FRA MAURO’S DIGITAL WORLD MAP: A NEW TOOL FOR DIGITAL CARTOGRAPHIC HERITAGE
C. Balletti1, P. Falchetta2
1 - Universitet Iuav di Venezia, Circe
2 - Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana di Venezia
Fra Mauro’s map of the world (mappamundi), a masterpiece of historical cartography, composed around 1450 in Venice, has until now never been the subject of a modern study, despite its immense renown. The map has been reproduced and cited in all histories of geography and in hundreds of books, but it is in fact not very well known: it is admired as a monument rather than studied as a work of rich and significant content.
Recently the authors of the paper have published a new important work on Fra Mauro’s mappamundi, that aims at an analysis and an in-depth study of this important document, offering the reader an understanding within its contemporary cultural framework. In this work transcriptions and extensive commentaries are provided concerning each of the almost three thousand inscriptions within the world map offering thus, to modern geography and cartography significant means concerning their meaning and interpretation.
Humanistic knowledge is combined with new “infographic” techniques in a digital domain suitable to offer a better and fuller use of the world map, knowing the importance of multi-media digital technologies in the exploitation of our cultural and environmental heritage. Given their adaptability in presenting data and processing results, such digital tools are now widely used outside their traditional strict areas of application.
The project for a digital and multi-medial Fra Mauro’s world map is a multi-disciplinary result of work by scholars from various backgrounds and fields of expertise (history, geodesy, cartography, computer science, graphic design), each one motivated by the desire to develop new tools for the study and analysis of antique cartography. The particular characteristics of Fra Mauro’s world map - which contains not only geographical and topological information but also a large number of descriptive features (toponyms, inscriptions, comments) - implied an approach which was focused on the design and the development of an innovative fully interactive software that combined a facsimile-level of reproduction of the original with the ability to navigate within the map and extract information from it (to locate and to query). The main concern of this design was to give the general public an easy way to operate virtually into a now digital Fra Mauro’s mappamundi environment.