Martin Waldseemüller, Carta Marina Navigatoria, 1516

This is the second and less famous of Waldseemüller’s two great world maps; the lone surviving copy of his first, on which we see the word America first written, was bought for $10 million in 2001 by the Library of Congress. This detail depicts an odd elephant-like creature in the Arctic Ocean off of Scandinavia, possibly engraved by the artist Albrecht Dürer. The Latin text explains that this is the abode of the “morsus,” a strange animal with “large, quadrangular teeth.”

In other words, this was the artist’s conception of a walrus, based on secondhand descriptions from sailors. In most of Europe at the time, real-life creatures like walruses, giraffes, and rhinoceroses would have seemed just as fantastic as any sea serpent or dragon.

#maps  #map  #history  #monsters  #dragon