Marian Coman, From Map to Text. The Prose Cartography of an Eighteenth-Century Adventurer

Marian Coman - “Nicolae Iorga” Institute of History/University of Bucharest
TOME LX 2022
pp. 77-95
Online publication date: 
Enlightenment; Adventurer; Cartography; Wallachia; Habsburgs

The present study addresses the complex and ambiguous relationship between Enlightenment adventurers and cartography. In order to authenticate their travel experiences and to fabricate a geographical expertise, the adventurers pointed out the flaws of known maps and, simultaneously, pretended to have possession of secret, better, ones. They especially exploited the gaps in the cartographic knowledge of the regions situated at the very margins of Europe, such as the Ottoman Empire. Such was the case with the Transylvanian-Suisse charlatan Ridolfo Damiano de Brűnnetz, the main character of this article. In 1716, taking advantage of the Habsburgs’ interest for Wallachia, this adventurer wrote a memorandum in an attempt to impress the potential employer with his geographical knowledge of the realm. However, Ridolfo Damiano de Brűnnetz’s alleged expertise was an unconvincing pretence, as his description of Wallachia reveals a rather patchy and superficial knowledge. Nonetheless, at the core of his memorandum lies a detailed and systematic geographical description of Wallachia, extremely rich in place-names (no fewer than 503). The main contention of this article is that the memorandum is a pseudo-gazetteer of the 1700 map of Wallachia printed at Padua. Ridolfo Damiano de Brűnnetz’s prose cartography was, to a large extent, a veiled reading of this map.

Full text: