An Even Older View of the New World
Investigating the maps loaned from the British Library for 'Mapping Our World'
10 January 2014
This diagram divides the earth into five zones, the extreme north and south which are labelled ‘INHABITABILIS’ (uninhabitable), the torrid zone at the Equator with its boiling hot sea, ‘RUBRUM MARE’ (red sea) and in between the two temperate zones. The one in the north is ‘TEMPERATA NOSTRA’ (our temperate zone), with Italy at the centre and bordered by the Caspian Sea and the Orkney Islands (‘ORCADES’). To the south is ‘TEMPERATA ANTETORUM’, which probably means something like ‘outside temperate zone’, i.e. outside the known world an area which is not designated as unpopulated.
So could this be the earliest map of the antipodes? The Australians certainly think so! A current exhibition in The National Library of Australia in Canberra entitled Mapping our World: Terra Incognita to Australia features this manuscript from the British Library.
Other medieval maps on loan for the exhibition are:
The Anglo-Saxon World Map, one of the earliest surviving maps from Western Europe, which shows nothing further south than Ethiopia, and after that there are only monsters.