Bücher suchen

Antiquariate suchen

30th IMCoS Symposium: 500 Years Mercator – Early Cartography in the Habsburg Empire

Autor: Ljiljana Ortolja-Baird

Zurück zur Liste

30th IMCoS Symposium: 500 Years Mercator – Early Cartography in the Habsburg Empire
A short distance from St Stephen’s lofty spire and nestled beside the Jesuit church is the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Here more than 120 IMCoS members from across the globe gathered to celebrate the 500th birthday of humanist and cartographer, Gerhard Mercator. The 30th IMCoS Symposium, while commemorating Mercator’s life and work, also addressed early cartography in the Habsburg Empire. These two interconnecting themes linked all aspects of the event, taking place in the city that once had been the Imperial capital of the Empire. The Symposium was spearheaded by the indefatigable Dr Stefaan Missinne (IMCoS Austria) and his team: Brigitte Beidinger, Dr Petra Svatek, Mag. Andrea Missinne, Dr Georg Zotti, Dr Helmut Suppan, Rüdiger Schultz and Mag. Georg Holzer. They were supported by the Austrian Belgian Society and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Promptly at 8.20 on Monday morning, in the 17th-century Theatersaal, beautifully decorated with potted plants, Dr Missinne gave his welcome speech to a full auditorium. To evoke the spirit of Austria, the opening ceremony was interspersed with music of Austria’s superstars; the Viennese string quartet ‘Alliance’ played snatches of Johann Strauss, Schubert and Mozart. The tone of the symposium was struck – this promised to be an event enriched with contextual details that would help bring Mercator and his world to life.
The quality and diversity of the papers presented, amply demonstrated that Mercator, even after 500 years continues to inspire the minds of scholars. The twenty papers delivered, reveal the scope of study Mercator provokes. Speakers examined his library; his globes; his relationship with astrology; his role as a humanist, scientist and theologian; the sources for his map of Hungary; the similarities and differences between three of his signed maps of the projection. Other papers considered Mercator in the wider world of Renaissance cartography.

Mercator lived in a world dominated by the Habsburg presence. He was born in March 1512 in Rumpelmonde, a Flemish county of the Empire – so the opening paper of the Symposium, setting the scene of the powers that affected Mercator’s life given by Archduke Dr. Michael S. Habsburg-Lothringen was wonderfully apposite. The regional cartography in the Empire was further explored by Ferdinand Opll who gave a fascinating picture of the development of the visual representation of Vienna. This paper was brought further to life when the participants had an opportunity to see, ‘in the flesh’, several of the images Opll had presented on their afternoon visit to the Wien Museum, just a stone’s throw from the Imperial Hotel where they were indulged with Imperial Torte.
The mornings’ talks were supported by a stimulating programme of activities that offered the visitors a glimpse of the cartographical riches held in Vienna. Following two papers, which both addressed Mercator’s globes, the participants were taken off to Globe museum. The collection boasts an impressive variety of globes – from giant to pocket-size, relief and thematic globes, 16th- and 17th-century clockwork globes and 18th-century folding globes, to mention just a few. And close to the hearts of Mercator aficionados is the oldest globe in the museum made by Gemma Frisius in c. 1536, Mercator’s mathematical mentor. At the University of Vienna, Dr Andreas Riedl introduced them to the huge ‘Hyperglobe’, the digital successor to the analogous globe. He defined the hyperglobe as ‘the visualisation of a digital image on a material globe in real space’ and demonstrated how the spherical screen, with just a simple operation on his computer, could display information far in excess of terrestrial and celestial expectations. The globe displayed real-time clouds, climate change, the continent drift, volcanic ash dispersion, as well as historical globes.

The application of digital expertise on historical cartography was evident in Georg Zotti’s paper. Zotti explained how by scanning the gores of Mercator’s 1541 celestial globe he was able to create a virtual version, which he was using to investigate the sources of Mercator’s star positions. Peter Barber brought the IMCoS particpants back to earth with a detective-like paper on the British Library’s edition of Mercator’s Atlas of Europe. Unique, in that it is contains the only known manuscript maps in Mercator’s hand, Barber then proceeded to convince the audience of Mercator’s personal and political motives behind the maps he chose to include in this atlas.
Behaims ErdapfelJames Sykes related in his intriguingly titled paper, ‘A most fortuitous discovery or so I didn’t find a coffee table’ the story of how he uncovered the provenance of a pair of antique globes he bought at auction in New York City. Sykes recognised that they had been misdated to the 18th century and set on long and detailed quest to prove that his purchase was 16th century. It transpires that James Sykes is now the owner of the oldest surviving pair of globes of Italian origin, which can be dated to c. 1555–65. A collector’s dream!

Helga Hühnel, deputy of the Austrian National Library’s Map Department and Globe Museum spoke about the development of geography in the years 1500 – 1550 and revealed some of the outstanding and rare editions of works of the period held by the library. The participants had an opportunity to view some of these treasures in an exhibition organised exclusively for the Symposium, ‘Cartographic rarities of the ANL from the first half of the 16th century’. It was an outstanding showing and included maps by Burgkmair, Etzlaub and Lorenz Fries, as well as a hand-drawn map of 1515 by Johannes Schoener, mathematician and geographer whose work Mercator was very familiar with. The works were on display in the magnificent State Hall, a jewel of baroque architecture commissioned by Emperor Charles VI for his court library.
The visitors were feted with another historic library of breathtaking decorative splendour – the library of the Benedictine abbey at Melk with its impressive count of manuscripts and incunabula, and maps. In contrast, the architecture of the Austrian State Archives is dreary but what it houses makes up manifold for its plainness. IMCoS participants were greeted with a large pile of white gloves and a very generous collection of 16th-century maps to pour over, which included works by Cristoforo Sorte, Ortelius, Sylvanus, Mercator and the Ptolemy Atlas of 1478. It was a wonderful hands-on experience, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

The Symposium was not a case of all work and no play – non-scholarly needs were well catered for too. Dr Missinne’s attention to detail was commendable: steaming coffee and pastries greeted the delegates at all coffee breaks; Austrian fare was provided at lunch and the pleasures of Viennese cakes assuaged tired feet every afternoon and fortified the participants for the evenings’ activities. The Ambassador of Belgium entertained them at his residence; a representative of the mayor of Vienna welcomed them at Heuriger ‘10er Marie’ and they celebrated their gala dinner at the Loibnerhof on the banks of the Danube. At the gala dinner, a feast of food and gifts for everyone, Hans Kok chairman of IMCoS thanked and applauded the efforts of Dr Missinne and his team.

Organiser Dr Petra Svatek wrote in the programme introduction that she wished the participants ‘an unforgettable 30th Symposium’. It was just that – an impeccably organised event that balanced the serious business of scholarship with glimpses of the cartographical treasures of Vienna. I believe Mercator would have been thrilled with his birthday celebrations.

Veröffentlicht am 20 Oct 2012


Website von Neteor