TITLE: The Albi or Merovingian Map
DATE: 750 A.D.
DESCRIPTION: In the library of Albi, in Languedoc, exists the earliest
mappamundi which has survived from the period loosely termed, the Middle
Ages. It is bound in a 8th century manuscript, measures 29 X 23 cm and was
designed to illustrate the cosmographies of Julius Honorius and Orosius.
The geographical content is simply and curiously executed and represents
a mere sketch of the world. Some of the more obvious misrepresentations
include Judea appearing to the south of the Mediterranean, Antioch to the
southeast of Jerusalem, Crete to the north of Cyprus, Sardinia to the north
of Corsica, and the Ganges in the south of Africa. Furthermore, the zephyr
[west wind] is turned into a south wind; the Caspian Sea is displayed as
an inlet from the Northern Ocean; Sicily is sharply four-cornered; and Britain
is reduced to about the size of Corsica, and lies close off the northwest
coast of Spain. Spain and France, together, form a single peninsula. The
Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea (all colored green as
is the Rhine, Rhone, Nile, etc.) are made parallel, with a general direction
from north to south; the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf are exactly opposite
to the Euxine [Black Sea] and Caspian Seas.
The habitable world is pictured as an oblong, rounded at the corners, and
surrounded by the ocean; and the map is generally confined to the Mediterranean
lands, or the area of the "Old Empire", and Asia is reduced to
a fringe of land on the east of the Mediterranean. Yet, though so strictly
Roman in plan, Italy is very crudely drawn. India, Media and Babylonia appear
all together along the eastern boundary of the map, where the Tigris and
Phison [Ganges ?] suggest an Oriental Paradise which is not expressly
indicated. The Nile joins the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; Mount Sinai
is designated by a huge triangle, and all of the people of northern Europe
are included in Gothia.
Yet, poor though it is scientifically, the Albi map, as it stands, is the
unaltered work from the time of the Venerable Bede and Charles Martel (ca.
730 A.D.), and, accordingly, venerable as the oldest geographical monument
of Latin or Western Europe in the Middle Ages.
LOCATION: Albi, Bibliotheque Municipale, in the manuscript entitled,
Miscellanea scilicet Dictionarium Glosae in Evangelia.
*Bagrow, L., The History of Cartography, p. 46.
*Beazley, C., The Dawn of Modern Geography, volume I, p. 385.
*Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume One, p. 347, Figure 18.56.