Non-fiction author Marjo T. Nurminen’s magnum opus The Mapmakers’ World – a Cultural History of the European World Map takes us on an enchanting journey through time and to the roots of the European world view

The magnificent new book from the John Nurminen Foundation is the most extensive history of the world map, aimed at the general public, to be published in Finland

The Mapmakers’ World – a Cultural History of the European World Map, released today at the Royal Geographical Society, London, offers a unique and exceptionally broad perspective to the cultural history of the world map. The book describes early European world maps and the world view they convey from a period of roughly one thousand years, i.e. from the 8th century to the end of the 18th. With a scientific but accessible approach, the book demonstrates how maps reflect much more than the geographical ideas of each era: they were always also an expression of religious and cultural values and attitudes. Maps tell us of the history of seafaring, exploration, diplomacy, power politics, and propaganda. The book takes as on a journey through a period of one thousand years, during which our world  view gradually stabilised into the image of the map we know today.


The Mapmakers' World cover.
The Mapmakers’ World cover.

Non-fiction author Marjo T. Nurminen brings the historical maps to life by telling the story from the viewpoints of the map makers. In addition to exceptionally extensive research and comprehensive source materials that also include rarities, the book is made unique by its point of view: map makers are brought to the forefront, highlighting their work with the maps and the way their vision of the world was depicted on them. Instead of listing the maps, the author takes us on a journey of mapmaking through the stories of the people behind them. At the same time, the text and images provide the reader with an understanding of the historical institutions, processes and innovations that impacted the European world map.

World maps are one of the most fascinating images created by human culture. The book’s illustrations cover an unprecedented spectrum, with almost all of the world’s most rare and opulent world maps printed as large offset images. The book also explores two significant Finnish map collections: the A.E. Nordenskiöld collection, housed in the National Museum of Finland, and Juha Nurminen’s collection of world maps.



The culmination of five years of research and writing

Marjo T. Nurminen began researching for the book roughly five years ago, and has devoted the time since then to map research and writing. The largest and most significant European collections of early maps can be found in the British Library, London, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris, and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in the Vatican. In addition to these materials, the author studied rare medieval manuscripts, for example, in various European museums, libraries and archives for maps and maritime history. Many of the maps included in the book are rarities and available to the general public only through this book.

‘Studying historical world maps is exciting detective work. The cultural messages, references and meanings conveyed by the world maps have become more obscure through the centuries. Although the people who originally created these fascinating images are gone forever, the documents they left behind – the world maps – still speak to us. With their muted voices, they whisper to us the secrets they have held for centuries. What they say is often hard to understand, and, as it is expressed in the form of visual imagery, one image can hold many meanings.’  Marjo T. Nurminen

In the book, the author identifies the challenges faced by those who study historical maps: limited research materials; incompatible maps; the traditions of copying and creative renewal; maps as the meeting point of science and art; and the way how world maps reflect the power politics, propaganda and diplomacy of their time.

Marjo T. Nurminen, historian and non-fiction author, is an archaeologist by education. For over ten years, prior to becoming a full-time non-fiction writer, she worked as a science editor. Her first book, Sisters of Science and Ideas. Learned European women from Antiquity to Enlightenment. (WSOY) won the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction in 2008.

Marjo T. Nurminen began her work with maps after an initial suggestion and encouragement from her map-collecting husband, Juha Nurminen. During the years, the couple has travelled to numerous European museums and libraries, getting to know with their own eyes and hands the map rarities that are not available to the public at large. The book is strongly based on academic research, and the author has been guided and supported by the world’s leading map researchers. Throughout the project, Peter Barber, former head of the map department of the British Library, has been the author’s tutor.

The Mapmakers’ World is the thirtieth book published by the John Nurminen Foundation. It is also the culmination of maps as a life-time hobby for Juha Nurminen, editor of the book and Chairman of the Board of the John Nurminen Foundation. Judged on the Finnish or even the global scale, Juha Nurminen has a remarkable collection of world maps, now utilised in the illustrations of the book. The book includes, for example, the world’s first and extremely rare printed world map (printed in Bologna in 1477). Earlier major books published by the foundation include: Mare Balticum (1995), Ultima Thule – Arctic Explorations (2001), and The History of Seafaring, published in 2007; the first of these is translated to five, the second to seven, and the third to six languages. In line with the Foundation’s publication policy, the books bring our cultural history to life, and are, at the same time, aesthetically appealing books on art.

The English edition, The Mapmakers’ World – A Cultural History of the European World Map, is published today in London. The Finnish edition will be published one week later in Helsinki, and it will be available at book stores and from the Foundation’s online store (jnsshop.fi) from 24 September onwards.

Media images : https://www.johnnurmisensaatio.fi/tietoa-meista/mediapankki/

Further information and interview requests:
Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt
Secretary General, John Nurminen Foundation
Tel. +358 400 – 477 878

Tuula Putkinen
Communications Manager
Tel. +358 400 – 907 809

e-mail: firstname.lastname@jnfoundation.fi

Instagram: johnnurminenfoundation

Publication information:

Author: Marjo T. Nurminen
Editor in Chief: Juha Nurminen
Graphic design: Olavi Hankimo
Printed by: Lönnberg Painot Oy Helsinki
352 pages, 300 colour images
ISBN: 978-952-9745-46-3 (Finnish)
978-1910860-00-7 (English)
Print runs: 4000 (Finnish) and 3000 (English)
Retail price: €89 (including 10% VAT)
Sales:  Book stores and Kirjavälitys