Loving topography: what the maps of the heart of a woman and a man of the 19th century reveal

Maps of the hearts of a man and a woman


Humans have always left traces of our beliefs, feelings, aspirations and worldviews embodied in objects.

Not only in art, music, architecture and literature they reflect our inner world, but also technological, scientific and everyday artifacts.

Even maps, those two-dimensional graphic representations generally thought of as useful tools that serve as guides, give us away.

The ancient maps of the stars are testimony to an infinite curiosity; Those who for a long time showed the limits of the known world, marking them with the phrase “here are dragons”, expressed terrors, and the changes of borders over the centuries, manifest ambitions, dreams, victories and disappointments …

And what about sentimental cartography!

Allegorical maps have been around for centuries, and the genre reached its maturity during the late Renaissance.

Using the visual vocabulary of classical maps to interpret facets of the human psyche, cartographers began to map more ambiguous land maps, representing ideas as places and the machinations of the mind and heart as journeys.

The phenomenon had its peak in the 18th and 19th centuries, with wonderful planispheres of the ups and downs of love, courtship and marriage.

One of the most splendid examples is the Tendre card o Map of tenderness, by the writer Madeleine de Scudéry, drawn a little earlier, in 1654, and shows the peaks and valleys of amorous pursuit, from the River of Predisposition to the Lake of Indifference, offering multiple routes to tenderness.

The Map of Tenderness.


The Map of Tenderness.

Among the first “marriage maps” is that of Thomas Sayer, from 1748, entitled “A map or chart of the path of love and the port of marriage.”

North of The Path of Love, and of the Desire, Money and Virtue islands, is the Land of Villains, and north of the Land of Desire, is the Shrine of the Cuckold, off the coast where the double danger is found. of the Rocks of Jealousy and the Whirlpool of Adultery.


“A map or graphic of the path of love and the port of marriage.”

Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf, for his part, with his The realm of love o The Empire of Love (1777), takes you through the lands of youth, rest, lust, obsession, mourning and happy love, as well as the country of singles.

The realm of love

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The realm of love.

But there is a map from the 19th century that stands out among them for representing the landscape of love in the way with which that feeling is associated.

Maybe that’s why it was – and still is – so popular.

Her heart

Map of a woman's heart


It bears the title of “A map of the open country of the heart of a woman”, clarifies that exhibits “its internal communications and the facilities and dangers for travelers” and is signed by “a lady”.

Although it is undated, since its lithographer was DW Kellogg & Co. in Hartford, Connecticut, it is known to have been created between 1833-1842.

At that time, the media in the United States promoted the “cult of true femininity,” and that firm made much of its income promoting these values.

In that idealized version, “true women” possessed four cardinal virtues: piety, purity, domesticity, and submission.. The idea revolved around the woman being the center of the family; it was considered “the light of the home.”

Love, as the map showed, was an “open country” with many options, but only one good one.

Several canals, rivers, highways, and a railroad connect the Country of Eligibility with the City and the Love District, but make it clear that flirtation, caprice, and selfishness lead to the Land of Oblivion.

There are dangerous regions such as Sentimentality – with the Plain of Susceptibility, its rivers of Novel Reading, Reflections and Thoughtful – and that of Egoism – with its Mountains of Ego and the river of Indulgence.

These contrast with the region of Sentiment, which is dominated by platonic affection, friendship, hope, enthusiasm, good sense and prudence. It houses the Canal de la Paciencia and the Rio de la Esteem, and, more importantly, the District of Love.

Thus the map describes the woman as a sentimental, selfish and superficial being driven by vanity, yet puts love at the center of her heart.

His lesser known twin

And what was a man’s heart like?

Much less open, definitely. In fact, the name of the map is “The country fortified with the heart of man”.

The map of the heart of man


However, based on the map, its landscape seems easier to navigate.

It has large territories: Land of Economy, Land of Love of Can, Land of Love to Money (the oldest) and Land of Love to the Ease.

Some are smaller, such as the Citadel of Self-Love – practically impenetrable – and the Land of Love to ComerJust as the areas of Silence and Resolution are separated from the outside world by a Wall of dread of a woman’s tongue.

It is almost completely surrounded by a wall of terror of marriage, the only breach of which is in front of the Land of Romance.

It is a curious territory because it is bathed by rivers of daytime dreams -which was probably not good-; of reading novels – an activity not recommended for women – and a fantasy forest.

That was the heart that the “real woman” of the early 19th century in America had to conquer … of course only after mastering all that evil they had in theirs.

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