Worldly ConsumersThe Demand for Maps in Renaissance Italy

Worldly ConsumersThe Demand for Maps in Renaissance Italy

Genevieve Carlton

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226255316

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Worldly Consumers explores the growing availability of maps to private consumers in sixteenth-century Italy and argues that maps became a central tool in the effort to construct an identity and impress one’s neighbors. This book examines the expanding market for maps as consumer goods, and reconstructs the value of Renaissance maps to their buyers using a variety of sources, including maps, household inventories, epigrams, dedications, catalogues, advice manuals, and books on geography and travel. This analysis demonstrates that individuals displayed maps in their homes as a deliberate act of self-fashioning—just as they did with paintings, sculptures, antiquities, and jewels. Yet maps were different from these other objects because the changing standards of accuracy in maps created a synonymy between image and place; this allowed map owners to use their maps as a stand-in for the depicted location. Displaying a map of a city or region thus showed one’s intimate knowledge about that place while simultaneously educating viewers. Renaissance Italians turned domestic spaces into a microcosm of larger geographical places to craft a cosmopolitan identity for themselves. Maps were valued not solely for their monetary cost or the information they contained, but for the cultural capital that accrued to their owners—a new class of consumer who deliberately directed the cultural work of their maps.