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Em. Prof. Robert Clancy AM — Antique Cartography: Maps as an Art Form

Antique maps are documents of history, but they can also been seen as works of art which reveal how their creators viewed the world.

Today, we see maps as accurate mass-produced scientific statements. They record land forms or identifiy spatial distribution of thematic topics. We recognise street maps, tourist maps and maps to locate international events in the newspapers or on the television screen.

That has not always been the case — early maps were often inaccurate and included the thoughts and emotions of the map maker. They were the result of human thoughts and emotions motivated by imagination: the very definition of an ‘art form’.

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM traces our perception of the world through maps from the first printed maps in the 15th century when imagination was dominant and maps true art forms, through to recent times when observation replaced imagination and the modern ‘scientific mafia’ appeared. Through this transition period, antique maps reflected the artistic styles of the day and, in some instances become a tool to stamp authenticity on national pride (as can be seen with the Dutch Baroque).

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