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Detail of the map Americae 1562 (the Americas) by Diego Gutiérrez and Hieronymus Cock (engraver) via LoC and Wikimedia, via Charting The Unknown « The Dish.


Our relation with the “known unknowns”

One of cartography’s most persistent myths: mapmakers of yore, frustrated by the world beyond their ken, marked the blank spaces on their maps with the legend Here be monsters.

It’s a pleasing hypothesis. For to label a cartographic vacuum with the stuff of nightmares solves two problems at once. It explains why the fringes of contemporary knowledge didn’t match the outer limits of the entire world – monsters were keeping us out! And, by being equal parts fantastic and horrific, those monsters symbolise our fascination with the known unknowns [1] just out of our reach. What keeps us out is also what draws us in.

via 600 – Münster’s Monster Mash | Strange Maps | Big Think.

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