I'm looking at all sorts of old maps for my Renaissance class, and having lots of fun with it. The maps themselves are gorgeous, getting more and more intricate and ornate as they go, but the attached monographs are also really interesting. It's a little astonishing to try to imagine living in the world, on our planet, and just *not knowing* what was on the other side of it...or even a thousand miles away. Exciting, yet frightening too -- but maybe it wasn't frightening to them, maybe they just took it for granted, maybe it wouldn't have even occurred to them that you could know everything, know where everything and everyone was. To be able to just pick up and go -- to sail according to one of the portolan charts, knowing only that someone may have been this way before...perhaps, if the records are good. You could be wandering into completely uncharted territory -- you could deliberately choose to go there.
"A ship is safe in a harbor, but that's not what a ship is for." -- Ralph N. Helverson
Looking at these maps makes me want to wander, want to just strap on a backpack and go somewhere no one's ever been, get lost in that wilderness. Maybe in a couple hundred years we'll have people setting out in little scout ships to explore the galaxy -- there's certainly plenty of unknownness out there. But I won't likely be around to see it -- born too early, and too late.
I found an interesting discussion of things to think about when digitizing maps. Some good points, and an interesting subject generally -- how well can we archive this material on-line? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages and limitations? Are any of the disadvantages insuperable? Hmmm....