Manuscript Mappemundi and Solar Eclipse
Conches, William of
Date of Creation:
A thirteenth century manuscript map of the world from an early copy of William of Conches’ ‘Dragmaticon philosophiae’. The map depicts the world as a circle with east at the top, the points labelled “Oriens”, “Occidens”, “Septentrio” and “Auster”. The map is surrounded and divided into two hemispheres by the ocean. It is a quadripartite (or Beatus) world map, an unusual variation on the medieval mappamundi form, showing an unknown fourth continent. The fourth continent occupies the southern half of the world and is separated from Europe, Africa and Asia by an unnamed band of ocean. The Indian and Mediterranean Oceans are named, as are Africa, Mount Calpe (the Rock of Gibraltar) and Spain. The latter is unusually prominent: it has been suggested that most quadripartite maps derive from an eighth century prototype by Spanish theologian and geographer, Beatus of Lieban, hence their other name.
William of Conches was born by his own account “in a country of mutton-heads” (Dragmaticon VI.i.i.), and left to study under Bernard of Chartres. He taught at the Universities of Paris and Chartres and eventually became tutor to the children of Geoffrey Plantagenet, including the future Henry II of England. He is best known for his early work ‘Philosophia mundi’ (c1125), and the later modified version, ‘Dragmaticon philosophiae’ (c1144), from which these leaves derive.