Mercator’s projection and tutelage

Mercator's Literarum latinarũ, quas italicas, cursorias- que vocãt, scribendarũ ratio 1549 Newborn Library Wing ZW 5465 .M537
Mercator’s Literarum latinarũ, quas italicas, cursorias- que vocãt, scribendarũ ratio
1549
Newborn Library
Wing ZW 5465 .M537

Italian 16th century writing manuals are numerous, however the rest of the Continent took about half a century to catch up with the innovators. Neudorffer in Germany, Iciar in Spain published prior to the middle of the century, but there was one guy over in Flanders that stood out. When Palatino was making a splash with his Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere Gerhard Mercator produced Literarum latinarũ, quas italicas, cursorias- que vocãt, scribendarũ ratio.

As you can see, Mercator went in for flourishes in a big way, even moreso than his Southern contemporaries.

Mercator's Literarum latinarũ, quas italicas, cursorias- que vocãt, scribendarũ ratio 1549 Newborn Library Wing ZW 5465 .M537
Mercator’s Literarum latinarũ …
1549
Newborn Library
Wing ZW 5465 .M537

Gerhard Mercator had skill, energy and intelligence and was schooled in writing out texts in all the current hands. He particularly favored the Italic hand for maps and his skill as scribe and engraver led to work in making globes and soon after, maps. He could cut woodblocks as he does in this manual or engrave in copper as he often did for maps. This level of versatility in dexterity, aesthetic and mathematical skills produced an impressive oeuvre.

Mercator's Literarum latinarũ ... 1549 Newborn Library Wing ZW 5465 .M537
Mercator’s Literarum latinarũ …
1549
Newborn Library
Wing ZW 5465 .M537

Whether describing how to hold the pen properly or cut a quill, Mercator’s text is quite clear on how to do it.

Mercator's Literarum latinarũ ... 1549 Newborn Library Wing ZW 5465 .M537
Mercator’s Literarum latinarũ …
1549
Newborn Library
Wing ZW 5465 .M537
Mercator's Literarum latinarũ ... 1549 Newborn Library Wing ZW 5465 .M537
Mercator’s Literarum latinarũ …
1549
Newborn Library
Wing ZW 5465 .M537

Since Mercator wrote on maps, not in books (though he surely did that as well) his graphic design and purpose for flourishing were for a different kind of reading. Maps were important tools for marine navigators to get around. The Mercator projection wasn’t his invention, nor was it much used in his day. But let’s not get hung up on gnarly navigation details and get to his engraved maps. That’s where the fun in lettering and fantastical creatures of the sea are.

Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584 Mercator's map detail. Newberry Library VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584
Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584
Mercator’s map detail.
Newberry Library
VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584

Mercator decided to show the Ptolemaic concept of the world in the 1580s and engraved maps based on this earlier world view.

Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584 Mercator's map detail. Newberry Library VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584
Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584
Mercator’s map detail.
Newberry Library
VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584
Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584 Mercator's map detail. Newberry Library VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584
Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584
Mercator’s map detail.
Newberry Library
VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584
Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584 Mercator's map detail. Newberry Library VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584
Cl. Ptolemaei Alexandrini Geographiae libri octo / 1584
Mercator’s map detail.
Newberry Library
VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1584

Those flourishes may not be necessary, but they do look nice splashing around that sea creature.

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4 thoughts on “Mercator’s projection and tutelage”

  1. the boy was getting into design as a means of emphasis rather than just ‘distraction’ or ‘ornamentation.’ this is very modern of him for his time. or maybe the moderns just rediscovered it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Nicky, Thank you for this latest post on Mercator. Whatta guy! It would be fun to give an italic homework assignment asking students to design a page with multiple flourishes. Just COPYING a Mercator page would be a great lesson. Today I’m returning to the SF Special Collections to spend another afternoon with an Ernst Schneidler biography. He could do some wild & crazy flourishing, too. As well as type design. The Newberry Library has a copy of his famous DAS WASSERMAN. xoxox Georgianna

    Like

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