Vinland map

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The Vinland map is claimed to be a 15th century mappa mundi with unique information about Norse exploration of America. It is very well known because of the publicity campaign which accompanied its revelation to the public as a "genuine" pre-Columbian map in 1965. In addition to showing Africa, Asia and Europe, the map depicts a landmass south-west of Greenland in the Atlantic labelled as Vinland; the map describes this region as having been visited by Europeans in the 11th century. Although it was presented to the world in 1965 with an accompanying scholarly book written by British Museum and Yale University librarians,[1] historians of geography and medieval document specialists began to suspect that it might be a fake as soon as photographs of it became available,[2] and chemical analyses have identified one of the major ink ingredients as a 20th century artificial pigment.[3][4] However, individual pieces of evidence continue to be challenged, most recently at a 2009 conference.[5]


Known history

The Vinland Map first came to light in 1957 (three years before the discovery of the Norse site at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1960), bound in a slim volume with a short medieval text called the Hystoria Tartarorum (usually called in English the Tartar Relation), and was unsuccessfully offered to the British Museum by London book dealer Irving Davis on behalf of a Spanish-Italian dealer named Enzo Ferrajoli de Ry. Shortly afterwards, Ferrajoli sold the volume, for $3,500, to American dealer Laurence C. Witten II, who offered it to his alma mater, Yale University. It was initially treated with suspicion, partly because wormholes in the Map and the Relation did not match. In spring 1958, however, Witten's friend Thomas Marston, a Yale librarian, acquired from London book dealer Irving Davis a dilapidated medieval copy of volume 3 of Vincent of Beauvais's encyclopedic Speculum historiale ("Historical Mirror"), which turned out, amazingly, to be the missing link; the wormholes showing that it had formerly had the Map at its beginning and the Relation at its end. All traces of former ownership marks, except for a small part of a bright pink stamp which overlapped the writing on folio 223 of the Speculum, had been removed, perhaps to avoid tax liability for the former owner (although as historian Kirsten Seaver noted many years later, stamps on random book pages indicate institutional, not private ownership[2]).

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