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Reading the world: the Hereford mappa mundi* It has recendy been argued that, in order to understand Roman military strategy, w e must use R o m a n rather than m o d e m maps of the Empire. Only then does Europe emerge 'not as a vulnerable band of land circling the Mediterranean at one tip of the Eurasian land-mass'... but as 'the larger portion of the habitable earth, poised on the verge of world rule'.1 Medieval maps can likewise give us a useful image of some of the assumptions and habits of medieval writers and audiences. Mappae mundi, maps offering world-images, were once deplored for their inexactitude by historians of cartography. 'The first feeling awakened by the Hereford mappa mundi', wrote Konrad MiUer in a major study of 1896, 'is one of compassion for its maker's lack of geographical knowledge'.2 Nearly a century later, the symbolic aspects of mappae mundi have been increasingly recognized and now fuUy estabUshed with the pubUcation of David Woodward's survey in the new History of Cartography.3 It is clear that, although medieval map-making embraces topographical accuracy (as in the portolan sailing charts used by sailors and merchants), the genre of mappae mundi reads the world primarily in terms of Christianized historical geography. The assumption that geography's true end lies in ever-increasing empirical accuracy would probably have seemed, to the Hereford map-maker, impious or uneducated * I am grateful to Dr Peter Barber of the British Library's Map Library for advice and help with illustrating the lecture on which this paper is based, to Mrs Jean Shearman for British press cuttings on the Hereford mappa mundi, and to the medievalists of the English Departments at the Universities of Sydney and Adelaide for the opportunity to give an earlier version of this paper as a lecture. 1 R. Moynihan, 'Geographical Mythology and Roman Imperial Ideology', in The Age of Augustus, ed. Rolf Winkes, Louvain and Providence, 1986, pp. 149-62, especially pp. 150-51. 2 Mappaemundi: Die altesten Weltkarten, ed. Konrad Miller, 6 vols, Stuttgart, 1895-98, 4: Die Herefordkarte, 1896, p. 1. 3 'Medieval Mappaemundi', inThe History of Cartography, ed. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Chicago, 1987: see also Woodward, 'Reality, Symbolism, Time, and Space in Medieval World Maps', Annals of the Association of American Geographers 75 (1985), 510-21. See also Jurgen Schultz, 'Jacopo de Barberi's view of Venice: Medieval M a p Making, City Views and Moralized Geography Before the Year 1500', Art Bulletin 60, 1978. Particularly informative among older surveys are John K. Wright, The Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades, N e w York, 1925, repr. with introd. by C.J. Glacken, 1965; C R . Beazley, The Dawn of Modern Geography, 3 vols, N e w York, 1949; George H.T. Kimble, Geography in the Middle Ages, N e w York, 1938, repr. 1968. 118 /. Wogan-Browne AL ' •***«»... "~j Fig. A The Hereford mappa mundi (Photo: Woodmansterne) Reprinted with the kind permission of the Friends of Hereford Cathedra Hereford mappa mundi 119 Fig. B The Hereford mappa mundi (diagram re-drawn from Crone, 1954) 120 /. Wogan-Browne Hereford Cathedral's mappa has been in its possession since about 1300, probably from thetimethe map was completed between 1280-90. According to its own Anglo-Norman inscription, the m a p owes its existence to Richard de Bello of Haldingham and Lafford [modem Holdingham and Sleaford], a prebendary of Lincoln Cathedraltid1283 and perhaps the same Richard as was a prebendary of Hereford from 13054 Hereford's map is rare in being a very large, independent mappa mundi. It occupies a whole calf skin (65" x 53"), and shares with three known others provenance in or associations with England and a thirteenth-century date.5 The mappa at Hereford is oriented to the East, which, together with the Earthly Paradise, is at the top. The world is represented as a flat disk, comprising Asia, Africa, Europe, and encircled by an equatorial ocean (see figs. A, B). Within this circle, the three continents are schematicaUy arranged in a Tshape formed by the Mediterranean (the T's upright) and...


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