Letter From The Editor

PrintPrintEmailEmail

One of the most difficult problems is the provenance of the map before Mr. Witten acquired it from an owner whom he will not identify except to say that he lived in Europe, had an extensive library, and believed that the volume containing the map had been in it tor at least two generations. The rare-book trade has its secrets, and it is not unusual for European collectors, many of whom like to avoid heavy taxation and embarrassing visits by assessors, to insist on anonymity. That such anonymity clothes such a cartographically important matter—true or false—will, of course, irritate historians. Whatever turns up, one can be dismally sure that most news commentators will get it wrong and assume that because the map is false the Norse discoveries recorded with their sailing directions in the sagas are false as well. They are indeed ancient accounts, passed on like Homer’s Iliad by word of mouth for a long time before they were written down. There is, however, written historical evidence that the Vinland story was known in northern Europe long before the fifteenth century, and there are archaeological evidences like those found at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland by Helge Ingstad. Will Leif’s settlement be discovered? We can only say that Troy was discovered by Schliemann to no small extent on the evidence of Homer.