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In Images: Ancient Maps and Sea Monsters

Sea serpent attacking ship

sea serpent attacking ship

(Image credit: National Library of Sweden, shelfmark KoB 1 ab)

Map historian Chet Van Duzer gave a talk about ancient maps and sea monsters at the Library of Congress Thursday (Sept. 5).Above: One of the classic images of a sea monster on a map: a giant sea-serpent attacks a ship off the coast of Norway on Olaus Magnus’s Carta marina of 1539, this image from the 1572 edition.

Jonah cast overboard

jonah cast overboard

(Image credit: British Library, Maps 9.Tab.9., map 97)

Jonah being cast overboard to the sea monster, from Ortelius’s map of the Holy Land in his Theatrum orbis terrarum.

Siren admiring herself

siren admiring herself

(Image credit: British Library, Add. MS 24065)

A siren admires herself in a mirror, a symbol of vanity, near a ship on Pierre Desceliers’s world map of 1550. The styles and colors in which the water is painted beneath the siren and ship are different, suggesting that the siren was painted by a sea monster specialist.

Ichthyocentaur playing a viol

ichthyocentaur playing a viol

(Image credit: British Library, Maps.C.2.c.5., map 45)

An ichthyocentaur playing a viol on the map of Scandinavia in Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum (Antwerp, 1571)

Early version of windsurfing

early version of windsurfing

(Image credit: Library of Congress)

An early vision of wind-surfing: a woman holds a sail in order to ride the waves on the back of a sea monster. From Paolo Forlani, Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi (Venice, 1565).

Whales attacking ship

whales attacking ship

(Image credit: National Library of Sweden, shelfmark KoB 1 ab)

Whales attacking a ship on Olaus Magnus’s Carta marina of 1539, this image from the 1572 edition. The sailors jettison barrels and a man on the ship plays a trumpet in order to scare the monsters away.