Skip to main content


Posted by on Monday, November 27, 2023 in Articles, Volume 76, Volume 76, Number 6.

Edward K. Cheng | 76 Vand L. Rev. 1603

Prior to the eighteenth century, cartographers would often fill uncharted areas of maps with sea monsters, other artwork, or even rank speculation—a phenomenon labeled “horror vacui,” or fear of empty spaces. For example, in Paolo Forlani’s world map of 1565, a yet- to-be-discovered southern continent was depicted with anticipated mountain chains and animals. The possible explanations for horror vacui are varied, but one reason may have been a desire “to hide [the mapmakers’] ignorance.” Not until “maps began to be thought of as more purely scientific instruments . . . [did] cartographers . . . restrain their concern about spaces lacking decoration in the interest of presenting their work as modern and professional.”

PDF Download Link


Edward K. Cheng