Above: The Sawley Map (detail). From the Imago mundi by Honorius Augustodunensis. England, probably Durham, ca. 1190. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 66, Part 1.
Today, we look at maps to help us get somewhere, or to show us geological or geographic features of a place. In the Middle Ages, some maps were certainly drawn for the same purpose. One example, a famous atlas created by the Islamic cartographer Il-Idrisi for the Norman king Roger II in Sicily, includes Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa, and is often praised today for its relative accuracy. Its sixty-six sections describe countries, their principal cities, roads, borders, waterways, and mountains. (See images of a thirteenth-century copy of this map at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.) Read more »