In 1540, in the wake of the tumult brought on by the Protestant Reformation, Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. The Society’s goal was to revitalize the faith of Catholics and to evangelize to non-Catholics through charity, education, and missionary work. By the end of the century, Jesuit missionaries were sent all over the world, including to South America. In addition to performing missionary and humanitarian work, Jesuits also served as cartographers and explorers under the auspices of the Spanish, Portuguese, and French Crowns as they went into remote areas to find and evangelize to native populations.
In Encounters in the New World, Mirela Altic analyzes more than one hundred fifty of their maps, most of which have never previously been published. She traces the Jesuit contribution to mapping and mapmaking from their arrival in the New World into the post-suppression period, placing it in the context of their worldwide undertakings in the fields of science and art. Altic’s analysis also shows the incorporation of indigenous knowledge into the Jesuit maps, effectively making them an expression of cross-cultural communication—even as they were tools of colonial expansion. This ambiguity, she reveals, reflects the complex relationship between missions, knowledge, and empire. Far more than just a physical survey of unknown space, Jesuit mapping of the New World was in fact the most important link to enable an exchange of ideas and cultural concepts between the Old World and the New.
"Encounters in the New World will be the foundational document of a new and potentially fruitful area of study. This history of Jesuit mapping for once gives us a complete understanding of the process of mapmaking within a worldwide corporation, and this is very unusual. Altic's technical examination of the actual process of mapping seems virtually flawless, relying on a massive knowledge of work in many different languages. This is a masterly conspectus of a theme that has not hitherto been considered as a whole." -- David Buisseret, Senior Research Fellow, Newberry Library "This book is the most complete study ever produced about Jesuit cartography in the Americas and certainly will be an important reference on the subject. Altic has made extensive, astonishing research in several archives in different countries to achieve an impressive number of more than 150 maps. Very well written and clear, Encounters in the New World will find a large audience of specialists, nonspecialists, and students interested in the history of cartography, the history of science, Jesuits, and colonial America." -- Junia Ferreira Furtado, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil