2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


Did you know?
Introduction Section 1:
Cultural Assumption
Section 2:
Ethnographic Record
Section 3:
Section 4:
Political Instrument
Section 5:
Section 6:
Art & Craft
Section 7:
Biographies of Mapmakers & Artists Bibliography

Known as the cartographic "rule of ethnocentricity," the placement of one's own territory at the center of a world map is an almost-universal feature of cartographic devices, including cosmic diagrams of pre-Columbian North American Indians; ancient Babylonia, Greece, and China; and the medieval maps of the Islamic world or Christian Europe.

The delineation of "north" at the top of a map and "south" at the bottom is not a convention adhered to by all cultures. There is no "top" or "bottom" in space. This depiction of land masses conveys a message of superiority for areas located in the Northern Hemisphere. This perspective has become our customary manner to arrange the continents of North and South America, the north and south of the North American continent, and the north and south circum-Caribbean region.


  • Click on images to view larger images and additional information.
  • Identification labels reflect original spelling and capitalization contained in the maps. Such words as "Missisipi," "shewing," and "copyed" were accepted spellings in previous centuries.


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Planiglobium Terrestre Minus
[Global Map of the World]
Iohanne [Johann] Bapt[ist] Homanno, geographer
Christop Weigelio, engineer
Nuremberg, c. 1707
By configuring the continents in the manner shown here, Europe and North America are shown near the center of the map. This map, drawn by a Western cartographer, depicts the earth's hemispheres in the opposite manner from that drawn by Eastern cartographers.

The decorative elements of this map depict opposite elements of nature: the moon and the sun, seen at the top; a volcano and rainbow at the bottom. Celestial figures at the top (north) blow cold wind toward the Northern Hemisphere, while waterspouts swirl in southern waters below.

Gift of Helen and Solis Seiferth


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Shintei Bankoku Zenzu
[Newly Revised Map of All the Countries]
Takahashi Kegeyasu, Hazama Shigetomi, Baba Saj r , Motoki Seiei, A d Denzen, mapmakers
c. 1816
In order to show Japan near the center of this map, the conventional eastern and western hemispheres are transposed. The Eastern Hemisphere is placed to the left and labeled "Western Hemisphere" (nishsi hanky ). The Western Hemisphere is placed on the right and labeled "Eastern Hemisphere" (higashi hanky ).

Courtesy Geographical Institute, Faculty of Letters, Ky to University


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Fejérváry Screenfold
Unidentified Aztec mapmaker
c. 1400-1521
From Codex Fejérváry Mayer
Although it does not look like a map to us, this is a Mesoamerican (Central American) culture's view of the world. This image, found on the opening page of a ritual book, divides the world into five parts. It was used by long-distance merchants along permanent trade routes between central Mexico and the fringes of the Yucatan Peninsula. Holy trees symbolize the four compass points: east at the top, west on the bottom, north to the left, and south to the right.

Courtesy Latin American Library, Tulane University


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Carte de la Rivierre de Mississispi Suivant les Memoires qui ont été fournis par le Sieur de Tauvel et autres voyageurs de ce Pays
[Map of the Mississippi River according to Reports Supplied by Sieur de Tauvel and Other Travelers in this Country]
Unidentified cartographer
c. 1714
This map is stylistically similar to river maps drawn by native peoples. Note that the map is delineated as if one were descending ­ the more common navigational mode of the seventeenth century ­ rather than ascending the river. We see that not all maps have lettering oriented for persons traveling south to north, the usual way to mark cartographic place-names.

Although the maker of this map is unidentified, some experts believe it may have been drawn by Guillaume Delisle, or at his direction, from notes made by Etienne Venyard de Bourgmont (c.1680 c.1730), a French explorer living among Indian tribes residing along the Missouri River as well as from information provided by the "Sieur de Tauvel" noted in the title.

Gift of Louisiana Museum Foundation


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Birds-Eye View of the Course of the Mississippi,
and the Seat of War in Tennessee and the Vicinity

Unidentified mapmaker
From Harper's Weekly
April 5, 1862
Although this map of the Mississippi River was made almost one hundred and fifty years after the previous map, it too shows the Mississippi River in an unusual manner. The Gulf of Mexico and Florida appear at the top (south) of this rendition, while areas normally depicted at the top are seen at the bottom.

Gift of Irby Trust Acquisition Fund