Map of the moon, 1679

How do mapmakers hide their secret thoughts in their maps?

This is the first scientific map of the moon, and was produced in Paris by the famous astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. Working in the 1670s, Cassini used a telescope to make careful observations of the moon’s pock-marked surface. Thanks to the map, 17th century European scientists had a greater understanding of the moon than they did of much of the earth’s surface.

If you look very carefully at the map, you will find a ‘Moon Maiden’ hiding behind one of the craters. It seems that either Cassini, or the map’s famous engraver Claude Mellan, included the detail, believing that this tiny part of the moon’s surface looked like a beautiful woman.

Moon maiden - detail of map of the moon

Taken from: Carte de la lune
Author / Creator: Cassini, Giovanni Domenico
Date: c. 1679, reissued 1787
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: Maps K.Top.1.88.