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Reading History Maps

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The Siege of Ypres Mapped by Guillaume du Tielt

image of Quaerendo

Old maps convey messages about early spatial arrangements. In some cases, they also tell a story, and hence can be qualified as ‘history maps’. The interpretation of such maps is not easy, because they are witnesses to a strong dichotomy between the static representation of the landscape and the dynamic sequence of historical events. Digital Thematic Deconstruction allows to break through the iconographic composition and to extract the visual discourse from such an image stuffed with information. In this article, the method is applied to the bird’s-eye view of the siege of Ypres in 1383, engraved by Guillaume du Tielt at the beginning of the seventeenth century, in order to assess the accuracy of the mapped topography and to get at the visual narrative. The results not only help interpret the meaning of such a history map, but also offer perspectives for comparing and juxtaposing history maps and textual records.

Affiliations: 1: University of AmsterdamNetherlands KU LeuvenBelgium


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