Treasures from the Archives

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Abraham Ortelius, Septentrionalivm regionvm descrip., c. 1609-1612, MSM1– 0125

The Museum’s archives are full of wonderful and seldom seen objects that span over 500 years of maritime history. As the archivist, I derive infinite pleasure from discovering such items and making them accessible to the public.  Some of my favorite discoveries have been in the collection of maps and atlases, including the map illustrated above.

This map of Northwest Europe was originally printed in the 1570 edition of Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum orbis terrarium (Theatre of the World), which is widely considered as the first modern atlas.  Between 1570 and 1612, thirty-one editions of the Theatrum orbis terrarium were printed.  The Library owns a 1592 edition of the atlas, in addition to a number of separate maps by Ortelius that once graced the many editions of Theatrum orbis terrarium.   Read more

Go Figure! (-Mermaid Follow Up)

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Second Mermaid Figurehead
Second Mermaid Figurehead

This post will be devoted to the second mermaid in our collection! This figurehead is a gilt mermaid with a greenish bronze tail and long flowing brown hair. I particularly like this mermaid because she was carved into the into the trail-boards of the the bow, something fairly abnormal for most other figureheads.  As mentioned last post, the second half of the “Go Figure!” series will look at the darker side of mermaids, even though this mermaid does not appear to be scary or mean. I chose this mermaid to do this side of the creatures because the fin-like detail towards the end of her tail, give off a less human side than the other one did and show a more ‘evil’ aspect of mermaids.

The darker side of mermaids is the side that I have heard more tales about, and personally find it to be more interesting. I like that these women are seen as objects of beauty, but they have a dark twist. The most common of mermaid folklore says that these sea nymphs sing entrancing songs and use their beauty to lure sailors out to sea.   Read more

Go Figure!

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"A Mermaid" by John William Waterhouse, 1901.
“A Mermaid” by John William Waterhouse, 1901.

For this post in “Go Figure!” I wanted to look at the two mermaids we have in our collection. For centuries myth and legends of mermaids have been told around the world, so I want to take this chance to share some stories and let you all know about the two ladies we have here in our collection.

The myth and folklore of mermaids have been around since 1000 B.C.E. While their whereabouts and intentions have differed through the years, this week I want to focus on the kinder and more gentle side of mermaids, since I think this particular figurehead has a sweet composure. For the next post, I will discus our other figurehead, and while she does not look the least bit frightening, I still think she is up to something.   Read more