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Exhibition showcases first printed maps

Feb. 7 through Aug. 1, 2010 Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library

An exhibition titled "Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps, 1472-1700" will open at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Milberg Gallery of Firestone Library.

The exhibition will feature approximately 30 rare world maps drawn from the collection of Henry Wendt of Princeton's class of 1955 and will explore the major trends in intellectual history from the early Renaissance through the scientific era of the Enlightenment.

The exhibition opening will be preceded by a lecture by Wendt and Eileen Reeves, professor of comparative literature and director of the Program in European Cultural Studies, at 3 p.m. in 101 McCormick Hall. Wendt will speak about the creation of his map collection, and Reeves will give a talk titled "Galileo: The Starry Messenger," about the great astronomer and his influence on world views.

Through the language of cartography, the maps in the exhibition illustrate the way in which scientists, mathematicians, explorers and cartographers came to grips with the shape, size and nature of the Earth as a whole and its place in the universe. Highlighted in the exhibition are the important contributions to this evolving cosmography of: Ptolemy (c. 90-168 ); Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543); Galileo Galilei (1564-1642); Johannes Kepler (1571-1630); and Edmond Halley (1656-1742).

Works featured in the exhibition include: the first printed map (1472), a schematic concept of the continents in the form of a "T" encircled by an "O" of ocean; the first printed road map (1598), showing the cursus publicus, the postal system of the Roman Empire, in eight sections totaling 14 linear feet; highly decorative exemplars from the golden age of Dutch mapmaking (17th century); and elaborate hand-colored celestial views (1700), representing the constellations with figures from Greek mythology.

Also on view from the holdings of the University's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections will be "forbidden books" from two of the most influential figures in the history of science: Copernicus' 1543 "De Reuolutionibus Orbium Cœlestium" and Galileo's 1632 "Dialogo di Galileo Galilei," accompanied by two planetary views from Andreas Cellarius' "stellar" masterpiece, "Harmonia Macrocosmica" (1661).

An audio tour prepared for this exhibition will allow visitors to hear extended discussions of the maps as they tour the show. Curatorial tours of the exhibition will take place at: 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21; 4 p.m. Sunday, April 18; and 10 a.m. Friday, May 28.

The exhibition will run through Sunday, Aug. 1. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. An illustrated exhibition catalog will be on sale in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

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