FYS: The Power of Maps
When an author writes, an artist paints, or an architect designs, specific details are used to capture the message the are writing about, or the message the portray, or the message they construct. Cartographers also use details to construct a purpose to the maps they create by the inclusion of its portrayal. By noticing what cartographers include on their map, like how writer or artist choose to include in their works, the viewer can get a better understanding of what the cartographer wants their audience to see as important. An interesting example of this idea can be seen in Samuel Dunn’s map, “North America, As Divided Amongst the European Powers”, which was made in 1774. One detail to notice in the map is in the North-west of the continent squeezed between two other notes in what is modern day British Columbia that reads, “Land which is supposed to be the Fousang of the Chinese Geographers”. By placing note on the map, it acts as a descriptor to the blank space of this unknown territory, allowing the viewer to imagine Fousang.
Looking at the maps, the Northeastern, Eastern, and Southern parts of the map are well defined. Rivers, lakes, and mountains are finely labelled as well as the boundaries between Europeans territories There are even labels for Native American tribes throughout the North American continent. But as the audience looks towards the Northwest, the natural details disappear, the political boundaries become murky, and the continent appears to be unfinished. This is different to other maps as no motifs or “…sea serpents, dragons, griffins, hippogriffs, and freakishly exotic people” (Turchi 34). In breaking with the old style of blank and unknown space on maps, Samuel Dunn, a mathematician, appears to favor the ideas of Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville of leaving the blank space as it was to, “‘To destroy false notions, without even going further, is one of the ways to advance knowledge’” (Turchi 36). But in conducting in this way as a “scientific cartographer”, it is interesting that Dunn included the note of Fousang because it is contrast of the supposed “scientific” notes that also litter the Pacific Northwest. For example, there are multiple notes indicating the discoveries of the coast by explorers and nations in certain years, but there is also another note that indicates that Dunn’s possible claim to be “scientific” is north of the Fousang note. It says, “Imaginary entrance of Admiral Fonte”.
Dunn might have claimed to be a scientific cartographer, but as seen before, his notes are not as scientific as he might think them to be. Dunn might not be depicting mythical beasts, he is describing the location by referencing Fousang, an ancient story in Chinese literature. By referencing Fousang in the blank space, Dunn is creating an image of what this blank space looks like. But it also brings up an interesting point of cartographic influences outside of Europe. As part of the European mapping of the Americas, the help of Native Americas was pivotal to European success.