T and O map
T and O map or O-T or T-O map (orbis terrarum, orb or circle of the
lands; with the letter T inside an O), is a type of medieval world
map, sometimes also called a Beatine map or a
Beatus map because one
of the earliest known representations of this sort is attributed to
Beatus of Liébana, an 8th-century Spanish monk. The map appeared in
the prologue to his twelve books of commentaries on the Apocalypse.
1 History and description
3 See also
5 Further reading
History and description
The T-O map represents the physical world as first described by the
Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville in his
Etymologiae (chapter 14,
de terra et partibus):
Latin: Orbis a rotunditate circuli dictus, quia sicut rota est [...]
Undique enim Oceanus circumfluens eius in circulo ambit fines. Divisus
est autem trifarie: e quibus una pars Asia, altera Europa, tertia
English: The [inhabited] mass of solid land is called round after the
roundness of a circle, because it is like a wheel [...] Because of
Ocean flowing around it is contained in a circular limit,
and it is divided in three parts, one part being called Asia, the
second Europe, and the third Africa. 
Although Isidore taught in the
Etymologiae that the Earth was "round",
his meaning was ambiguous and some writers think he referred to a
disc-shaped Earth. However, other writings by Isidore make it clear
that he considered the Earth to be globular. Indeed, the theory of
a spherical earth had always been the prevailing assumption among the
learned since at least Aristotle, who had divided the spherical earth
into zones of climate, with a frigid clime at the poles, a deadly
torrid clime near the equator, and a mild and habitable temperate
clime between the two.
Ideal reconstruction of medieval world maps (from Meyers
Konversationslexikon, 1895) (
Asia shown on the right)
A "T-O" map made with modern cartography
T and O map
T and O map represents only the one half of the spherical
Earth. It was presumably considered a convenient projection of
known-inhabited parts, the northern temperate half of the globe. It
was then believed that no one could cross the torrid equatorial clime
and reach the unknown lands on the other half of the globe. These
imagined lands were called antipodes.
The T is the Mediterranean, the Nile, and the Don (formerly called the
Tanais) dividing the three continents, Asia,
Europe and Africa, and
the O is the encircling ocean.
Jerusalem was generally represented in
the center of the map.
Asia was typically the size of the other two
continents combined. Because the sun rose in the east, Paradise (the
Garden of Eden) was generally depicted as being in Asia, and
situated at the top portion of the map.
This qualitative and conceptual type of medieval cartography could
yield extremely detailed maps in addition to simple representations.
The earliest maps had only a few cities and the most important bodies
of water noted. The four sacred rivers of the
Holy Land were always
present. More useful tools for the traveler were the itinerarium,
which listed in order the names of towns between two points, and the
periplus that did the same for harbors and landmarks along a seacoast.
Later maps of this same conceptual format featured many rivers and
cities of Eastern as well as Western Europe, and other features
encountered during the Crusades. Decorative illustrations were also
added in addition to the new geographic features. The most important
cities would be represented by distinct fortifications and towers in
addition to their names, and the empty spaces would be filled with
The world map from the Saint-Sever Beatus, dating to ca. AD 1050.
From a 12th c. copy of Etymologiae.
Map centred on
Delos according to Greek tradition, from a French
manuscript of Henry of Huntingdon, late 13th century
Mappa Mundi in La Fleur des Histoires. 1459-1463.
Bünting Clover Leaf Map. A 1581 woodcut, Magdeburg.
Jerusalem is in
the center, surrounded by Europe,
Asia and Africa.
Unknown, Mer Des Hystoires World Map, 1491. This map follows the model
of the T-O map, centered on
Jerusalem with East (the biblical location
of Paradise) at the top.
On the left part of the sheet is a zonal or climatic map,
communicating geographical information. On the right is a "T-O" map.By
Jacobus Philippus Bergomensis.
Babylonian Map of the World
Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville (c. 630). "14". Etymologiae. [permanent dead
^ Stevens, Wesley M. (1980). "The Figure of the Earth in Isidore's 'De
natura rerum'". Isis. 71 (2): 268–277. doi:10.1086/352464.
^ a b Michael Livingston, Modern
Medieval Map Myths: The Flat World,
Ancient Sea-Kings, and Dragons Archived 2006-02-09 at the Wayback
^ Hiatt, Alfred (2002). "Blank Spaces on the Earth". The Yale Journal
of Criticism. 15 (2): 223–250. doi:10.1353/yale.2002.0019.
Crosby, Alfred W. (1996). The Measure of Reality: Quantification in
Western Europe, 1250-1600. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lester, Toby (2009). The fourth part of the world: the race to the
ends of the Earth, and the epic story of the map that gave America its
name. New York, NY: Free Press. ISBN 9781416535317.
Carlo Zaccagnini, ‘Maps of the World’, in Giovanni B. Lanfranchi
et al., Leggo! Studies Presented to Frederick Mario Fales on the
occasion of his 65th birthday, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2012,
pp. 865–874. ISBN 9783447066594
Mode, PJ. "The History and Academic Literature of Persuasive
Cartography". Persuasive Cartography, The PJ Mode Collection. Cornell
University Library. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
Brigitte Englisch, Ordo orbis terrae. Die Weltsicht in den Mappae
mundi des frühen und hohen Mittelalters. Berlin 2002,