MAPS: From THE FAMILIAR to THE FANTASTICAL.
8th August 2019 - 8th March, 2020.
To coincide with the Bodleian Library’s landmark exhibition Talking Maps, Sanders of Oxford is proud to present Maps: from the Familiar to the Fantastical. This exhibition, drawing upon cartographic material from the sixteenth century to the present day, explores the way in which maps have shaped and continue to shape our perceptions of the modern world.
The introduction to the exhibition can be read bellow. Keep an eye out on our Instagram feed for further highlights and interpretation.
Click here to view the catalogue.
Maps are everywhere. They illustrate every corner of our cities, countries, oceans, planet, and beyond. Whether we are aware or not, almost all of us use maps on a daily basis, from the simple mind-maps we rely on for our morning commute to the complex algorithms that map our every move, our every action, and, increasingly, our every thought.
From a reductive pattern drawn in the sand to the most recent smart phone app, maps have been a witness to our development as a species. The earliest maps showed the locations of food and sustenance, valuable commodities, or dangers and enemies. As human societies grew more complex, so did maps. They became a means of defining and delineating people, tying us to our geography, and increasing our sense of belonging and ownership. At their worst, maps have been used to justify territorial expansion, limit the activities and movements of populations, govern who owns (and does not own) our planet and its resources. But at their best, maps do not imprison us in our geography, but rather offer us a form of escapism, be it physical, emotional, mental, or even aesthetic.
For most people, maps are instantly relatable. We can situate ourselves in a map – where are we from? Where do we live? Where do we want to go? Historical maps go even further, by showing us a different perspective of the familiar or every day. We can see how our hometowns have changed over time, the events that have unfolded in our countries, and the way in which the past has shaped and modelled the familiar geography of the present. More than anything they allow us to connect with our forebears, and to explore how the people of the past described, depicted, or attempted to understand our world.
Some map makers take us even further outside of the known, using the recognizable format of the map to push us beyond the familiar world and into the fantastical. Sometimes this can be a playful or ideological reimagining of well-known places, transposing or warping real geography into imaginative shapes that comment or critique the foibles of peoples, nations, or empires. Others invent places that could conceivably exist within our own world, like cities of gold or undiscovered islands, or that exist alongside it, invisible to the uninitiated and accessed through rabbit holes, wardrobes in spare rooms, or the platform barriers of King’s Cross Station. Some even abandon terrestrial geography all together, presenting us with a true fantasy, and a world outside of our own.
Maps: From the Familiar to the Fantastical features objects drawn from a period of over 400 years, from 17th century navigational aids to contemporary critiques of modern Britain, but the stories it explores speak to the full reach of human history.
SURVEYING the CITY. 400 years of Oxford plans and panoramas
From 28th January, 2019
Outside of London, Oxford is the most documented English city in antiques print and maps. Drawing on four hundred years of plans and panoramas, this catalogue plots the development of the city from Renaissance city to post war tourist destination.
Surveying the City, 400 years of Oxford plans and panoramas is a comprehensive collection of 70 scarce and iconic depictions of our famous University City, presented in chronological order and split into historical periods.
All works are available to purchase and will be on display in the gallery. Pop into the gallery today and take a look.
Click here to view the catalogue.
A View of the Moon. A mini exhibition of Lunar Prints & photographs.
From January 19th, 2019
2019 provides a fitting backdrop to present our latest mini-exhibition A View of the Moon, from crater debates to the Space Race. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo manned moon landings and also sees the world’s first close-range images of the “dark side of the moon”, courtesy of China’s Yutu-2 rover recent landing in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the moon's largest and oldest impact crater.
The selection of material presented in the exhibition covers the century leading up to the Space Race, and features 19th century engravings from the period of debate surrounding crater creation, alongside an important collection of photographic selenographic observations by the French Astronomers Gabriel Delmotte (1876 -1950), Henri Camichel (1907-2003), and his colleagues at the Pic-duMidi Observatory. The exhibition concludes with images from the landmark Photographic Lunar Atlas, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1960 and printed infographic maps of the moon’s surface published in the year of man’s first steps on the moon’s surface.
 Both the near and far side of the moon receive equal amounts of sunlight, however the far side of the moon is sometimes referred to as the "dark side of the Moon," a reference to it being unseen rather than lacking in light.
 In 1824 Franz von Gruithuisen was the first astronomer to propose that the craters on the moons surface were formed by meteor strikes.
Click here to view the collection.
OLD & MASTERFUL. A mini exhibition of Early Modern Prints.
From 24th October, 2018
Sanders of Oxford is pleased to present a mini exhibition and associated catalogue of prints by and after Old Masters. Although we have always stocked a selection of early modern prints this is our first dedicated catalogue to focus on this part of our collection, featuring etched and engraved works from the 16th and 17th century. Pop into the gallery today and take a look.
Click here to view the catalogue.
Burne-Jones, Hunt, Rossetti. Engraved works of the Oxford Pre-Raphaelites.
From 9th March, 2018
An exhibition, and catalogue, of our finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite engravings after iconic paintings by the leading members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.
At SEA: PIRATES, SEAFARERS, & VOYAGES of DISCOVERY.
26th January - 9th February, 2018
As our second exhibition of the year, Sanders of Oxford is pleased to present At Sea: Pirates, Seafarers, & Voyages of Discovery. The exhibition, and its accompanying catalogue, brings together maps, portraits, prints, and ephemera to illustrate aspects of naval history and exploration from the 15th to the 19th centuries, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.
The exhibition comprises some 60 items, including maps, sea-charts, portraits, historical illustrations, and navigational aids, which together present a brief history of piracy, seafaring, and maritime exploration across five centuries. Encompassing the whole of the globe, from the ports of the Old World to the frozen wastes of the Poles, and from the jungles of the East Indies to the coasts of the West Indies, the catalogue explores the people, places, and events that have shaped our modern geographical, political, and social landscapes.
The sea is often seen as a natural barrier, a passive divider between nations, states, and peoples, but in an age when European empires stretched across continents, the oceans of the globe were vital lifelines, considered as much a part of a country’s territory as its assets on land. It was this desire for control of the seas that led to some of history’s most significant and memorable naval voyages.
At Sea: Pirates, Seafarers, and Voyages of Discovery focusses on five main geographic areas of interest. The Mediterranean is examined through the lens of the Barbary Corsairs, the piratical Muslim nations of the North African coast that harassed the Christian empires. By comparison, the African coasts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were the arena for some of the worst depredations of European pirates on Mughal and Arab traders and merchants during the years of the notorious Pirate Round. In the New World, the cities of gold plundered by the first wave of Spanish conquistadors attracted pirates, privateers, and Royal navies to the waters of the Caribbean, while in the Orient, East Indies merchantmen fought with Chinese pirates for the trade in silks, spices, tea, and opium. Finally, the catalogue presents a snapshot of the voyages of discovery, from Columbus to Captain Cook.
The PARERGON THEATRI.
An EXHIBITION of ANCIENT WORLD MAPS
12th January - 9th February, 2018
Abraham Ortelius (1527 -1598) was a Flemish cartographer, cosmographer, geographer, and publisher, and a contemporary of Gerard Mercator, with whom he travelled through Italy and France. Although it is Mercator who first used the word "Atlas" as a name for a collection of maps, it is Ortelius who is remembered as the creator of the first modern atlas. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was the first systematically collated set of maps by different map makers in a uniform format. Three Latin editions as well as a Dutch, French and German edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum were published by 1572 and a further 25 editions printed before Ortelius' death in 1598. Several more were printed posthumously, and Ortelius’ maps continued to play a vital role in mapmaking across Europe for the century following his death.
The Parergon (’Supplement’) was, as the title suggests, originally conceived of as a supplement to Ortelius’ Theatrum. The work, a massive and intricately researched index of the classical world, was accompanied by a series of ancient world maps. Unlike the maps of the Theatrum, the majority of which were reductions of earlier maps, the maps of the Parergon were researched and drawn by Ortelius himself. The work was a huge commercial success, and the maps themselves set the standard for ancient world maps for the duration of the seventeenth century, being reproduced or reprinted by various publishers after Ortelius’ final 1624 printing. His interest in the mapping of the ancient world is manifest.
The maps of the Parergon are a veritable mine of textual commentary and classical philology, drawing upon Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny, and many others. Interestingly, the project seems to have been a labour of love, rather than a mercantile venture. Ortelius himself was fascinated with the ancient world, and a formidable classical scholar in his own right. In addition to his work as a cartographer, he dealt in antiquities, visited and surveyed ancient sites across Europe, published a critical edition of Caesar’s Gallic Wars in 1593, and assisted Welser in his studies of the famous Tabula Peutingeriana in 1598, producing an engraved copy of the map that can be found in later editions of the Parergon.
The Parergon finds its genesis, appropriately, in Ortelius’ maps of the Holy Land and the geography of the Bible. Biblical maps were very much in fashion during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, intended originally to illustrate God’s Creation in the terrestrial and celestial spheres. The Protestant Reformation, however, put map-makers in an awkward, and often dangerous, religious and political position. Ortelius’ own career, like his friend Mercator’s, danced a fine line with the various religious authorities of northern Europe. Indeed his birth in Antwerp, rather than his family’s native Augsburg, was almost certainly the result of the Ortels Family’s flight from the Holy Roman Empire, under suspicion of Protestantism.
Like many aspects of publishing, mapmaking in the sixteenth century was risky business. Maps allowed the viewer to see the world from a God-like perspective, looking down from the heavens above. Such a concept, so basic to modern map users, was deeply unsettling to church authorities both Catholic and Protestant. In 1553, when Ortelius was still a junior map-colourist, the publisher Michael Servetus was burned at the stake by the Geneva Calvinists for simply suggesting that the bible was wrong in asserting that Palestine was a land rich and fruitful, when his own geographical investigations had suggested it was barren and dry. Perhaps this is one reason why so many of the maps of Ortelius and his contemporaries contain overt biblical references. In exhorting the viewer to marvel at the wonders of God’s Great Work, the mapmaker simultaneously offered a balm to zealous religious authorities.
By the end of the sixteenth century, the religious turmoil of Ortelius’ youth had calmed, but remained a valid cause for concern. In 1575, Ortelius was appointed Royal Geographer to King Philip II of Spain. Despite his fame, Ortelius’ position was only ratified through the support of his friend Montanus, who assured the Catholic monarch of Ortelius’ orthodoxy. The resulting patronage allowed Ortelius greater creative freedom, and his biblical maps, included in early editions of the Theatrum, became the groundwork for a much more ambitious project to examine the history of the Mediterranean. The logical next step for this supplement, or Parergon, was an examination of the geographical legacy of the Classical and Hellenistic Greek world.
Illustrated editions of Ptolemy, the second century AD Alexandrine Greek polymath, had begun to appear in the fifteenth century, and so by Ortelius’ day were well-trodden territory for map-makers. What set Ortelius’ maps apart was the application of contemporary geography to classical description. Ortelius’ maps showed more than just classical place names. His maps were both erudite and playful. Theories drawn from Greek philosophy were counterpoised with epic journeys from classical myth, so that Thales and Anaximander on one map met Jason and Aeneas on the next.
Added to this sense of geographic whimsy was a solid foundation in the language and literature of the Greek and Roman worlds. Every map is agonizingly detailed. Every site, city, or notable feature is labelled and referenced. The Roman world is obviously given the most attention. To Ortelius and his contemporaries, their Europe was the unworthy inheritor of a much greater Roman ancestor.
Ortelius himself was obsessed with the Roman ancestry of his native lands. His map of ancient Belgium, one in a series illustrating his favourite classical text, Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum, states as much in its dedication, when it exhorts his fellow countrymen to remember their ancient heritage. Similar maps appear for each of the Roman provinces, often illustrating regions, like Dacia, Thrace, or Roman Africa, that had no contemporary equal in Ortelius’ day.
The maps in this exhibition represent the largest collection of Ortelius’ works ever held by Sanders of Oxford. Together they provide a remarkable timeline of Classical geography, from the very earliest histories of Egypt and the Ancient Near East, to the Byzantines, Vandals, and many other Post-Roman nations that connected Ortelius’ Europe to the Classical Mediterranean.