Chet Van Duzer
, an accomplished historian of cartography, trains his sight in this book on one uniquely important map produced in early modern Europe. The 1491 world map by Henricus Martellus has long been deemed “an essentially unstudiable object,” its legends and descriptions illegible to the unaugmented eye. Now, aided by multispectral imaging technology — and a dogged team of technicians — Van Duzer has rendered Martellus legible and reproduced the map in vivid form, both in the pages of this book and, still more systematically, in an online space that accompanies the text. Van Duzer’s new book Henricus Martellus’s World Map at Yale (c. 1491): Multispectral Imaging, Sources, and Influence
(Springer, 2019) is both an example of and an articulate argument for the possibilities of multispectral imaging. In tracing the circuits by which Martellus came to inform subsequent geographic knowledge — as manifest in Martin Behaim’s 1492 globe, in Christopher Columbus’s own wager that the “New World” might become accessible to European eyes, and most profoundly in Martin Waldseemüller’s world map of 1507, which first applied the name “America” in its modern sense — Van Duzer argues for a radically new understanding of this period in cartographic representation. Moreover, in considering Martellus’s own influences, which included inter alia
African traditions of mapping the lands south of Egypt, he adds critical complexity to our understanding of how — and for how long — European and non-European geographic practices have been entwined. In its sources, its methodology, and its ultimate revisions to received narratives of cartographic priority, the book has the flavor of an early modern detective tale. It will reward scrutiny by a wide readership.