EST. 2009

February 14, 2014

That Chartered Heart

SINCE THE ROMANTICIZATION OF VALENTINE'S DAY in the High Middle Ages, the occasion has been primarily a celebration of romantic love between couples, rather than the deeds of martyred saints. Modern times have further strengthened this notion, bringing to commercial popularity such traditions as the sending of cards and the giving of gifts. Roses, chocolates, plush toys and jewelry are quintessentially Valentine's but presents have now well extended to all sorts of sweet somethings and nothings, in varying levels of price, intimacy and creativity. Actress Rebecca Romjin once received 800 vines of cabernet and merlot grapes from husband Jerry O'Connell, while country singer Reba McEntire chose practicality in purchasing her husband a chainsaw.

When sky's the limit, what on earth does one give or say on Valentine's Day? For gifting the woman at least, a 17th-century lithograph charts the frivolous heart of the fairer sex. In it, Feather Hills and Satin Plains border a prominent Love of Dress zone, the Region of Sentimentality covers an area that is surprisingly small, and both Love of Display and Love of Admiration territories occupy the topmost terrains on the widest part of the map.

Claiming to have been created "by a lady", the map serves to guide travelers with "internal communications" while warning of the "dangers therein". I maintain doubts as to whether this honey from the 17th century was in fact lady or gentleman. Neither would portray the woman as so incredibly vapid and vile!

To win this woman's heart, it seems as if one's chances are as slim as the Bosphorus. But since no adventure is without its perils and wonders, maybe the map isn't so bad after all. Safe travels and Happy Valentine's Day!

A map of the open country of woman's heart exhibiting its internal communications, and the facilities and dangers to travellers therein. by D.W. Kellogg & Co. Image from The American Antiquarian Society,