DFG Research Training Group Globalization and Literature. Representations, Transformations,  Interventions

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Why the world is simple

The emblem of the DFG Research Training Group is taken from Martin Behaim’s “Erdapfel,” the world’s oldest still existing globe, dating back to approximately 1490. The globe is kept in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg. The fragment chosen for the emblem shows the region onto which Behaim could not yet map the soon-to-be discovered continent.

Hence, instead of landmarks there is a text. On the one hand, the text consists of speculations about unmapped islands in the Indian Ocean based on the travel writings of Marco Polo and John Mandeville. On the other, the text explains the principle of the globe as an application of Ptolemaic geography. Behaim grounds his globe-alization in the most literal sense (i.e. the making of his globe), by saying that “no one should doubt that the world is simple so that anyone can go or sail whichever place they like” (“doch niemand zweifeln soll, wiewohl die welt simpel ist das man just überal mit schiffen fahren oder gehen mag wie hie steht”).

The statement that “the world is simple” might be surprising; nonetheless, it is true insofar as (and this is what is meant here) the world is one, that is: one sphere, all points of which are equidistant from its center.