Friday, June 25, 2010

Story of the Original Gerard Mercator's 1595 Map

It was on my usual Thursday lunch date with Aunt C when I finally said yes to her request to unload years of "junk" long stored in her home.  You bet, she was ecstatic! For this "junk" of yesteryears included High School stuff, College stuff, 1st job memories, 2nd job memories, Cook Books, Pocket Books, Blue and Yellow Photo Albums, Stationery and Sticker Collections, Volumes of Archie Comics, Greeting Cards, a big box of Baseball Cards, report cards, library cards, a deck of playing cards ..... and so forth and so on.

The "junk" was way too much that each piece in the end found its way back to its original location ..... Aunt C's home =)

Except for this .....

Tucked in my bins of "junk" was an authentic reproduction of  Gerard Mercator's 1595 map of Southeast Asia, better known as Insulae Indiae Orientalis Praecipuae, In quibus Moluccae celeberrime sunt (The Principal Island of Oriental India of which the Moluccas are the most famous).  A gift given to Dad in the early 80s by a good friend who I knew nothing of except his name.  Though I  knew of the map's existence,  I never took time to check in detail the contents of the 2 feet long canister clad by a colorful map.  Until that fateful Thursday came along. 

While seriously figuring out the fate of the canister, Aunt C happily shared amidst  piles of "paper junk" scattered on the floor ..... that map shows how the Philippines looked in the 1500s.

A gift to Dad by his good friend, Tony Marquez

Choked with intrigue and curiosity, I brought the map home and left behind all other "junk".  For the first time since the day this map fell on our hands, I uncovered the canister and aired out all the long-ago hidden contents. 

Story of the original Gerard Mercator's 1595 Map by Antonio Roa Marquez.
question to Mom and Aunt C:  Are Tony Marquez and Antonio Roa Marquez one and the same?
Click to enlarge.

I was struck with WONDER.  Cartographer, Gerard Mercator, brought to my thoughts  an age of voyages and wonderful discoveries. I became part of their exploration, able to see the  vastness of the world and feel the triumph of their conquer.  The map looked amazingly beautiful. Rich in color. "Islas"  glorious and warm. Intricately adorned with mythical and jewel-like images.  And emitted a great sense of historical richness and affinity.
The story behind the discovery of this map makes it more interesting.  In 1965, Antonio Roa Marquez found the original of this unique work of art from a sidewalk vendor along the River Seine near the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.  Having been away  for 2 long years from his mother land, his search for a Philippine map led him to discover Gerard Mercator's map. The full story may be read from the 2nd photo above.  

Except for these places located in the Philippines .... MINDA NAO (Mindanao), MINDARA (Mindoro?), MANILBA (Manila?), LUZOM (Luzon?), all others are unfamiliar due to its Latin text.  There is yet a need for me to put this map rendition side-by-side with today's latest map for comparison.  Though I am NOT an expert on this matter, the shape and cluster of  islands show a striking semblance that it is indeed the Philippines.

In Mr. Marquez's note, he says  ....
It must be replete with errors, understandably so - but, it is still recognizably South East Asia.....My eyes would travel from my country, the Philippines, to the then famous "Moluccas" in Indonesia, to that island south of Malaysia which is now Singapore, to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indochina, which seemed to be confined to Cambodia and Vietnam. 

Multiple errors may have been pointed out in Gerard Mercator's map. But, I am reminded by that fact that computers and other modern forms of technology did not exist in the 1500s.  Instead, the sense of sight and the power of the hand were the  two important tools heavily relied on back then.  Absolutely amazing, most especially on how cartographers and explorers were able to translate their manually-made works into an image with great historical impact.  The colorful map, I believe, not only serves as a picturesque piece of precious artwork.  It has made me see the unscathed beauty of our land's past

Someday, I will have to hand this map over to my one and only brother.  I believe that this treasure should rightfully  belong to him.  A historical image for his sake and most especially for his children's future reference. 

For now, this belongs to me.

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