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Universe of Maps - Opening the David Rumsey Map Center


Untitled [Jain Cosmological Diagram – The World of Mortals.] Anonymous. India: ca. 1850
Hand painted, this cosmological map takes the form of concentric circles showing the three worlds that make up the Jain universe: the outer celestial realm, the middle world of living beings, and the lower world of the damned.
Region elementaire ou sublunaire qui comprend les corps simples qui sont les elements, divisez en legers et pesans. Gregoire Mariette. Paris: 1696
Originally published in Italian by Antonino Saliba in 1582, this new edition shows eight concentric rings, from the inner ring depicting the infernal regions to an encircling ring of fire, populated by demons, phoenixes, and salamanders. The chart integrates ancient pagan and medieval Christian cosmology with Renaissance beliefs.
Nanzenbushu bankoku shoka no zu. (Buddhist Map of the World). Rokashi (Hotan). Kyoto: 1710
This is the first world map printed in Japan. With Chinese text, it depicts a Buddhist cosmological view of the world combined with a reasonably accurate cartographic depiction of Asia and parts of Europe and America. At the center of the map is a quadruple helix which represents the birthplace of Buddha.

Maps have been used to show concepts and beliefs as well as places, as exemplified in the cosmological diagrams shown on the back of this case. While they illustrate very differing world and religious views, both use spatial concepts to organize and make visible the beliefs they represent. The 1696 “Region elementaire…” is a modified Christian and pagan cosmological view, while the mid-19th-century Jain diagram shows a view of the relationship between the three worlds that affect all things, both animate and inanimate, in accordance with the ancient Jain belief system practiced in India. Cosmological diagrams such as these are intended to stimulate contemplation in their viewers and have much in common with religious symbols and iconography, while still retaining their cartographical aspects.