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The Exotic Animals of the Americas

European colonists were fascinated with the wildlife of the Western Hemisphere. They described fauna native to the Americas in memoirs, travel journals and poetry. Pictures of the unfamiliar animals were often printed on maps. In this post I will discuss four colonial era maps that were decorated with illustrations of animals. The two maps of […]

William Hacke: A Pirate’s Cartographer

William Hacke was one of the most prolific manuscript chart makers for his time. According to the Oxford  Dictionary of National Biography Hacke produced over 300 navigational charts from 1682 to 1702. In this post I will briefly discuss his career and his role in the pardon of the notorious pirate Bartholomew Sharp. William Hacke was […]

Hy-Brasil: The Supernatural Island

Hy-Brasil never existed, however, it was often shown on maps as a very small island west of Ireland. The name Hy-Brasil originated from Celtic mythology. According to Irish folklore an island named Hy-Brasil was visible from the west coast of Ireland for only one day every seven years, the rest of the time it was […]

The Mysterious Island

The title of this post does not refer to the science fiction novel of the same name by Jules Verne. It refers to the phantom island Frisland which was commonly shown on maps of the North Atlantic Ocean during the 16th and 17th centuries. Frisland never existed, however, cartographers believed that the island was real […]

Mappy Thanksgiving!

According to lore, the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated in what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. The location owes its name to the English port of Plymouth where the settlers, also referred to as Pilgrims, began their transatlantic voyage. The Mayflower set sail in September 1620 and arrived near Cape Cod, Massachusetts in December 1620. After […]

Deciphering the Land: An Unknown Estate Survey Book from Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Century Italy

The following is a guest post by Margherita Pampinella, an Associate Professor of Italian at Towson University in Maryland. An expert in the poetry of Dante, I introduced her to this collection of completely unstudied manuscripts and cadastral surveys several years ago and she was hooked. Since that time she has spent countless hours deciphering the […]