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Daring sea voyages undertaken today are routinely monitored by satellite and highly sophisticated technology. It was not always so. In the Middle Ages, navigation was a tenuous balance of art and science. Progress in shipbuilding gave sailors more freedom. Mathematics and compasses encouraged them to set out on longer trips for destinations further and further away. Yet ocean travel remained mysterious and terribly dangerous. Sailors had to rely on their knowledge of the stars, the direction of the wind, the currents, and migrating flocks, and on the lore and wisdom of their fore-fathers. They also relied on handmade maps, crudely but beautifully drawn.
The selection of maps in this handsome book dates from the 12th to the 18th century. While they may appear quite primitive to our eyes, they reveal the steady progress of the earliest seafarers in their determination to conquer the sea. What they lack in geographical accuracy, they make up for in charm. They are fascinating historical documents and an eloquent testimony to the bravery of all those who set out not really knowing where on earth they were going.
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