The “Entschleierung der Erde” by Walter Behrmann

In 1948, the small book “Entschleierung der Erde” was published by the Frankfurter Geographische Gesellschaft. The book was written by Prof. Dr. Walter Behrmann (1882 – 1955), a German geographer and professor who is known for the development of the Behrmann projection. In his book Behrmann describes how the earth has been “unveiled” over the centuries. In addition, he presents an approximate estimate of the percentage of the globe already known in each century. The estimates are supported by 12 maps.


At this point, an important note: There has never been anything like the “unveiling of the earth”. Behrmann draws a strongly Eurocentric picture of the discoveries. So if America is “discovered”, then only from the point of view of Europeans, but of course not from the point of view of mankind. After all, people have already inhabited the continent and they cannot discover themselves. In addition, Asian or African discoverers are not considered in the book.

Nevertheless his estimates (From the point of view of the Europeans) are altogether very precise and his maps very accurate.

Original Behrmann – 15 Century (Source: “Entschleierung der Erde” by Walter Behrmann)

At this point an example: The map above was designed by Behrmann. The brightly marked areas show the surface of the earth at the end of the 15th century as seen by Europeans. One can clearly see that his assessments are based on the most important expeditions of the century. Christoph  Columbus (ca. 1451-1506) sailed west in 1492 on behalf of the Spanish crown and landed in the Caribbean. Five years later (1497) the Portuguese Vasco Da Gama (ca. 1469-1524) was the first European to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and reached India. In the east, Behrmann’s map shows roughly the course of the Silk Road between today’s Middle East and China.

Transferred to the Mercarto projection
(Note: This scheme lacks the unknown areas in the middle of the map).

I have transferred the map into the Mercartor projection to make it comparable to today’s most common map projection. Additionally I added the sea voyages of Columbus and Vasco Da Gama. This shows how accurate Behrmann’s estimates were.

Final map from the book Mapping the World

For the project I have edited the map and deliberately blurred the transition between known and unknown areas to emphasize that it is only an estimate. Additionally I described the journeys in short information blocks.