Mapping the Renaissance: Worldmaking in Europe from the 13th to 16th Century

Maps in the Renaissance could take many forms, not all of which (or even most, perhaps) were designed for navigational use. Some maps formed monumental decorative schemes, painted directly onto the walls of lavish buildings, while others appeared in printed books for a more general (though literate) audience. These printed images recorded the forms of islands, distant lands, and so-called “portraits” of modern cities. These maps also appeared in context with textual descriptions, creating a partnership of word and image. Many took propagandistic views, either political or religious, making judicious representations of geography to fit specific frameworks.


As a time of exploration and discovery, the Renaissance saw political, religious, and geographic identities being forged, as well as a renewed thirst for knowledge of the world. As word spread of new and exciting places that few would ever get the chance to see, maps were available to fulfill that desire.

This exhibit, created by students from Professor Leslie Geddes’s Spring 2020 course Mapping the Renaissance, closely examines maps found in books from Tulane University Special Collection’s Rare Books collection and the Latin American Library. The foremost point that this project illuminates is that maps are truly diverse objects, and the selected objects demonstrate this point. The earliest image in the following exhibition is the Hereford Mappa Mundi from the 13th century, a monumental painted map that will set the stage for the following centuries. From the library’s own collection of early printed books, we have included the Nuremberg Chronicle, the Cosmographia, and the Isolario, all from the 15th and 16th centuries. Finally, we have curated a display of medieval and Renaissance devices used for navigation, offering a sort of foil to the maps at hand that did not serve this function themselves.

-Carly Rose Lacoste

Curated By: Members of Dr. Leslie Geddes's Spring 2020 course "Mapping the Renaissance":

Madeline Brown, Rachel Cline, Jennifer Fialkowski, Lily Gagliano, Olivia Geier, Eliana Klein, Carly Rose Lacoste, Nicolette Levy, Alexa Prounis, Sabrina Romano, Meg Roppolo, Darby Trimble, and Willem Vandermeulen

With assistance from Eli Boyne, Rare Book Library Associate, Tulane University Special Collections

Exhibit Sections