Beehives of knowledge: Cosmographer networks of Sebastian Münster, Gerard Mercator, and Abraham Ortelius (1540-1570)

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
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Like the classical bee gathering honey from many flowers, sixteenth-century cosmographers built their cosmographies from various sources. I analyse and compare the correspondence of three influential cosmographers, Sebastian Münster (1488-1552), Gerard Mercator (1512-1594), and Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). The networks of these men, their locations, contacts, and the routes by which information traveled, shaped and limited their cosmographies. These influences challenge prevailing constructions in the historiography on sixteenth-century science which would see Münster as more traditional and medieval, and Ortelius as more empirical and modern. Each cosmographer was looking for novel information in different contexts. Münster and others revealed rigorous approaches to novel Hebrew scholarship and its application to cosmography, rivaling the approaches of cosmographers who applied non-traditional geographical knowledge. The more meaningful contrast I see was between “centred” scholars for whom Hebrew and the Holy Land were central to cosmography, and “fragmented” scholars who worked without a unifying theme.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Clossey, Luke
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