Frames that Speak: An Introduction to Cartographic Cartouches

  • Past Event
On Site

Chet Van Duzer discusses the early history and development of cartouches, and examines the sources and symbolism of these remarkable frames.

Event Information

Past Event
General Admission:  
Dixson Room, Ground Floor, Mitchell Building

1 Shakespeare Place
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9273 1414



Many old maps are as much works of art as 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 maps. Although they are one of the most visually engaging elements on maps, and despite the fact that it is often through the decoration of the cartouche that the cartographer speaks most directly to the viewer, revealing his or her interests or prejudices, there is no detailed study of them, 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, Chet Van Duzer will discuss the early history and development of cartouches, examine some of their sources, and explain their symbolism of several remarkable cartouches in detail.


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 in Open Access. His current project is on self-portraits by cartographers that appear on maps.