Professor Karen-edis Barzman presented a paper on Friday, November 1, 2019, as part of the Seminar on European Art at the Newberry Library in Chicago, where she holds a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for the academic year 2019-20.
The First Italian Guide to Mapping the State: Book IV in Cosimo Bartoli’s Del modo di misurare(1564)
Cosimo Bartoli’s Del modo di misurare(first edition, 1564) is known as a practical guide for measuring lines, planes, and solids, applied to things like the height of a tower, depth of a well, or volume of a barrel, which belong to what Bartoli terms “private interests.” Largely overlooked is Book IV, which Bartoli devotes to the mensuration of “public” things – fortresses, cities and, primarily, provinces. This section of the treatise, Barzman argues, comprised the first practical guide in Italian on mapping the state. The text entered print in Venice, where systematic mapping first arrived in a government archive. This watershed in the history of cartography occurred in 1460 and turned on assumptions Venetian administrators shared about the efficacy of pictures in storing and delivering geospatial data. Barzman’s aim is to examine the treatise in relation to cartographic practice undertaken for the Venetian republic in the management of its transregional state while also contributing to a genealogy of mapping as an information technology. Of particular interest, in addition to the operations of mapping itself, are the treatise’s woodcut illustrations and instructions on crafting the necessary sighting and measuring devices, as well as detailed guidelines for transferring the data to paper (e.g., plotting locations, scaling distances) These occur in passages that are fodder for the “expanded hermeneutics” of media studies, where attention is turned to the technical artifacts of new media rather than the contents of their products.