Some of the earliest known mapping in the West was done by Roman surveyors. An inside look into their practices and techniques is the subject of a lecture this month at the Library of Congress.
John W. Hessler, a senior reference librarian in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, will present "In the Footsteps of Caesar: Searching for the Physical and Epigraphical Remains of Roman Centuriation and Surveying in Tunisia" at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 25
. The lecture will be held in the Geography and Map Reading Room, in the basement level of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the Geography and Map Division, the event is free and open to the public; tickets and reservations are not required. The lecture is part of the division's "Map Talk" series.
In his lecture, Hessler will provide a brief description of the cartography and surveying techniques employed by the Romans in North Africa; a description of a sixth-century manuscript known as "Corpus Agrimensorum," which spells out how the Romans surveyed their territories; and a travel log describing his search for the physical remains of Roman surveying practices in Tunisia and Southern France.
The "Corpus Agrimensorum," according to Hessler, contains texts that are written by different authors on widely varying dates. They discuss a variety of subjects, from geometrics to practical illustrations of actual Roman surveying techniques. The collection, parts of which are often included in early editions of "Euclid's Geometry," survives in many early manuscripts and went through a number of printed editions in the 16th and 17th centuries. The texts detail how the Romans surveyed their colonies and how land was allocated according to Roman law.
The Library of Congress has the largest and most comprehensive collection of maps and atlases in the world, some 4.8 million cartographic items that date from the 14th century to the present time. The Library's map collections contain coverage for every country and subject, and include the works of all the famous map makers throughout history -- Ptolemy, Waldseemüller, Mercator, Ortelius and Blaeu. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/