Saturday, September 24, 2011

Booklist: The World of Gerard Mercator

The World of Gerard Mercator: The Mapmaker Who Revolutionized Geography, by Andrew Taylor. Walker & Company. 2004.

The story of discovery and mapmaking is one of pushing back shadows, and no one in the last two thousand years achieved as much as Gerard Mercator in extending the boundaries of the known world.

Hist lifespanned most of the turbulent, extraordinary sixteenth century, a time when war rolled across Europe and revolutions engulfred religion, science and civilization. Almost extinguished by the Inquisition, Mercator survived to bring his his genius to making maps, and his achievement was nothing less than to revolutionize the study of geography.

Appropriately for an era undergoing radical change, Mercator was full of contradictions himself, tied to knowledge and beliefs of the past, yet unafraid to forge a new path. He never traveled beyong northern Europe, yet he had the imagination to draw the entire world anew and to solve a problem that had baffled sailors and scientists for centuries: how a curved Earth could be faithfully redered on a flat surface to allow for accurate navigation.

His "projection" was so visionary that it is used by NASA to map Mars today.

Andrew Taylor has beautifully captured Mercator amid the turmoil and opportunity of his times and the luminaries who inspired his talent - his teacher and business partner, GEmma Frisius, the English wizard John Dee, his benefactor, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, his cartographic collaborator, Abraham Ortelius.

The World of Gerard Mercator is a masterful biography of one of the men most responsible for the modern world.

Table of Contents
1. Pushing Back Shadows
2. Forgotten Wisdom
3. A Small Town on the River Scheldt
4. Among the Brethren of the Common Life
5. At the College of the Castle
6. Doubts and Dangers
7. Gemma's Globe
8. Craftsman and Cartographer
9. The Greatest Globe in the World
10. In the Hands of the Inquisition
11. Two New Arrivals
12. A New Life
13. Our Europe
14. A Mysterious Commission
15. In the Forests of Lorraine
16. Tragedy
17. The Sum of Human Knowledge
18. The World Hung on tthe WAll: The Projection
19. Presenting Ptolemy to the World
20. A "Thick Myste of Ignorance" Dispelled
21. The Geography of the World
22. The Gathering Dark


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