Robert Greene's New Mapp of the World from 1676

Titled: " A New Mapp of the World" with beautiful graphical representations of Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. 

By: Robert Greene 

Published: 1676

This unique map was made by Robert Greene in London. It depicts a double hemisphere style and features hand drawn embellishments that were quite unique for its time. One of the most interesting features of this map is perhaps the depictions of lifestyles and representation of the people of the four continents, most strikingly the depiction of what appears to be cannibalism in America and a centaur in Africa. The representation the continents with both male and female figures are quite interesting because its a departure from the normal use of female motifs as the representation of continents in cartography at the time.

Greene used sources from the latest updates and discoveries from Dutch explorers which give us a glimpse into the extent of knowledge from that time; California is depicted a a separate island from the American continent; the Northwest region of America and Australia are yet to be discovered. 

The graphical embellishments in the map and their symbolism are described in detail in Mapping Literature: Cartography in the World Literature Classroom by Jane M. Kinney: 

"At the four corners of the print, the peoples of the four main continents are represented. The Europeans, in the top left corner, are represented by a man in ermine robes, wearing a long curly wig and hold ing a cane; a woman, also in ermine robe and wearing what appears to be a crown on her head; and a younger woman and a small boy, both elegantly dressed, apparently the offspring of the noble, if not royal, couple. The people of Asia are more exotic, wearing long robes and more ornate headdresses than the Europeans, but the man, the focal point of the group, looks across towards the European group.  The Africans, in the lower right corner, are quite European in dress and appearance, although the woman reveals one leg, and the group appears to have fewer symbols or trappings of authority than do the Europeans.  The Americans, in the lower left corner, also look European but are wearing short skirts and headdresses of feathers, and the woman and child are bare chested. Clearly the standards here, the understanding of what peoples are, are Eurocentric.  The background scenes for each group are also interesting.  The European landscape has people stag hunting on horseback; the Asians are engaged in man-to-man combat, also on horseback; the African scene shows a group of naked males hunting, on foot and accompanied by a centaur, although further in the background a warrior clad in robes and turban with sword raised rides a rearing horse away from a grazing elephant; three of the Americans appear to be kneeling by a flaming frame, while another runs toward them, carrying a bow, and yet another walks away with spear in hand.

Taken together, the images included on this map show European concepts of other peoples and, tacitly, of their own superiority: all the peoples shown have essentially European features, but the Africans and Americans are less well dressed and have strange beasts and customs. It is the Europeans who have pride of place, who wear and display the symbols of power (ermine robes, the crown, a scepter upraised in the woman's hand, etc.) and who stand atop the western hemisphere, thus visually controlling the New World and the peoples below; they apparently are also more civil ized than the barbaric fighting Asians and the naked pedestrian hunters in the African scene. One could easily use this map to introduce discussions of the expanding knowledge and horizons of the western world, but also the growth of imperialism and the remnants of the strange and marvelous that still exist (the centaur pictured in Africa)."


What do you find interesting about this map? 

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