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Charting the Gulf Stream

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) noticed something odd as Deputy Postmaster General for the American colonies in London: mail took much longer travelling west across the Atlantic than it did travelling east. Several weeks longer, in fact. In a 1746 letter, Franklin ascribes this anomaly to an effect of the Earth’s rotation, making an eastward journey faster […]

In Maudslay’s Shadow: Imaging Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica

The Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division is home to a large collection of Pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts donated by the collector Jay I. Kislak, many of which are on display as part of the Exploring the Early Americas Exhibit in the Thomas Jefferson Building here in Washington, DC. The artifacts that make up the […]

“Full of Bogs and Poisonous Fruits”: Early Maps of Florida

Florida: home to sunshine, oranges, spring breakers, and snowbirds. Or, in the words of the 16th century Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto: “full of bogs and poisonous fruits, barren, and the worst country that is warmed by the sun.” For over a hundred years, between Columbus’ initial contact in the Bahamas (1492) and the English […]

Mr. Dürer Comes to Washington

In  the cool summer of 1901,  a Jesuit priest named Joseph Fischer was searching through the small libraries found in the country houses and ancient castles of the old noble families that dot the German hinterlands. One day, in the tower of one of those castles, tucked deep into the forest outside the tiny village of Wolfegg, he happened upon a book that […]