Between a compass and cosmology: A map as an image of the world
A map has a special place among the various artefacts picturing the world: a type of object that is difficult to classify, using different forms and serving different functions. It can be viewed as a strictly practical instrument, compendium of knowledge or a work of art; it oscillates between utilitarian and cognitive order, technical achievement and text of culture. One quality, however, remains the same: the map’s goal is to show our place in relation to the world (no matter how differently this task might be perceived in various cartographical traditions).
The paper deals with the problem of the impact of cultural factors on shaping cartographical images and explores the possibilities of including the said aspects in studies on changing images of the world, as well as a refl ection on the map itself as a phenomenon. The matter is discussed based on the examples of three maps originated from different his- torical and cultural backgrounds (a medieval mappae mundi, a portolan chart and modern cyber cartography) by comparing the ways these representations deal with the same questions (types of elements they include or exclude, landmarks of choice, observer’s placing, centre/periphery relation, orienting the map, general rules etc.). The aim is to show the importance of the cartographers’ cultural background both in the process of map-making and in studying cartographic documents, since it appears that the map-makers’ choices can tell a lot about the culture of their origin.