Frames that Speak: An Introduction to Cartographic Cartouches

When and Where

Thursday, November 30, 2023 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Common Room
Victoria University
89 Charles Street West


Chet Van Duzer


Many historic maps are as much works of art as they are tools for getting from one place to another, and one of the most engaging artistic embellishments of these maps are the decorative frames called cartouches, which often surround the map’s title and other details. Cartouches were an important cartographic design element from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, and continue to be used on twenty-first century pictorial maps. Cartouches are not just visually appealing, but are also often the key to interpreting maps, because it is through the decoration of the cartouche that the cartographer speaks most directly to the viewer, revealing his or her interests or prejudices. Yet until now, there has been no detailed study of cartouches, no discussion of their earliest history or development, and no attempt to interpret the symbolism of a large number of them together. In this talk I will discuss the early history and development of cartouches, examine some of their sources, and explain the symbolism of several remarkable cartouches in detail.

Chet Van Duzer
Department of English, Board Member, Lazarus Project
University of Rochester

Chet Van Duzer is a historian of cartography and a board member of the Lazarus Project at the University of Rochester, which brings multispectral imaging (a technology for recovering information from damaged manuscripts) to cultural institutions around the world. He has published extensively on medieval and Renaissance maps; his recent books include Henricus Martellus’s World Map at Yale (c. 1491): Multispectral Imaging, Sources, and Influence, published by Springer in 2019, and Martin Waldseemüller’s Carta marina of 1516: Study and Transcription of the Long Legends, published by Springer in 2020. His book Frames that Speak: Cartouches on Early Modern Maps was just published by Brill. His current project is on self-portraits by cartographers that appear on maps.

Contact Information


Centre for Renaissance & Reformation Studies


89 Charles Street West