The era when there was no GPS: the atlas of 1587

More than 430 years ago, a world atlas was created in Milan, which is now considered the most detailed among the maps of that time. In 2017, a unique document was digitized and posted on the Web.

American art specialist David Rumsey has been collecting antique maps since the 1980s. In 1996, he began digitizing his collection of more than 150,000 rare maps of the 16th – 21st centuries: wall, pocket, handwritten, children’s, marine and others. In 2016, a website appeared, on which 67,000 high-resolution maps were laid out for open access.

The oldest exhibits date back to 1550. Filling the site with materials continues. In 2017, a handwritten world atlas created in 1587 was published here. It was developed by the cartographer Urbano Monti, who was born and lived in Milan. The 60-page atlas describes in detail and with colorful illustrations the territories known to Europeans in the 16th century.

“A unique document that brings together science, art and history,” notes Ramsey. The map was created in azimuthal projection, centered on the North Pole, but for digitization, specialists reassembled the pages as if the atlas were created in the Mercator projection, which is common in our time. Learn about distortions on the maps we are used to.

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