From Book to Map: Power, Portability and Performance in an 18th-century Anonymous French Traveller’s Map of Cyprus

Veronica della Dora - Professor, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London



Maps are more than static visual representations waiting to be decoded. They are dynamic actors representing and yet at the same time producing space. They are complex assemblages of materials, techniques and knowledge. Not least, they are artefacts that move across space and through time. They take on new functions and meanings; they are inscribed and re-inscribed; they are physically transformed and they can in turn transform. Their power lies precisely at the crossroads of production and reception, of portability and performance.

This paper focusses on an 18th-century manuscript map of Cyprus copied and annotated from a map contained in Alexander Drummond’s Travels through Different Cities in Germany, Italy, Greece, and Several Parts of Asia (1754). The map was crafted by an anonymous French traveller for the needs of his visit to the island. As with its prototype (and Drummond’s account itself), the map speaks a plain rhetoric of truth typical of the Enlightenment – as Drummond was keen to point out, his map was one of the very few maps of the island to have been produced from personal observations rather than hearsay.

The originality of the French traveller’s copy lies less in its style and attempt at accuracy than in its assemblage-like quality and in its materiality. The anonymous traveller dissected and mounted the map on linen for the sake of portability. He enriched it with insets and inscribed it with itineraries and cross-references to Drummond’s text. As the traveller moved across the island, his map was constantly amended; it functioned both as a handy visual summary of the book and as an ingenious do-it-yourself traveller’s guide – a sort of portable archive. Nowadays, it endures as a repository of knowledge and as an extraordinary object inscribed with the marks of the journey.



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