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The WorldmakersGlobal Imagining in Early Modern Europe$
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Ayesha Ramachandran

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226288796

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226288826.001.0001

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Mapping the Body, Mapping the World

Mapping the Body, Mapping the World

Mercator’s Atlas

(p.22) Chapter One Mapping the Body, Mapping the World
The Worldmakers

Ayesha Ramachandran

University of Chicago Press

This chapter locates the intellectual origins of Gerhard Mercator’s Atlas (1595) and the concept of the world it manifests in the medical, metaphysical, and theological interests that shaped Mercator’s career. It argues that the Atlas is the first mapbook to reflect self-consciously on the challenge of global representation because it was envisioned as part of a multi-pronged project to comprehend the world—a project described as a “cosmopoeia.” Far from an exemplar of secular, scientific modernity and incipient imperialism, the Atlas and other similar contemporary works remain embedded in a metaphysical matrix that connects the human body to the “body of the world,” even as it reimagines the world as a human, rather than a divine, artifact. The collection of maps thus becomes a “cosmographic meditation,” a reflection on the nature of the world and the individual’s place within it.

Keywords:   Mercator, atlas, world map, cartography, body, metaphysics, theology, cosmographic meditation

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