"Europa regina" ("Queen Europe") is seen in the 1588 edition of Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia, based on the original 1530s woodcut by Johannes Putsch.

This European map inspired a playful cartography craze 500 years ago

Johannes Putsch’s 1533 map personified the continent as a queen and inspired a wave of mapmaking that depicted places as people, animals, and even plants.

"Europa regina" ("Queen Europe") is seen in the 1588 edition of Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia, based on the original 1530s woodcut by Johannes Putsch.
Alamy/ACI

In the late 1400s mapmaking in Europe was flourishing. Many maps were practical, produced for navigating expanding trade routes, but a few notable creations contained more than just geography. These reflected cultural, social, and political concerns of the time. One of the most outstanding was produced in the 1530s by the Austrian scholar and courtier Johannes Putsch, whose most famous work personified Europe as a crowned and gowned queen holding an orb and scepter.

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Putsch’s original map, a somewhat crude woodcut, became known by a variety of titles, including “Europa regina” (“Queen Europe”). The progression from the queen’s head to foot moves from west to east, Putsch labeling each region with a Latin name: Hispania, the Iberian Peninsula in the west, is the figure’s head, and eastern regions of Bulgaria and Muscovia form her feet. The arm on the left is Italy and Sicily is represented by an orb in its hand. The arm on the right is Denmark. 

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