White Images/Scala, Florence
White Images/Scala, Florence

8 Antique Maps That Were the First of Their Kind

White Images/Scala, Florence
White Images/Scala, Florence

Cartographers shape how we think about the world. The designers and explorers who create maps influence things like whether we think of North America as above South America or below, how big we think Greenland is. World maps help us create mental images of places we’ve never been, from an aerial view most people will never see. 

The bird’s eye view of the Earth that we associate with today's world maps is relatively recent, in the grand scope of human history. Before satellites made it easy to create accurate images of the globe, explorers had to set sail to diligently map out every nook and cranny of the continents. What they imagined Earth looked like from above was often very different from what we would conceive of today. A new book called Map: Exploring the World (Phaidon 2015) is a celebration of cartography, especially rare, centuries-old maps from explorers and cartographical pioneers. 

Here are eight early maps that shaped how people imagined geography as early as 1000 years ago: 


Image Credit: MS D’Orville 77, fol.

Created by a Roman scholar in 1000 CE, this map was the first to divvy up the Earth into climactic zones. The cartographer described, in detail, the frigid zones near the Earth’s poles, the hot sun of the equatorial zones, and the temperate climes of the middle areas. It was also one of the first maps to put north at the top, setting the precedent for centuries of northerly bias in mapping. 


Image Credit: Bibliografía: Berwick y Alba, 1892, Documentos Colombinos

Though it hasn't been authenticated, this crudely drawn sketch of the northern coast of Hispaniola is said to have been drawn by Christopher Columbus himself during his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. If it was sketched by Columbus, it’s the earliest surviving map of what Europeans called the New World. 


Image Credit: Museo Naval, Madrid, Spain/Bridgeman Images

Drawn by cartographer and navigator Juan de la Cosa, this map from the year 1500 was the first to show the West Indies, Venezuela, Brazil, and Newfoundland. 


Image Credit: Daniel Crouch Rare Books

German artist Albrecht Dürer is behind this woodcut of the northern hemisphere in 1515. With its southern counterpart, it’s one of the first star charts ever printed. The work contains 48 constellations, along with the figures they represent. The figures are facing away, because they’re designed to look as they would if you were looking down upon them from space. 


Image Credit: Library of Congress Geography and Map DivisionWashington, DC

In 1570, Abraham Ortelius debuted the first modern atlas he called "Theater of the World." It was the first book of maps created at a common scale with text explanations. In this map, he added four mythical islands that legend said existed around the North Pole. 


Image Credit: White Images/Scala, Florence

Gerard Mercator invented a type of mapping projection that translates the curved surface of the Earth into a flat, 2D image, allowing 16th century explorers to chart their courses more accurately without using a globe. This world map, drawn in 1569, has been a model for maps for centuries, though the projection does distort the size of the northern landmasses. 


Image Credit: Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division/Science Photo Library

This English map, created in 1589, celebrates Sir Francis Drake’s victorious raid over the Spanish at St. Augustine, Spain’s main outpost along the East Coast. It’s the first known map of any part of the United States. 


Image Credit: Daniel Crouch Rare Books

In 1602, Italian priest Matteo Ricci teamed up with engraver Li Zhizaoto to combine Eastern and Western cartography in one map of the world, the first Chinese map depicting the western hemisphere. Ricci was the first Westerner allowed in China’s Forbidden City. The two combined as much Chinese and Jesuit cartography knowledge as possible. Because the Chinese viewed their country as the Middle Kingdom, China was placed at the center of the image.

All images from Map: Exploring the World, courtesy Phaidon

Pop Chart Lab
A Visual History of Captain America’s Shields
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Captain America has gone through plenty of wardrobe changes since his comic book debut in 1941, but it’s his iconic shield that has had the most makeovers. Over the past eight decades, fans have seen the shield change its shape, color, and even the material from which it’s crafted. For the folks at Pop Chart Lab, the shield’s storied history provided the perfect subject matter for their latest poster.

On this piece, the company teamed with Marvel to give a rundown of 50 of Cap’s shields—from the instantly recognizable to the downright obscure. Here we see his classic Golden Age shield, with its slightly different color scheme, and the different variations from Jack Kirby’s time-traveling Bicentennial Battles book. Then there are entries like the vibranium shield he received from Black Panther in Captain America #342 and an adamantium one made by Tony Stark.

Those different shields just scratch the surface of the deep cuts Pop Chart Lab provides. There are also shields from Captain Americas across Marvel’s numerous alternate universes, like the ones used by the Ultimate Universe Steve Rogers and the android Cap from Earth-725.

Each shield is illustrated to match its comic book counterpart and comes with a description specifying the series it debuted in and which Earth it exists on (the Marvel Universe has thousands of different versions of Earth, after all).

The posters will begin shipping on May 23, and you can pre-order yours now starting at $29 on the Pop Chart Lab website. You can check out a full look at the poster below.

Pop Chart Lab's Captain America shield poster
Pop Chart Lab
Google Fixes Major Problem in its Cheeseburger and Beer Emojis

A digital slice of cheese that once sat beneath a digital beef patty has now ascended to its proper place in the hamburger emoji hierarchy. Google CEO Sundar Pichai saw to it personally.

"Towards the end of last year it came to my attention that we had a major bug in one of our core products," Pichai said in a keynote speech that opened this year's Google I/O conference for developers. After a pause, he added, "It turns out we got the cheese wrong in our burger emoji." Before and after images of the emoji were shown to an audience of more than 7000 people, bringing a satisfying resolution to an issue that was raised via tweet last October.

Author Thomas Baekdal was the first person to bring this crime against condiments to the public's attention, according to Dezeen. He tweeted, "I think we need to have a discussion about how Google's burger emoji is placing the cheese underneath the burger, while Apple puts it on top."

Pichai responded via tweet that he would "drop everything else" to fix it, and indeed, he kept his word. Google emojis are just one variety in the emoji universe, and they can be found on Android devices, Gmail, Google Hangouts, and ChromeOS.

Google's emoji experts were also tasked with fixing an image of a half-full mug of beer which had an inexplicable gap between the beer and the cloud of foam on top.

"We restored the natural laws of physics, so all is well, we can get back to business," Pichai said. Finally, a proper emoji meal can be had.

[h/t Dezeen]


More from mental floss studios