Cartography’s Top 5 Sea Monsters

Sea monster accounts are found in virtually all cultures that have contact with the sea. Van Duzer’s book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, published earlier this year, explores how medieval and Renaissance cartographers drew on myths, literature, and the scientific knowledge of the time to create these beasts. Wired went to meet the man in a great article here.

Here are a countdown of our personal favourites…

5. For dramas sake we like Jonah being cast overboard to a sea monster in Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theater of the World) of 1595. (British Library)

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4. Everyone likes a multi-tasker.. here we have an ichythyocentaur (part man, part horse, part fish) who plays a viol while swimming along in Abraham Ortelius’s 1571 Theatrum orbis terrarum(British Library)


3. This sea pig with what looks like extra eyes on his side…. lived in the North Sea on Olaus Magnus’s 1539 Carta Marina, a lushly illustrated map that inspired many after it. (Public Domain)


2. An aquatic unicorn! Everyone loves a unicorn. Cornelis de Jode’s Speculum Orbis Terrae, published in 1593 (British Library)


1. Nothing puts a smile on a sea monster’s face like a naked lady in a seashell. The lady here represents Bold Fortune, and she appears in a map made in 1565 by Paolo Forlani. (Library of Congress)


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