Grand et beau plan détaillé de la ville de Bruxelles. Desaubleaux, sous-directeur de l’Académie, ca 1775 (detail)

Information on speakers and their lectures is not yet complete. Further information will be added as we receive it.

Robert Clancy

The Mapping of the Antarctic Peninsula by European Nations around 1900

Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery (1866-1934), an officer of the Belgian Navy, sailed the Belgica in 1897 to the west coast of the peninsula. In 1941 about 100 of Adrien de Gerlache’s maps were given to the Royal Library of Belgium by Marie-Louise de Gerlache, Adrien’s daughter and at the time an employee of the Royal Library. Adrien de Gerlache’s story is told by Robert Clancy, John Manning and Henk Brolsma in their Mapping Antarctica. A Five Hundred Year Record of Discovery (Springer, 2012). Robert will discuss the Belgian, as well as the French, Swedish and Russian contribution to the mapping of the Antarctic.

Robert Clancy is a retired Professor of Pathology, and currently a Clinical Immunologist and Gastroenterologist. But he is also a well-known map collector, especially of continental masses in the southern hemisphere. He is the author of five books on maps.

Karen De Coene

Darkness there and nothing more? Medieval cartography and the Liber Floridus

The Liber Floridus is perhaps the most famous encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. It was compiled by Lambert, Canon of Saint-Omer from almost 200 different works between 1090 and 1120. The oldest known manuscript of this encyclopedia, Ms. 92, is to be found at the Ghent University Library. It includes a map of parts of Europe and two climate-zone drawings based on the Macrobian model which are believed to have been drafted personally by Lambert. Karen De Coene has studied this manuscript in detail. She was the curator of the successful exhibition on the Liber Flordius in the city museum of Ghent in 2011 and co-authored the book that was published on that occasion: Liber Floridus 1121: the world in a book, Tielt, Lannoo, 2011.

Karen De Coene is an academic researcher specialising in medieval culture and historical cartography, and is currently employed as an expert at Arenberg Auctions, Brussels.

Joost Depuydt

Abraham Ortelius: The Man and his World

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was born and raised in Antwerp. During the sixteenth century this port city became a major commercial metropolis, excelling in the trade of artistic products and hosting one of the most largest book markets in Europe. The author of the Theatrum orbis terrarum, the first modern atlas, started his professional career as a colourist of maps, but soon he became a dealer not only in maps and prints, but also in books and antiquities. He travelled extensively, despite the difficult conditions of the Eighty Years’ War. Both his Album amicorum and his correspondence attest to the size and importance of his network. Although a substantial part of his correspondence has already been published, there are still a lot of letters waiting to be found.

Joost Depuydt has been Curator of Typographical and Technical Collections at the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp (Belgium) since the summer of 2018. Between 2007 and 2018 he was Curator of Special Collections at the FelixArchief / Antwerp City Archives. In that capacity he was responsible for the organisation of the 26th International Conference on the History of Cartography (ICHC 2015) in Antwerp. The subject matter of his publications ranges from Abraham Ortelius to early maps of Mexico and of South America to digitisation of early maps. He has curated various exhibitions on the history of cartography.

Pieter Martens

Intersections of military architecture and cartography in the Low Countries (1540-1625), from Jacob van Deventer to Pierre Le Poivre

The city atlas by Jacob van Deventer (ca 1575) and the atlas by Pierre Le Poivre (early seventeenth century) are without doubt some of the Royal Library’s most important cartographic heirlooms. They are examples of military architecture and engineering whose practice Pieter sees as the driving force behind the development of (urban) cartography in the sixteenth-century Low Countries. In his paper he will highlight the multiple connections between, on the one hand, fortification drawings and depictions of sieges, and, on the other, the earliest town plans, city views and topographical maps.

Pieter Martens is Assistant Professor of Architectural History at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). His research focuses on sixteenth-century military architecture, engineering, siege warfare, and urban iconography. He is the author of a short biography on Le Poivre in Belgium national biography (Koninklijke Academie van België, 2004).

Luis Robles

Northern Europe in sixteenth-century nautical cartography: a comprehensive review

The Royal Library of Belgium has a small but interesting collection of Renaissance portolans, amongst them those by Bartolomeo Laso, Bartolomeo Olives, and Ottomano Freducci. Luis will use them to illustrate his paper on the evolution of the representation of Scandinavia and the Baltic in nautical cartography in the sixteenth century.

Luis Robles has a professional background in engineering and knowledge management, and is currently a PhD candidate in History at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), where he is studying the life and works of sixteenth-century mapmaker Juan Vespucci. He has published research on the history of cartography and geographical discoveries. Since 2020 he has been the Editor of the Brussels Map Circle’s Newsletter Maps in History.

Gábor Timár

From the 1761 transit of Venus to the Second Military Survey – the century of the Habsburg Empire in cartography

During the Seven Years War (1756-1763), in which the Habsburgs were allies of France, important surveying and cartographic knowhow was transferred from Paris to Vienna. The encounter of César-François Cassini de Thury, the author of the Carte de France, and Father Joseph Liesganig, the later head of the Austrian surveying efforts, on 6 June 1761 in order to observe the transit of Venus, is emblematic in this respect. The Austrians applied Cassini’s method, but on a scale three times larger (1:28 800, instead of the original French 1:86 400), in two successive military surveys, one in the late 1700s and the other in the first half and the middle of the 1800s.

The main contribution of the Habsburg surveying project to mapping is the use of a flattened ellipsoid, instead of the sphere, to model the earth. The Austrian efforts can be considered as the best survey technology at the time, before the geodetic adjustment methods invented by the Germans in the middle of the nineteenth century. Thus, the years from the 1760s to the 1860s can be characterised as the Austrian century in the history of cartography, which also includes the survey by Count de Ferraris of the Austrian Netherlands on a scale of 1 to 14400 (1770-78).

Gábor Timár is Professor of Geophysics at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) of Budapest, Hungary. His research interests are the modelling of the shape of the Earth and its applications in historical cartography, and environmental analyses involving old maps. He is the scientific leader of the MAPIRE project, presenting mostly European maps from 1750 to 1950 in geo-referenced form, as overlays of modern ones.

Koenraad Van Cleempoel

Gerard Mercator as a maker of Scientific Instruments: aspects of materialised knowledge

Gerard Mercator holds a unique position in the history of cartography; his superb maps still surprise us with their accuracy and beauty. In this presentation, Koenraad will focus on the early, formative years of Mercator in Leuven [Louvain] in Belgium) and his collaboration with Gemma Frisius. His research into refining existing scientific instruments — such as astrolabes — as well as his designs for newly invented ones — such as the astronomical rings — will be discussed. Mercator will be framed as a superior artisan blurring the boundaries between theory and practice. The extreme refinement and accuracy of his innovative instruments laid the basis for the so-called Louvain School and they also relate to his methodology as a cartographer.

Koenraad Van Cleempoel studied art history in Leuven, Madrid and London, where he received a PhD at the Warburg Institute. He is a professor of Art History at the faculty of Architecture in Hasselt (Belgium). He has an interest in the material culture of the Renaissance and scientific instruments in particular. He catalogued the collection of astrolabes at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (Oxford University Press). In 2017 he organised a seminar on Renaissance instruments at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jan Vandersmissen

The role of geography and cartography in Leopold II’s imperialist ventures around the time of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885)

From the very moment they were founded in 1876 the geographical societies of Antwerp and Brussels played a role as propaganda tools for Leopold II’s ventures in Central Africa: they invited explorers to send in papers or give lectures, praised the initiatives of royal companies such as the Association internationale africaine (AIA), the Comité d’études du Haut-Congo (CEHC) and the Association internationale du Congo (AIC), and published in their journals numerous maps of these companies’ exploratory missions. As the geopolitical tensions between the European powers increased, the nature of geography’s involvement with Leopold’s actions changed. In the early 1880s, at a time when Leopold’s companies came under pressure, cartography was explicitly used as a means of underlining Leopold’s territorial claims. This paper sheds light on the specific cases of the cartographic representations of the Kouilou-Niari Basin, where the claims made by Leopold’s AIC were disputed by France since 1883, and of the valleys of rivers flowing into the Congo via the north side (right bank). These maps strikingly express, through their specific visual discourse, the intertwining of cartography with imperial agendas in the run-up to the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885. We also investigate how in addition to the geographical societies, a third actor — the geographic periodical Le Mouvement géographique — became involved in the debates about territorial claims via the continuous publication of ever-changing maps of disputed territories.

Jan Vandersmissen is researcher and lecturer at Ghent University (UGent). He is interested in the history of science and technology in imperial contexts, more in particular in the scientific and technological aspects of expansionist projects developed by various European nations, as well as in the knowledge transfers that resulted from these undertakings. He has published extensively on issues related to the world of travellers, prospectors, geographers, cartographers and environmentalists from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Geert Vanpaemel

Between Heaven and Earth. Michiel Florent van Langren and his Map of the Moon

In 1645 the Brussels cartographer and engineer Michiel Florent van Langren (1598-1675) issued a 1-sheet printed map of the moon, Plenilunii Lumina Austriaca Philippica. The map underscored van Langren’s project to use the phases of the moon as a means to determine longitude. The Plenilunium with its toponomy of European noblemen and scientists, discussed at length in his correspondence with Erycius Puteanus, which is kept in the Manuscript Room of the Royal Library of Belgium, provides an unique source for exploring the scientific community to which van Langren aspired to belong. Geert will present the results of his study of the toponomy.

Geert Vanpaemel is professor for History of Science at the Catholic University of Leuven [Louvain] (KU Leuven). He has published mainly on the post-1500 history of science in Belgium. With Dirk De Bock he has recently published Rods, Sets and Arrows. The Rise and Fall of Modern Mathematics in Belgium (Springer, 2019). In 2015 he co-edited Embattled Territory. The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands (Academia Press).