Here Be Duck Trees and Sea Swine: A Gorgeous [Interactive] Renaissance Map
The first time one looks at a color print of Olaus Magnus’ 1539 Carta Marina, the eyes scan the crowded landmass and fix on the creatures in the western part of the map. Larger than the other images and framed by open space, they dominate the chart visually and stir the imagination. To us, the quaint figures rising in the northern waters of Olaus’ map of Scandinavia could be illustrations in a children’s book. However, given that maps chart human knowledge, that they provide glimpses of our understanding of the world at any point in time, Olaus’ 16th-century contemporaries would have regarded the Carta Marina sea monsters differently than we do.