Northern Eurasia in Medieval Cartography

Ultimo aggiornamento: 11 maggio 2021

Chekin L.S.

Northern Eurasia in Medieval Cartography

Inventory, Text, Translation, and Commentary

Brepols Turnhout, Belgium 2006


Leonid S. Chekin masterfully guides scholars through various medieval maps in Northern Eurasia in Medieval Cartography: Inventory, Texts, Translation, and Commentary, published in 2006. Throughout the book, Chekin highlights the significance of one hundred and ninety-eight western European and Byzantine maps that date from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries providing greatly detailed accounts for each. Naturally, there are a great number of images to illustrate the maps referenced by Chekin as there are several different medieval maps grouped together by similarities. As Chekin initially addresses, medieval maps highlight a greater cultural and religious significance, not simply location or geographical information. While covering northern landscapes, there is a specific focus on Scandinavia, Russia, eastern Europe, and countries east of the Caspian Sea, which would have been referred to as Scythia and islands in the northern ocean in the medieval world. Clearly, the book demonstrates a great deal of research and care done to produce this book, especially with such an impressive bibliography. Sources range across the continents to provide a great picture of how this region and information about the north and northeast was known at the time. Cartography has been used to study medieval Eurasia before, but a well-known scholar in this field was Michael C. Andrews, as Chekin discusses, who classified the diverse groups of maps into two main types; oecumenical and hemispherical maps. Other forms of classification in the past are referred to as well to provide context for the difficulty of grouping these maps. Given the complexity of categorization, Chekin organizes his book into chapters grouped based on the similarities of the various maps based on historical context, illustrations, the geographic layout, and so on. Overall, there is a great significance from Chekin’s work as his research is adroitly displayed throughout the chapters categorized chapters and most importantly the numerous medieval maps perceiving northern Eurasia.

Leonid Chekin is not new to the study of medieval Eurasia, one of his previous works centered on eleventh to thirteenth century Russia and has written various papers relating to the medieval world, as well as the northern regions of Eurasia. He has studied at Moscow State University and received his Ph.D. in history from the Academy of Sciences. Previously, he has worked at other universities including the Institute of History of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, University of Pennsylvania, Colgate University, and involved with Cornell University. Lastly, he was also listed as a noteworthy historian by Marquis Who’s Who.

This book is a great aid to medieval Eurasian and cartography scholars as Chekin eloquently categorizes and thoroughly describes the classification of these maps as well as their significance in portraying northern Eurasia from different perspectives. The intensive research done for this book is of great impact, not only illustrating the historiography of northern Eurasia, but how differently it is portrayed by other regions through the different types of cartography. The new elements of discussion include the historiographical use of cartography in a pragmatic manner and the grouping of medieval maps, which provide a new perspective to the study through cartography. Especially when considering the vast number of medieval documents of maps, a new guide is essentially made providing scholars with a concise vast pool of information methodically organized.

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