That’s How Leonardo da Vinci Made a Google Map in 1502

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci’s is famous for his art and inventions — but also his detailed maps, like this one of Imola, Italy. It was a feat of technological and symbolic imagination. And the map is completely accurate as well.

Drafting 1502’s equivalent to a “satellite” map was a huge undertaking, and Leonardo succeeded to pull it off. His early map helped Italian politician Cesare Borgia construct an idea of the town of Imola that was far more accurate than most up-to-date maps. Through the use of careful measures of angles and pacing out distances using a primitive odometer, Leonardo managed to produce a map that was very close to accurate.

This map — an “ichnographic” map — was a step forward in portraying how maps could work to represent geography. Though it’s marked with some inaccuracies, it’s precise for the time and pushed forward the art of map making. Leonardo’s Imola survives, even today, an exceptionally useful guide to the city.


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