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  • Writer's pictureKarl Walker-Finch

Stepping off the edge of the map

I love this map. It's the stepping stone to a New World of knowledge and possibility.

The late 15th century saw Columbus attempt to circumnavigate the known world, heading west from Spain believing he’d find an easier passage to the East Indies than sailing around Africa. His exploration was founded on the arrogant misplaced knowledge that he and his 15th century Europeans contemporaries knew everything about the world.

By contrast, the Salviati World Map, published in 1525 (pictured above) which provided a radically new perspective on the world. It shows areas of the globe that have been extensively explored and are known, and then big blank spaces where the map stops. The map seems to be calling for somebody to explore these unknowns just as finding a gap in our own knowledge can drive us to find out what lies beyond.

A revolution never happens in a moment and this map symbolises a shift in mentality from one of arrogance, to one of curiosity and I think it’s no coincidence that it was published shortly before the beginning of the scientific revolution. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time when humans stopped thinking they knew everything, and started admitting that there were huge spaces in their knowledge. It was the dawn of a new era of discovery that seems to have been stifled since the time of Ancient Greece when a round world rather than a flat one became the accepted viewpoint and Socrates declared that “true knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing”.

It’s only when we acknowledge what we don’t know that we can begin to start expanding our understanding, whether it’s of 15th century explorers or of dental implants . The Salviati world map reminds me that my knowledge will never be complete, there will always be new places to explore, all I have to do, is in which direction I want to sail.

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