The Majestic World

Published in Issue 4 (Winter 1998), News, Volume 6

This exhibition was opened by Síle de Valera, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, on Thursday 25 June 1998 and will continue until April 1999. The most remarkable atlas ever produced—the eleven-volume Blaeu Atlas Major, printed in Amsterdam in 1662—is included. It is wonderful that the Irish public, and visitors from abroad, will have this rare opportunity to see these splendid maps, superbly hand-coloured and with fascinating details and exotic animals.
Maps by three of the most famous cartographers—Ortelius, Ptolemy and Mercator—can also be seen. Ortelius died four hundred years ago. Ptolemy’s Geography was regarded as the authority on all geographical questions for centuries, and Mercator’s projection is still used in most modern atlases. Visitors will find the case on instruments intriguing. The sailors who made these journeys of discovery had very little to guide them and some of the instruments were not very accurate. The early maps show cannibals and ferocious animals in some areas, and the Australian region is marked ‘terra incognita’.
One case is devoted to Ireland and it shows a copy of William Petty’s Hiberniae delineatio, 1685. This is particularly unusual because it is a proof copy with the counties written into the cartouches by hand. One of the best known explorers in the exhibition is Captain James Cook. The chart on display shows his route and the important discoveries on his expeditions. Captain Cook disposed of the old idea of a great Southern continent, discovered the Sandwich Islands, and made improvements in the maps of the regions he visited. The exhibition includes maps of European countries, as well as of Asia, Africa, the Far East and the New World.
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