Maps and Boundaries
A medieval world map shows, often in abstract form, the map-maker’s conception of the known world. The position, orientation and size of places and features are dictated by the limits of the maker’s knowledge. Outside the map’s boundaries are regions that existed in the imagination, semi-mythical places full of extravagant marvels and monsters.
Some maps and documents have a more focused purpose: for example, the administration of territory, from the huge domains of the Roman Empire to a seventeenth-century village field system. Others are prompted by activities which expand a map’s limits: exploration, trade and conquest.
As the science of cartography has developed, older maps have been superseded as practical documents. But all maps, however scientifically accurate, are shaped by their time, and are thus valuable witnesses to the ever-changing perspectives and prejudices of history.