Primary Source

The Mercator Projection

  • The Mercator Projection Map of the World

Annotation

Although the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator's rendering of the earth has been criticized for the way it distorts reality, it was revolutionary in the way it organized space and distance. By imposing a sense of order on the illustrated world by plotting it on an east-west and north-south grid, and having that grid apply everywhere, Mercator made it possible to chart more accurate headings along straight lines. However, as a Eurocentric side effect, his map drastically inflated the size of objects as one moves farther away from the equator, making landmasses such as Europe, North America, and Antarctica seem much larger than they actually are. Greenland, for example, is 16 times larger on Mercator's projection than it is in reality.

The Mercator Projection Map, ca. 16th century.

How to Cite This Source
The Mercator Projection in World History Commons,