Spain in 42 historical maps: 1339-2010
On ancient maps the Latin name Iberia is used to identify the Spanish peninsula (Spain and Portugal). It is derived from the Greek word Iberes, meaning “the Celtic people of Spain”. But it may also refer to the river Ebro in Spain. The name Spain (España) is derived from the Roman name Hispania. Most likely it refers to Spain lying at the end or western edge of the Mediterranean region. (In classical times this was the known world.) It may be evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning “city of the western world”. It may also be evolved from the Greek term Hesperia, reflecting the Greek perception of Italy as a “land of the setting sun” or “western land” and Spain, lying still further west, as Hesperia ultima. Spain (and Portugal) were already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. The coastline was drawn in more detail on 14th century Portolan charts (nautical maps). The first separately printed maps appeared in the 16th century.
Portugal in 29 historical maps: 1375-2010
On ancient maps the Latin name Iberia is used to identify the Spanish peninsula (Spain and Portugal). It is derived from the Greek word Iberes, meaning "the Celtic people of Spain". But it may also refer to the river Ebro in Spain. Most likely the name Portugal means "beautiful port". The first part refers to the Latin word Portus. The second part may be derived from the Greek word kallis. Spain and Portugal were already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. The coastline was drawn in more detail on 14th century Portolan charts (nautical maps). The first separately printed map of Portugal appeared in the 16th century (about 1560).
New Zealand in 24 historical maps: 1642-2010
New Zealand is named after the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, which means “sea land”, referring to the large number of islands it contains. Abel Tasman, the first European explorer reaching the country in 1642, referred to New Zealand as Staten Landt. But later Dutch cartographers used Zeelandia Nova (Latin), followed by Nieuw-Zeeland in Dutch. Aotearoa has become the most common name for the country in the indigenous Maori language, meaning “land of the long white cloud”. After Tasman's discovery of NZ, parts of its Western coastline appeared for the first time on the famous world (wall) map of the Blaeu family in 1648. It was assumed that the North- and South Island were connected. It took more than 100 years until the whole coastline was mapped, after Captain Cook had circumnavigated the country.
Argentina and Chile in 37 historical maps: 1502-2010
The name Argentina refers to the Río de la Plata (Latin: Argenteus), meaning “Silver River”. It was given by the explorer Sebastian Cabot in the 1520s after acquiring some silver trinkets from a local tribe (the Guaraní). The origin of the name Chile is uncertain. It may be derived from the Mapuche word Chili , meaning “where the land ends”. (The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and south-western Argentina, including parts of the region Patagonia.) The name Patagonia (Patagão), covering large parts of present-day Argentina and Chile, was introduced by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1519-1522 voyage). It means “Land of big feet” referring to the huge people he reported to have seen. The southernmost part of South-America was first drawn on the famous Cantino map (1502), followed by a more accurate map of Ribero in 1527. The first maps of Argentina and Chile resembling the modern maps nowadays did not appear until the midst of the 19th century. This was after their independence from Spain in 1810 (Chile) and 1816 (Argentina).
Netherlands and Belgium in 35 historical maps: 1480-2010
The general name Low Countries is often used for the region covering both The Netherlands and Belgium. The name Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland ) is used for the northern country. It means “low lying lands”. The name Holland (Latin: Hollandia), covering the provinces Noord- and Zuid-Holland, is sometimes used to identify the whole country. It is probably derived from the Germanic word holt-land (“wooded land”) or it may refer to “hollow” or “marsh land”. The name Belgium, for the southern country, came into use after their independence from the United Netherlands in 1830. The name refers to “Land of the Belgae”, a Celtic tribe in he Roman province of Gallia Belgica (Belgic Gaul). The name’s origin is uncertain, but it may be derived from the Proto-Indo-European word bhelgh-, meaning “to bulge” or “to swell”. An alternative theory suggests that it means “bright”. On early maps, the name for the province of Flanders (Latin: Flandria) was also used to identify the whole country. The first printed separate maps of the Low Countries appeared in the midst of the 16th century. In the following period the Latin name Germania Inferior was often used to identify this region, e.g. in Ortelius famous world atlas (1570).
England in 32 historical maps: 1480-2010
In medieval times the name England (or Latin Anglia) was often used to identify the entire island of Great Britain. It means "Land of the Angles" and refers to the Celtic people living on the island prior to the Anglo-Saxon conquest. On later maps Anglia was limited to the southern part of the Island, and Scotia (Scotland) identified the Northern part. England was already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. The first (printed) separate maps appeared at the end of the 16th century.
Denmark in 32 historical maps: 1375-2010
The name Denmark probably means “Flat Borderlands”. Most likely it is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word dhen (meaning “low” or “flat”) and the Old Norse words merki (“boundary”) or mork (“borderland”). Although out of shape, the country is clearly visible on the first maps based on Ptolemy’s descriptions (c.1480). It looks like an appendix North of Germany. On the famous overview map of Scandinavia, made by Olaus Magnus (1539), the border of Denmark is depicted more accurately. One of the first separate maps was included in Sebastian Munster’s encyclopaedia (1544). The first separately printed (hand-coloured) map, based on the work of the Danish Cartographer Marcus Jordan (1552), was published by Ortelius in 1570.
Malta in 30 historical maps: 1480-2014
The name Malta is either from Greek or Phoenician origin. The presence of the Greek dates back to 700BC when they called the island Melita, which refers to "(land of) honey". The name was also used by the Romans during their domination of the island. The alternative Phoenician theory refers to the word Maleth, meaning "a haven". The name Melita is used on the earliest maps, the name Malta on modern maps. On 17th century maps both names were often applied. The island already appears as a small (green) spot on regional maps of Ptolemy (c.150AD/c.1480). The first (printed) separate maps of Malta were published in the early 16th century.
Indonesia and the Philippines in 35 historical maps: 1522-2010
Indonesia is a former Dutch colony. Its name came into use after their independence in 1945. The name means Indian Islands. Before that the name Nederlands Oost-Indië (Dutch East Indies or short East Indies) was used on maps.* The Philippines are a former Spanish colony. The name refers to King Philip II of Spain. The name appeared for the first time on maps at the end of the 16th century. The first separately printed maps of both groups of islands were published in the early 16th century by Italian cartographers. More detailed maps were made in the midst of the 17th century by Dutch explorers and mapmakers (VOC).
*The name India is referring to the Indus River (or Sindhu)
Japan in 37 historical maps: 1507-2010
The official name of Japan is Nippon (or Nihon) meaning the "Land of the Rising Sun". This name comes from Imperial correspondence with the Chinese Sui Dynasty and refers to Japan's eastward position relative to China. The old Malay word for Japan, Jepang (modern spelling Jepun), was borrowed from a Chinese language. On the first separately printed map of Japan (Teixeira/Ortelius, 1595) the Latinized name Iaponia appeared. Various other names for Japan were used on earlier maps. On some 16th century (world) maps, based on Ptolemy’s ideas, the name Zipangri was used. The famous large wall map of Waldseemuller (1507) is one of the first world maps on which the island of Japan is clearly depicted. It appears at the upper right corner of the map. NOTE: Until the midst of the 19th century the island of Hokkaido was mostly only partly depicted - or even absent - on maps of Japan.
Nigeria in 33 historical maps: 1490-2010
Nigeria is named after the river Niger that flows through the western part of the country, ending in the Atlantic ocean. It means "flowing water" and may be derived from the native word Ni Gir or N'eghirren (Tuareg). The Cantino map (1502) was the first world map on which the coastline of this western part of Africa was depicted relatively accurate. Due to lack of information the inland was often filled with fictitious elements. On 17th century and later maps (e.g. Blaeu) the name of neighbouring country Benin was used to identify large parts of present-day Nigeria. During the 18th century the African maps looked rather empty again (e.g. Anville), because cartographers applied a more scientific approach and showed only features that were actually verified. The first separately printed (atlas) maps of Nigeria did not appear until their independence from the UK in 1960.
Madagascar in 32 historical maps: 1502-2010
The name Madagascar was given by Portuguese explorers in the early 16th century. It is derived from Madageiscar, a corruption of Mogadishu, popularized by Marco Polo. In the 17th century various names were used by other European explorers and mapmakers. For example S.Laurentii (Latin) by the Dutch, Saint Laurence by the British and Isle Dauphine by the French. After being discovered by the Portuguese explorer Diaz the large island appeared on the world maps from about 1500 onwards. The first separately printed maps were made in the midst of the 16th century.
Norway in 39 historical maps: 1321-2010
The name Norway, or its native name Norge, means the "Northern Way". It refers to the long coastal passages from the western tip of Norway to its northernmost lands in the Arctic. In the 17th century the Latin name Scandinavia appeared on maps identifying the most northern part of western Europe (Norway, Sweden and Finland). It is derived from the Proto-Germanic word skadinaujo. The second part of the word refers to the waters surrounding the region. Parts of Scandinavia were already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. The first separately printed maps appeared in the early 16th century.
Wales in 31 historical maps: 1150-2010
The name Wales (and Welsh) derives from the Germanic root Walh (plural Walha). The name refers to the Celtic tribes known to the Romans as Volcae, being used to identify all Celtic inhabitants of the Roman Empire. The Welsh name for Wales is Cymry. The word is descended from the Brythonic word combrogi, meaning "fellow-countrymen". The Latinised form is Cambria. It has survived in various geographical names; e.g. the Cambrian Mountains, which cover much of Wales. (They also gave their name to the Cambrian geological period.) The name Cambria was also used on the earliest printed maps of Wales, at the end of the 16th century. On later maps it would become Wallia (Latin) and Wales (modern English).
Egypt in 34 historical maps: 1480-2010
According to the classical scholar Strabo (20BC) the name Egypt is derived from the Greek Aigaíou Hyptíos, which means the “(Land) below the Aegean (sea)". The first separate map of the region was designed by Ptolemy (150AD). The map was worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. The first separately printed maps of Egypt appeared in the (early) 16th century. Mostly, only the northern part (the Nile delta) of present-day Egypt was depicted. In the 17th century the coverage was extended to the south.
Russia in 42 historical maps: 1375-2010
The name Russia, or Byzantine Greek Ro(s)sia, means "Land of the Rus" (or Ros). Most likely it is derived from the Old Norse word for "rower" (or seafarer). Its first usage dates back to the early middle ages. On earlier maps the (Latin) names Moscovia and Tartaria were used. Moscovia identifies the western (European) part and Tartaria the eastern or Asiatic part. On the Mappa Mundia of Cresques (1375) and Fra Mauro (1450) the name Rossia is used. The modern name Russia came into use in the 16th century. The first separately printed maps of Russia appeared in the 16th century. Most of the maps were focused on the European part (Moscovia). During the 17th century the coverage was extended to the east.
Mexico in 34 historical maps: 1527-2010
The origin of the name Mexico (Mexihca) is uncertain. Most likely it means "navel of the moon", based on Nahuatl metztli (moon) and xictli (navel).* It may also be derived from Mexihco, the name of the ancient Aztec capital, given by the Spanish colonists. At the end of the 16th century and early 17th century the name Mexico was also used on maps to identify large parts of present day United States. The Latin name Nova Hispania (New Spain) was used for a smaller region centred around the present-day capital Mexico City. On the world map of Ribero (1527) the eastern coastline of present-day Mexico is depicted remarkably accurate. On the atlas maps made by the Dieppe school (1547) the western coastline is also shown. One of the first separately engraved maps of Mexico was made by Italian cartographers in 1561. Numerous copies of other European cartographers would follow.
*Nahuatl is a language spoken by the native inhabitants of Mexico
Iceland in 32 historical maps: 1528-2010
Iceland means "Land of Ice". The Old Norse name is Ísland. On early maps the Latin name Islandia is mostly used. Iceland is clearly depicted on the famous map of Scandinavia (1539) made by Olaus Magnus. The first separately printed map of the country appeared a few years later. The first full colour map was published by Ortelius in 1590. In the course of history numerous native cartographers turned up and produced a string of great maps of the country. E.g. Gudbrandur Thorlaksson (c.1590), Thordur Thorlaksson (1668), Eiriksson (1780), Gunnlaugsson (1849) and Thoroddsen (1900).
Ireland in 45 historical maps: 1150-2010
The name Ireland is derived from the Celtic word Eire, meaning "the fertile place". On ancient (world) maps the Latin name Hibernia or Ibernia (later Irlandia) was used, which refers to the wintry or cold climate of this remote place. Ireland was already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. Being part of the British Isles, Ireland is also depicted on the Mappa Mundi in medieval times. The coastline was drawn in more detail on 15th century Portolan charts (nautical maps). The first (printed) separate maps of Ireland appeared in the 16th century.
Switzerland in 35 historical maps: 1513-2010
The name Switzerland (Schweiz, Suisse) means Land of the Switzers (Swiss people). It refers to Schwyz, one of the founding cantons of the country. Its origin is uncertain: it may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon term swiþ- (meaning "strong") or from the Germanic word swint- or Celtic word sveit- ("clearing"). The present name came into use on maps during the 17th century. On earlier maps the Latin name Helvetia was used. This name refers to the Celtic tribes which lived in the area, prior to the people who immigrated from Germany. The first separately printed maps of Helvetia appeared in the early 16th century.
Poland in 35 historical maps: 1375-2010
The name Poland means “Land of Polans”. It refers to an ancient tribe occupying the territory. Most likely it is derived from the Polish word pole, which means “(open) field”. When the Polans formed a united Poland (Polska) in the 10th century, this name also came into use for the whole Polish country. On Cresques famous map of Europe (Catalan atlas, 1375) the Latin name Polonia is used. During the next centuries this Latin name was mostly used by established cartographers such as Munster, Ortelius, Mercator and Blaeu. Munster’s map (ca. 1540) was one of the first separately printed maps of the country. The map was based on earlier work of Bernard Wapowski (ca. 1526), being the ‘father of Polish cartography’.