Imago Mundi Prize (2021)
Dr Houssaye Michienzi and Dr Vagnon are researchers at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), respectively at the research units Orient & Méditerranée and Laboratoire de Médiévistique Occidentale de Paris.
The successful article sheds new and fascinating light on the demand for and circulation of portolan charts at the turn of the fifteenth century. Drs Houssaye Michienzi and Vagnon’s original research interrogates a resource little known to map historians, the archive of the merchant Francesco Datini, in Prato, Italy. This remarkable collection of business records and correspondence provides valuable insights into the commission, edition, distribution, reception and use of charts and maps prepared by Majorcan cartographers for Mediterranean elites at the dawn of the modern map trade. The archive includes a number of orders for charts from Majorca, one of the major chart-making centres in the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. The letters give information on prices, the length of time it took to make a chart, and its destination. The archive also contains information on how the charts were packed and transported. From these sources, the authors conclude that the charts appear to have served not only to prepare for business trips, but also to embody the memory of these trips.
The article addresses a long-standing debate about the function and use of portolan charts—whether they are to be interpreted as scientific and navigational instruments or should be seen in broader cultural terms as reflections of the worldly interests of their wealthy and powerful patrons. Drs Houssaye Michienzi and Vagnon’s impressive research provides hitherto-elusive detailed and remarkably extensive evidence to show that the motives for possessing these charts were indeed complex. At the same time their work deepens our understanding of the networks within which the late-medieval map and chart trade operated, including the practices of chart making itself and its place in Mediterranean trade and politics more generally.
The Imago Mundi prize is offered every two years for the article judged to have made the most significant contribution to the discipline. This award covers volumes 70 (2018) and 71 (2019). Only full-length articles, which are automatically subjected to the (anonymous) external refereeing process before acceptance for publication, are eligible for the prize.
The prize is USD 1000.00 and qualifies the recipients for a J. B. Harley Travel Award to the forthcoming biennial International Conference on the History of Cartography, which will now be held in Bucharest in July 2022.
The Imago Mundi Prize is generously sponsored by the late Kenneth Nebenzahl and Mrs Jossy Nebenzahl.
Through the courtesy of our publishers, Routledge Journals (Taylor & Francis), this article is now available free of charge on their website: https://think.taylorandfrancis.com/journal-prize-ah-imago-mundi-prize-articles/.
Tony Campbell, Chairman, Imago Mundi Ltd