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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 9, 2019

Mapping Continents, Inhabited Quarters and The Four Seas. Divisions of the World and the Ordering of Spaces in Latin-Christian, Arabic-Islamic and Chinese Cartography in the Twelfth to Sixteenth Centuries. A Critical Survey and Analysis

  • Christoph Mauntel EMAIL logo , Klaus Oschema , Jean-Charles Ducène and Martin Hofmann


This paper explores the presence and development of large-scale geographic categories in pre-modern cartography (twelfth to sixteenth centuries) in a combination of comparative and transcultural perspectives. Analysing Latin-Christian, Arabic-Islamic and Chinese maps, we demonstrate the varying degrees of importance accorded to large-scale geographic structures. The choice of related as well as independent traditions allows for the identification of specific emphases which reflect the influence of the respective cultural backgrounds and strategies applied in the ordering of space. While the analysed Chinese material concentrates on a geographical space that was perceived to form an ideal political and cultural unity without representing the entire physical world, Latin-Christian and Arabic-Islamic traditions share the focus on the whole “oecumene” that they both inherited from antique models. However, only Latin-Christian maps consistently and explicitly present a tripartite world that resonates with Trinitarian structures in Christian thought.



Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina


Monumenta Germaniae Historica


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This article synthesises the discussions and results of an interdisciplinary workshop, which took place on November 28, 2014 in Heidelberg. We would like to thank the Cluster of Excellence ‘Asia and Europe in a Global Context’ (Project A27: World Orders in Transcultural Perspective. Pre-modern Concepts of Continents and Empire) at Heidelberg University for its generous funding, and Angela Roberts (Manchester) for her assistance with the preparation of the English text. We are also very grateful for the anonymous reviewer’s detailed and helpful critical comments.

Published Online: 2019-01-09
Published in Print: 2018-11-01

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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