Why North?

The Renaissance Mathematicus

Recently on Twitter, Vintage Maps posted a fifteenth century map of England, Scotland, andWales that was somewhat unusual in that South was at the top, so Scotland was at the bottom.

Numerous people found it bizarre or irritating and it was obvious that many people are somehow convinced that North must be at the top of a map. I can understand why, but there is no law, scientific necessity, or any compelling reason whatsoever as to why maps should be so orientated that North is at the top and in fact at other times and in other cultures maps did in fact have other orientations. To quote Jerry Brotton on the topic:

Ortelius describes the position from which a viewer looks at a world map, which is closely related to orientation – the location from which we take our bearings. Strictly speaking, orientation usually refers torelativeposition or direction…

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