Mapping Uncertainty. Early Modern Global Cartography, 21st Century Discussions

KNIR Colloquium

  • Participation previous registration. Venue: KNIR
  • Beginn: 11.05.2022
  • Ende: 12.05.2022
  • Ort: KNIR - Via Omero, 12, Roma, Lazio, 00196, Italië.
Mapping Uncertainty. Early Modern Global Cartography, 21st Century Discussions
How to present uncertain knowledge? What did, and what do, mapmakers do when they are not sure? This posed a large problem in early modern times, the so-called ‘age of exploration’. Where and how to insert whole new continents, disputed discoveries, questionable coastlines, and islands beyond the imagination? What if the experiences of explorers contradicted age-old narratives? And how to present the yet unexplored parts of the world? The issue of visualizing uncertain information on a map, however, is not just an early modern issue. 21st-century scholars making maps, for example with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) face comparable problems. How to state ‘maybe’ or ‘I don’t know’ with only ones and zeros at your disposal? Where to draw the line? How to demonstrate (or hide) your uncertainty?

This workshop brings together experts on mapmaking. They confront each other with fascinating case studies from their own research, varying from world maps and globes to maps of Africa, Tibet, and the Dutch coast. Input from the fields of digital humanities and cartopology ascertains that we put centre stage the interaction between the people, the world, and the map.

The following scholars have confirmed their participation: Emily Mann (Courtauld Institute of Art / Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL), Isabel Casteels (KU Leuven), Diana Lange (Universität Hamburg), Weixuan Li (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands / Universiteit van Amsterdam), Luis Lobo Guerrero (University of Groningen), Edward Mac Gillavry (Webmapper), Djoeke van Netten (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Sjoerd Ramackers (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Tim Soriano (Newberry Library, Chicago), Rombert Stapel (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam), Chet Van Duzer (Lazarus Project, University of Rochester), Marlies Vermeulen (Dear Hunter / Institute of Cartopology).

Please register by sending an e-mail to (or follow THIS LINK)


Wednesday, May 11

Start with coffee

9.30 Welcome by the KNIR

9.40 Introduction day 1 – Djoeke van Netten, Not Yet Known

10.30 Coffee break

11.00 Panel I. Maps of Doubtful Data.

Luis Lobo-Guerrero, Uncertainties in the Anonymous Chart of the Pacific coast of Central America to Northern Chile, ca. 1525.

Diana Lange, Mapping (Un)Certain Knowledge. The Case of Tibet.

Gianamar Giovanetti-Singh, Contrasting Cartographies of the Cape Colony, ca 1650-1800.

13.00 Lunch

14.30 Panel II. Maps of Metropoles and Colonies.

Emily Mann, Mapping London and its Empire in an Age of Doubt, Disaster and Distrust.

Sjoerd Ramackers, Mapping a Colony. The Map of Berbice by Jan Daniël Knapp (1742).

Weixuan Li, (Deep) Mapping Uncertainties of Artists’ Locations in 17th-century Amsterdam.

16.30 Break

17.00 Public event: How to Know What to Put on the Map?


Tanja Michalsky, Diachronic Neighbourhoods. Challenges of Mapping the History of Naples.

Angelo Cattaneo, Handling and Shaping Uncertainty. Or Rather the Ontology of the Cosmographer, According to Fra Mauro.

18.30 Drinks

Thursday, May 12

Start with coffee

10.00 Introduction day 2 – Marlies Vermeulen, Moments of Cartopological Mapping

10.45 Short coffee break

11.00 Panel III. Maps and Writings.

Isabel Casteels, Navigating Uncertainty. Debates on Textual vs. Visual Maps and How to Draw them in the Dutch Republic, 1585-1600

Timothy Soriano, ‘A Brief Description of Afrike’. English Travel Writing and Renaissance Maps of West Africa

12.30 Lunch

14.00 Panel IV. Overcoming Uncertainty?

Chet Van Duzer, On Second Thought. Cartographic Corrections to the Shape of Africa on Medieval and Renaissance Maps.

Danielle Gravon, Erasure of Certainty. Mercator and Hondius at the Poles

Rombert Stapel, Messy Data, Messy Maps. Practical Observations – and Solutions – When Dealing with Uncertainty in Historical Data and Historical GIS.

16.00 Break

16.30 Concluding remarks / general discussion

17.30 Drinks

Scientific Organization: KNIR Colloquium by Dr. Djoeke van Netten (University of Amsterdam)

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