Navigating Space

The last of the four great inventions of ancient China, and of Bacon's list of epochmaking technological innovations, is the compass. Although the origins and diffusion of this instrument are not documented with great clarity, the magnetic compass is part of a larger cluster of direction-finding technologies the histories of which are better known: these include the astrolable and related instruments for celestial navigation, and the evolution of cartography. The following introductory materials have been conributed by Philipp Nothaft (All Souls College, Oxford; May-June 2019) and augmented by Howard Hotson (May 2021).

The compass
The astrolabe
The mariner's astrolabe
Mappae mundi: circular images of the world
Portolan charts
Ptolemaic geography
Mercator and after
Maps as cultural icons