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Medieval Maps In A Renaissance Context: Gregorio Dati And The Teaching Of Geography In Fifteenth-Century Florence

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Chapter Summary

Gregorio Dati, a silk merchant who rose to Florence?s highest civil office, wrote his Sfera (The Spheres) sometime before his death in 1435, in part as a textbook of world geography directed at children of the Florentine merchant class, but clearly envisioning other audiences as well. The maps in the Sfera served three interrelated purposes: education, entertainment, and commerce, demonstrating the complex relationship between knowledge and power expressed and transmitted through verbal and pictorial mapping in the fifteenth century. Dati?s best known work is his History of Florence, characterized by Hans Baron as the first modern (as opposed to medieval) work of history. He included in the margins of his book fragments of portolan charts, the detailed maps of the coastline used by sailors in the Mediterranean, which he arranged from east to west, from the Fortunate Islands in the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

Keywords: Florentine; Gregorio Dati; portolan charts

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