REVIEW: Here Begins the Dark Sea by Meredith F. Small


Fra Mauro’s map of the world, completed in 1459, stands as a testament to his revolutionary approach to cartography. Unlike many of his contemporaries who adhered strictly to the conventions set by Ptolemy, Fra Mauro dared to break away from the standard map of the Middle Ages. His decision to eschew much of Ptolemy’s influence made him a true cartographic innovator, pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible at the time.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Fra Mauro’s map is its remarkable geography, especially considering the era in which it was created. The attention to detail and accuracy displayed in the map’s depiction of the world is remarkable. Fra Mauro’s meticulous approach to mapping various regions, coastlines and landmarks showcases his dedication to creating a comprehensive representation of the known world. This level of detail not only makes the map visually impressive but also serves as a valuable historical reference for scholars and enthusiasts alike.

In Here Begins the Dark Sea Meredith F. Small explores the life and work of Venetian monk Fra Mauro looking at different aspects of his life and work. Starting with an overview of Fra Mauro’s background and the historical context in which he lived. Small describes the political and cultural landscape of Venice in the 15th century and explains how Fra Mauro’s map was influenced by the intellectual and artistic movements of the time.

Fra Mauro Detailed Map

Next Small focuses on Fra Mauro’s map itself. Small provides a detailed analysis of the map, explaining its various features and how it was created. She describes the materials and techniques Fra Mauro used to make the map and she explains how he incorporated information from a wide range of sources, including travelers’ accounts, astronomical observations and ancient texts.

The final part of the book explores the legacy of Fra Mauro’s map. Small explains how the map influenced the development of cartography in the centuries that followed and she describes how it helped to shape our understanding of the world. She also discusses the ways in which Fra Mauro’s map reflected the cultural and political values of its time and she explores the ways in which it challenged and expanded those values.

Here Begins the Dark Sea is an excellent book that provides a detailed and engaging account of one of history’s most important maps. Small’s meticulous research and engaging storytelling make this book accessible to both scholars and general readers alike.

Here Begins the Dark Sea is a captivating exploration of Fra Mauro’s creation of the most accurate world map of its time. The book takes readers on a journey through the history of mapmaking, revealing the innovative thinking and dedication that went into Fra Mauro’s masterpiece. It is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the history of mapmaking or medieval geography.

Dive into Here Begins the Dark Sea book and discover the engaging story of Fra Mauro’s map for yourself.

Medieval Archives gives Here Begins the Dark Sea 4.5 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Medieval Archives received a complimentary copy of Here Begins the Dark Sea for review purposes

To purchase a copy of Here Begins the Dark Sea visit the publisher’s website or find it on, or

About the Author

Meredith F. Small

is a renowned non-fiction author and Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Cornell University. With her diverse range of works spanning topics from primates to mental illness, Small brings a wealth of expertise to her writing. Her previous work on the history of Venice demonstrates her deep understanding of the subjects she explores.

To learn more about Meredith F. Small and her other works, visit her website: and follow her on @meredithfsmall

Fra Mauro Map and Earth



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