the early fifteenth centuries, held by the Pierpont Morgan (MS M. 877), the state archives in Bruges (Chartes avec número bleu 11458), and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (MS Douce 389). Through a very detailed philological investigation of the maps the author finds that the Pierpont Morgan map and the Bruges fragments repeat mistakes found in the Archivio di Stato large Burchard map, while the Douce map seems to stem from a better copy of the original map that lay behind the grid maps. Thus there appear to have been two lines of copies stemming from the original large Burchard map. The grid maps and Douce map belong to the more correct one, while the other large maps and the Bruges fragment belong to the other. All these maps derived from a single map that must have been one of the most remarkable achievements of medieval mapmaking. A contemporary of the Hereford and Ebstorf world maps, this map represented a completely different kind of cartography: "Whether the mapmaker worked from Burchard's text or from personal knowledge or from both--and it is not impossible that he was Burchard himself, it was the direct graphic representation of a region, not a compilation of earlier sources constructed in the study" (139).

Chapter 12 takes up the small Burchard map from the mid-fourteenth century today found in Florence (Biblioteca Laurenziana, ms Plut. 76.56, ff. 97v-98r). It is the only copy to survive of the small Burchard map in a manuscript volume where it accompanies a copy of the full version of Burchard's text. Unfortunately, the map is full of errors and misplaced names. Nonetheless, there is the possibility that the small Burchard map derives, albeit in travestied form, from the map that Burchard himself sent to his friend, also named Burchard, a Dominican friar in Magdeburg along with the short version of his text (and that other copies might still exist). The only published account is a short description by Reinhold Röhricht in 1898 who followed his description with accounts of two late fifteenth century maps that he associated with Burchard's text. To these the author adds a third, from the early sixteenth century, and the balance of the chapter is dedicated to a detailed comparison with these. Tantalizingly, the maps while related are so different as to suggest that many more derived from an original archetype (and might remain to be discovered).

A brief Conclusion (Chapter 13, pp. 155-156) follows, which in keeping with the "work in progress" orientation of the volume, rather than drawing major conclusions points to further work that needs to be undertaken focusing on the eight maps examined here and their cartographic context, including the literary background. But the groundbreaking work accomplished in the meantime by this splendid volume will no doubt prove to be a fundamental point of reference for future research.



1. Patrick Gautier Dalché, "Eucher de Lyon, Iona, Bobbio: le destin d'une mappa mundi de l'antiquité tardive," Viator 41 (2010): 1-22.

2. Daniel K. Connolly, "Imagined pilgrimage in the itinerary maps of Matthew Paris," Art Bulletin 81 (1999): 598-622.

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Author Biography

Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.

University of Notre Dame