Format Hardcover
Publication Date 06/06/23
ISBN 9781639364190
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 352

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Here Begins the Dark Sea

Venice, a Medieval Monk, and the Creation of the Most Accurate Map in the World

Meredith Francesca Small

The remarkable story of the cartographic masterpiece—the Venetian mappa mundi—that revolutionized how we see the world.

In 1459 a Venetian monk named Fra Mauro completed an astonishing map of the world. Seven feet in diameter, Fra Mauro’s mappamundi is the oldest and most complete Medieval map to survive into modernity. And in its time, this groundbreaking mappamundi provided the most detailed description of the known world, incorporating accurate observation, and geographic reality, urging viewers to see water and land as they really existed. Fra Mauro's map was the first in history to show that a ship could circumnavigate Africa, and that the Indian “Sea” was in fact an ocean, enabling international trade to expand across the globe. Acclaimed anthropologist Meredith F. Small reveals how Fra Mauro’s mappamundi made cartography into a science rather than a practice based on religion and ancient myths.

Here Begins the Dark Sea brings Fra Mauro’s masterpiece to life as a work of art and a window into Venetian society and culture. In telling the story of this cornerstone of modern cartography, Small takes the reader on a fascinating journey as she explores the human urge to find our way. Here Begins the Dark Sea is a riveting testament to the undeniable impact Fra Mauro and his mappamundi have had over the past five centuries and still holds relevance today.

Meredith F. Small is a professor of anthropology at Cornell University and the author of Our Babies Ourselves; What's Love Got to Do With It? and Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization, also available from Pegasus Books. She has written for Natural History Magazine, Discover, Scientific American, and is a commentator for National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She lives in Philadelphia.

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Endorsements & Reviews

Praise for Inventing the World
"Small catalogs a dizzying array of Venetian innovations in this illuminating account. Small enlivens her research with personal anecdotes about her love for Venice, and moves fluidly from one topic to the next. The result is a delightful and informative cabinet of wonders." Publishers Weekly
"Venice does not lack admirers, but this is an inventive addition. An anthropologist at Cornell, Small emphasizes the city’s social structure as she describes “how one small place had an outsized influence on the development of Western culture.” Venice lovers already familiar with plaudits by other travelers and historians will enjoy this different perspective." Kirkus Reviews