EXPO : Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine.

20e Salon de la Carte Géographique Ancienne, du Globe & de l'Instrument Scientifique à Paris.


"Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine.".

Paris Map & Instruments Fair presents a small but interesting expo about maps showing diseases in the last 400 years.

Maps are not merely representations of spatial realities but a way of thinking about relationships between viral and bacterial communities, human hosts, and the environments in which diseases flourish.

This little expo of "Cartographies of Disease" traces the history of medical mapping from its growth in the 19th century during an era of trade and immigration to its renaissance in the 1990s during a new era of globalization and COVID19.

Plague: Bari, Naples, 1690 – 1692

It is appropriate that this expo begins with a map of plague, a disease so pervasive and traumatic, so fearfully deadly that “it has transcended itself to become emblematic of something more invasive and apocalyptic than mere infection” (Marriott 2003, 10). In what is now thought of as its first pandemic, plague appeared first in China and then took almost a century to make its way through Asia and the Middle East to wreak havoc in the Mediterranean.

The second pandemic occurred in the Middle Ages and may have appreciably hastened their conclusion. Again it was neither uniquely Asian nor European but pandemic, a global progression. The population of China was almost halved, dropping from

123 million people in 1200 to 65 million in 1239 (Marriott 2003, 10).

In Europe the “Black Death,” also called the “Oriental Plague” by some nineteenth-century medical researchers, was no less devastating.

“Within a couple of years, plague killed around a quarter of Europe’s population — and far more in some towns; the largest number of fatalities caused by a single epidemic disaster in the history of Europe. Thousands of villages were abandoned, and by 1427 Florence’s population had plummeted by 60 percent from over 100,000 to about 38,000” (Porter, R. 1998, 123).

Plague returned in the 1600s when it repeatedly attacked much of Europe in a series of epidemics.

Map of the plague in 1690 – 1692 in the province of Bari, 1694, by Filippo Arrieta. The map shows areas most affected and the boundaries of a military quarantine imposed to prevent its spread to neighboring towns and other provinces. Source: Arrieta (1694).

Referencing maps older than John Snow's famous cholera maps of London in the mid-19th century, this expo pulls from the plague maps of the 1600s, and Boris Artzybasheff gruesome overview of some of the world’s deadliest tropical diseases of 1944.

World Map of the Major Tropical Diseases. (Boris Artzybasheff, London, 1944)

This graphic world map uses hideous imagery and vivid color to highlight the prevalence of fifteen of the world’s most common tropical diseases. The illustrations tend towards using the most visually repellant aspects of each disease – rodent transmitters, physical ailments and numerous creepy crawlers.

The map is packed with these images, and coupled with the alarming size of the red area under the threat of malarial infection, provides an urgent appeal to the audience on the seriousness of the global situation.

L'exposition présentera donc une sélection des principaux instruments anciens qui permirent aux explorateurs d'accomplir leur voyage et aux cartographes de pouvoir dresser, avec plus ou moins de précision cartes et globes.

Samples of old maps and instruments.