Here are The Map Room’s top 10 bestselling map books in 2009, based on Amazon orders made through this website that were tracked by my Amazon Associates account. Of course this list is heavily influenced by the amount of attention paid to each book, but not as much as you might think: the third-place book was only mentioned in a single blog entry, and no book I reviewed made it into the top five. In large part, my readers determined the rankings on this list.
- Strange Maps by Frank Jacobs
The book based on the eponymous blog that is quite likely the most popular map blog out there. By far the best-selling book on this site, and no surprise either. (Previously: More on Two Map Books; The New York Times on Two Map Books; Strange Maps: Frank Jacobs Interviewed; Updates on Two New Books; Strange Maps, the Book, Coming Later This Month; Blogs into Books.)
- The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
Lots of buzz and a huge advance for this first novel by Larsen, about the eccentric life and adventures of a 12-year-old genius cartographer. I’ve got a copy and will probably get around to a review at some point. (Previously: Even More Book Reviews; More Book Reviews; Another Book Roundup; More on “T. S. Spivet”; The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet.)
- The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by Henry F. Walling
A surprise entry on this list; it has sold quite well since I posted a single entry on it a month ago. (Previously: 1858 Map of Cape Cod Republished as Book.)
- The Genealogy of Cities by Charles P. Graves, Jr.
An atlas of more than two millenia of city plans: more than 500 in the book, and a thousand on the accompanying CD. (Previously: Randy Plemel Interviews Charles Graves; The Genealogy of Cities.)
- You Are Here / Where Am I? by Colin Ellard
Published as You Are Here in the U.S. and Where Am I? in Canada, this book on how we navigate our surroundings by University of Waterloo psychology professor Colin Ellard sounds interesting. (Previously: Colin Ellard Interviews; Even More Book Reviews; Colin Ellard’s Book on the Psychology of Navigation.)
- Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden
Still selling copies two years after its publication. I reviewed it in March 2008. (Previously: Transit Maps of the World (Again); Transit Maps of the World.)
- Paris Underground by Mark Ovenden
Ovenden’s love letter to the Paris Metro has far too much crammed into it, but that’s what makes it great. I reviewed it in November. (Previously: Paris Underground.)
- The Map as Art by Katharine Harmon
Harmon’s sequel to You Are Here: Personal Cartographies of the Imagination, which I have and think highly of. (Previously: More on Two Map Books; Map Art on the Radio; The Map as Art; Even More Book Reviews.)
- The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester
Lester’s adroit and fascinating book puts the 1507 Waldseemüller map in its historical and cultural context. I reviewed it earlier this month. (Previously: The New York Times on Two Map Books; Updates on Two New Books; The Fourth Part of the World.)
- Map Addict by Mike Parker
A joyous book by a fellow map enthusiast. I bet it would sell more if Amazon.com had more copies in stock; it certainly deserves to. I reviewed it in October. (Previously: A Book Roundup; Map Addict.)
If I expanded this list to include things other than books, two items sold well enough that they would have been included: Nikon’s GP-1 GPS unit for its digital SLRs, which I reviewed last March, and The Shape of the World, a DVD box set of a PBS documentary series (see previous entry).
Previously: Map Books of 2009.
Rutgers University cartographer Mike Siegel (he prefers “mapmaker”) gets a profile in the Star-Ledger’s online “I Am NJ” series. Siegel creates maps for two dozen scholarly books each year, but he also produced the maps for a new atlas that came out earlier this year: Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape, edited by Maxine N. Lurie and Peter O. Wacker. Here’s a brief video of Siegel talking about that book:
- Buy Mapping New Jersey at Amazon.com
Another one of these stories: following their SUV’s navigation system, a couple got stuck in the snow on a remote forest road in eastern Oregon for three days (fortunately, they had warm clothes), until the atmospherics cleared up enough for their phone’s GPS to lead emergency responders to their location. Go figure. Via Gizmodo.
Here are The Map Room’s top ten entries for 2009, based on unique page views:
- Review: Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit (March 30, 2009)
- Italian Earthquake (April 6, 2009)
- Google Earth: Live Mars Imagery and More (March 18, 2009)
- “Dead Pixel in Google Earth” (March 29, 2009)
- Mapping the Taliban in Pakistan (April 26, 2009)
- Al Franken, Cartographer (July 7, 2009)
- Growth in Las Vegas (February 28, 2009)
- More Foreclosure Maps (March 5, 2009)
- iPhoto, Geotagging, GPS and the Mac: A Post-Macworld Roundup (January 28, 2009)
- Egypt Allows GPS (April 14, 2009)
Some caveats: obviously, entries from earlier in the year have an advantage over those from last week; also, these rankings are based on data from Google Analytics, which I didn’t start using until February. These data do not capture views from people who read the entries on the main page or through the RSS feed without clicking through to the individual entry page.
It’s still interesting to see which entries got more attention. The number-one entry — my review of Nikon’s GP-1 geotagger for its digital SLRs — got four times as many page views as entries seven through ten.
Older pages still got substantial page views: taking all pages into account, Egypt Allows GPS would have come in 47th, not 10th. The main index page was (obviously) the most frequently viewed; for some reason, my September 2007 entry, Custom Icons for Google Maps, was still the most popular individual entry. The Art category archive received more uniques than the Italian Earthquake entry, as did this now-very-dated entry on iPhone navigation apps from August 2008 and this entry on light pollution maps from February 2008. Old entries have staying power.
It’s been awfully cold in Europe this month, and this map shows just how much colder than normal it’s been, based on measurements taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite between December 11 and 18. The colours show how much colder or warmer the land surface temperatures were than the 2008-2008 average: blue is colder (up to 20 degrees Celsius colder!), red is warmer. Mostly, it’s been colder than usual — in Poland, parts of Russia and countries in between, a lot colder.
A Chicago Tribune article notes the appearance on Google Maps of obsolete Chicago neighbourhood, street and building names — names that haven’t been used for decades — and landmarks that have long since disappeared. Map designer Dennis McClendon, who was interviewed for this article and sent me this link, shared an explanation with me by e-mail:
Apparently Google and other online map services use the GNIS database without trying to determine if locality names are still commonly in use. Even zoomed out to fairly small scale, Google Maps shows “McCormickville” and “Grant Village” as Chicago neighborhoods. The first hasn’t been used since 1871, and the second is a seniors apartment building. There have been similar problems for years on MapQuest, and Flickr’s automatic tagging often applies curious 19th-century subdivision names to photos of Chicago.
Since the story, I’ve talked with Roger Payne and others at the BGN/GNIS and apparently they used contractors to go through various reference works to add all the local names they could find to GNIS. If a name was ever used for a place that still exists, GNIS will show it, with a lat-long coordinate.
Another one of those maps-with-timelines that have become de rigueur when mapping the current recession, this time from the Wall Street Journal, which maps bank failures in the U.S. since January 2008. Larger circles indicate asset value at the time of the bank’s failure (hence the ginormous WaMu-generated circle in the Pacific Northwest). Via geoparadigm.
Few copies exist of Matteo Ricci’s “Impossible Black Tulip” of 1602, the first map of the world in Chinese to show the Americas (no, stop right there), but the James Ford Bell Trust has acquired one for the University of Minnesota, paying a London map dealer $1 million. Before moving to the University, it will be digitally scanned and put on display next month at the Library of Congress. More from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Thanks to James Fellows; also via MapHist and Maps-L.
The Electoral Map reviews Mapping New York, a new book that looks at the cartographic history of New York City: “I expected a glossy table book, but what I got was a richly illustrated history of New York City with over 200 maps of its people, its landscape, its culture, its demographics, its neighborhoods, and of course its infrastructure.”
- Buy Mapping New York at Amazon.com
Three flybys by the MESSENGER probe have revealed much more of Mercury’s surface, and the MESSENGER team and the U.S. Geological Survey have taken the images from those passes (plus earlier Mariner 10 data) to produce a global mosaic map of Mercury that covers 97.7 percent of its surface. (“Map” in cases like this one seems to mean orthorectified spacecraft imagery on a map projection.) Press releases from the MESSENGER team and the USGS, as well as coverage from Universe Today, talk about the challenge of producing such a map from the flyby data, which was imaged from varying angles and altitudes, and in different lighting conditions.
(Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/U. S. Geological Survey/Arizona State University.)
Previously: Mapping the Solar System: Mercury and Titan.
A new beta version of Bing Maps was announced last week; it uses Silverlight, which requires an additional download, but, unlike ActiveX, at least it’s cross-platform. One notable new feature is street-level imagery, which they’re branding as Streetside.
Meanwhile, if Microsoft is invading Google’s turf with Streetside, Google has fired right back with their version of bird’s-eye oblique imagery. It’s very limited right now: San Jose and San Diego, California, and only for developers through the API. Despite that, James Fee figures this will remove the one advantage Microsoft’s maps had over the competition.
MapQuest has also added street-level imagery for major U.S. cities. Requires Flash. Mickey Mellen doesn’t sound impressed: “Like many of the ‘new’ features on MapQuest lately, it’s far behind what Google has already done, and it’s not nearly as good.” See also All Points Blog, James and Mapperz.
The Environmental Atlas of Europe was announced at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen today (via EuroSpaceAgency). The Atlas provides multimedia stories about climate change based on a Bing Maps interface (Silverlight required); as an artifact of cartography, there’s not much more here than an average map mashup. Press release.
New imagery from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has been added to Mars in Google Earth. “With these updates, nearly half of the martian surface is covered by imagery having a nominal resolution of 25 meters per pixel. As such, there are many exciting, newly visible surface features to see.”
Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet is a travelling public art exhibit about global warming that for some reason is in Copenhagen right now. The exhibit “will feature over 25 super-sized Cool Globes, each conveying a different message about what ordinary citizens can do to combat global warming. The exhibit will include five-foot diameter, seven-foot-tall globes created by world renowned artists as well as local Danish artists.” Here’s a gallery. Above: “Carpool” by Cheryl Steiger. Via Maps-L.
If you’re thinking about giving someone a map-related gift this season, I’ve put together a list of nine books about maps that have gotten a certain amount of attention over the past year. I’ve deliberately picked books whose appeal extends beyond the geospatial industry (i.e., no GIS manuals or tech books). I haven’t seen all of them, but I’ve reviewed three (and still have to finish reading the fourth); they seemed interesting when I blogged about them at the time. Think of this as a look back at 2009 in books (via income-generating Amazon affiliate links, natch). Any other suggestions?
The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name
by Toby Lester
Free Press, 2009. Hardcover, 480 pp. ISBN 978-1-4165-3531-7
We’ve heard a lot about Martin Waldseemüller’s map in recent years. Printed in 1507, it was the first map to give the name “America” to the New World. One thousand copies of the large, 12-section map were produced; only one copy is known to exist today — and that one was only rediscovered in 1901 by Father Joseph Fischer (who would later gain some posthumous notoriety as the prime suspect in the Vinland Map controversy). A century later, the Library of Congress bought the map for $10 million; it has been on display, in an argon-filled case, since 2007.
It was that record-breaking purchase by the Library of Congress that piqued Toby Lester’s interest in the subject; a few years later, the result is his first book, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name.
What’s initially surprising about The Fourth Part of the World is how little time it spends on Waldseemüller, his collaborator Matthias Ringmann (who coined the name “America” for the map Waldseemüller drew), and the map, globe gores and book (the Cosmographiæ Introductio) that they produced in 1507. Maybe a fifth of the book deals with the map and its creators. Lester has not produced a popular history of the famous map in isolation; instead, he’s produced an ambitious book that places Waldseemüller’s creation in its cultural context — and has managed to do so in a manner that is highly readable, entertaining and gripping.
“Before long I realized that the map offers a window on something far vaster, stranger, and more interesting than just the story of how America got its name,” Lester writes in the preface.
It provides a novel way of understanding how, over the course of several centuries, Europeans gradually shook off long-held ideas about the world, rapidly expanded their geographical and intellectual horizons, and eventually — in a collective enterprise that culminated in the making of the map — managed to arrive at a new understanding of the world as a whole.
This book tells the story of the Waldseemüller map in two distinct ways: as microhistory that focuses on the little-known and fascinating story of the making of the map itself, in the years leading up to 1507; and as a macrohistory that traces the convergence of ideas, discoveries, and social forces that together made the map possible — a series of overlapping voyages, some geographical and some intellectual, some famous and some forgotten, that made it possible to depict the world as we know it today. (x-xi)
So, after a prologue that recounts how the last surviving known copy of the map was rediscovered, we jump back to an English monastery circa 1255 — more than 250 years before the map’s publication. Lester starts us here, with T-O maps representing the known world, with Asia on top, Europe on the left, Africa on the right, and Jerusalem in the centre. (America was, therefore, the “fourth part of the world,” whence the title.) Europe had a long way to go from such representations of the world before they could arrive at a map like Martin Waldseemüller’s. It would require the reports from several journeys to Asia, the rediscovery of Ptolemy’s Geography, which provided latitude and longitude for a number of locations that could reconstitute a map of the classical world, and an increasing number of voyages, both westward and around Africa, that both revised and expanded the European understanding of the world. Marco Polo, Roger Bacon and Columbus all make their appearances, as does Amerigo Vespucci, whose letters, almost certainly fakes, ignited the European imagination and led Ringmann to propose his name for the New World.
Waldseemüller’s map, we learn, is a hybrid of all of these sources: the known world greatly resembles the maps reconstructed from Ptolemy, to which were added rather conjectural maps of Asia, the Portuguese voyages around Africa, and the discoveries in the New World. It was quickly superceded by newer, more accurate maps (which is precisely why it all but disappeared); interestingly, it was even superceded by Waldseemüller himself: the name “America” disappeared from his later maps. Even so, the map made enough of an impression that, Lester argued, it influenced Copernicus’s cosmological thinking.
What I found truly fascinating is how the European imagination managed to blend what was believed to be true about faraway lands — the myth of Prester John simply refused to disappear, to the confusion of the peoples encountered by Europeans who kept assuming they were he — with what was held to be true because it came from antiquity and with what was directly observed. Of this, Waldseemüller’s map was a prime example. It’s also a vivid look at how Europeans understood the world around them — and it wasn’t the same way we see it today.
For me, the reminder that maps have their context is also extremely useful when dealing with some of the map hoaxes and forgeries out there. Even though the physical map all but disappeared for centuries until that last copy was rediscovered, the map was known to have existed. It was referred to. It was discussed. (If nothing else, there was the Cosmographiæ introductio.) It did not, in other words, exist in a vacuum. Compare that with the Vinland Map or Liu Gang’s purported 1418 map, both of which exist wholly isolated from the rest of the accepted historical record, and you note the significance of that. (Not that that’s what Toby Lester had in mind with this book, but it’s what occurred to me when I read it.)
For its big-picture look at the Waldseemüller map within its cultural, religious and intellectual surroundings, this book is definitely worth reading.
Previously on Waldseemüller’s map: Waldseemüller Symposium at LOC in May; The Washington Post on Waldseemüller; Which Waldseemüller?; Waldseemüller Map Exhibit Opens Thursday; Upcoming Books on Waldseemüller; More About Waldseemüller; Waldseemüller Map Formally Transferred; Waldseemüller Map Stamp Issued; Encasing Waldseemüller’s Map; Waldseemüller’s Map Goes for £545,600; Auction of First Map of the New World.
- Buy The Fourth Part of the World at Amazon.com
Via webmapper, news that Dutch designer Jost Grootens has won the 2009 Rotterdam Design Prize for the design of four books: The Big KAN Atlas, the Limes Atlas, the Metropolitan World Atlas, and the Vinex Atlas. Alice Rawsthorn, who served on the prize jury, wrote in the International Herald Tribune last month: “By reassessing the type of information we might like to find in an atlas, and experimenting with different ways of depicting it, Mr. Grootens has created a beautiful series of books that give us a richer, clearer picture of the places we are looking up than we ever could hope to find on the Internet.”
A short animation from the Met Office Hadley Centre that shows “the changes in temperature across the globe, relative to pre-industrial levels, under two different emissions scenarios. The first is with emissions continuing to increase through the century. The second is with emissions declining through the century. By the end of the century the global average temperature rise is just above 4°C with increasing emissions and just over 2°C with decreasing emissions.” Via mapperz.
The New York Times’ Economix blog looks at SAT scores and the percentage of high school graduates who take the SAT by state, and finds that while few students take the SAT in the Midwestern states, those who do score very highly. The commenters point out that this is a case of selection bias: hardly anyone takes the SAT in the Midwest who isn’t trying to get into an Ivy League school; most students take the ACT instead. Via geoparadigm.
A little reality check for those worried about Google Latitude and the like: in the U.S., your mobile phone location data is already available to law enforcement. At ISS World, it was revealed that Sprint Nextel, with 50 million customers, received a total of eight million law enforcement requests for their customers’ GPS location data in the space of one year — and they built a special web interface to process the requests. Not only that, it turns out that this sort of data request doesn’t meet the threshold for a warrant. To be sure, Sprint has clarified that this represents eight million pings, not eight million customers, but I can’t see how this doesn’t sound just a little bit ominous. On the other hand, it’s not like we don’t see this happening all the time on an episode of NCIS. Engadget, Slashdot.
The hell? Mapperz points to the following item, tucked away in this Grauniad article about the British government’s efforts to reduce its budget deficit: “A total of £16bn will be saved by pressing ahead with the sale of public assets from April. Assets for sale will include the Dartford crossing, the Tote, the student loans portfolio, Ordnance Survey and the Land Registry” (emphasis added). Did I miss something?
Google explains “the principles we follow in designing our mapping products, particularly as they apply to disputed regions” — e.g., when two countries disagree about what a body of water is named or where a boundary is disputed. “That can mean providing multiple claim lines (e.g. the Syrian and Israeli lines in the Golan Heights), multiple names (e.g. two names separated by a slash: ‘Londonderry / Derry’), or clickable political annotations with short descriptions of the issues (e.g. the annotation for ‘Arunachal Pradesh,’ currently in Google Earth only; see blog post about disputed seas).” Via ogleearth.
Previously: Google and Disputed Place Names.
Colorbrewer is a web-based tool that provides colour advice for your maps. Looks quite useful, especially for people creating choropleth maps and the like: it has colour schemes for sequential, divergent and qualitative data, with options for colour-blindness and photocopy-suitability. The development team was led by Cynthia Brewer, the author of Designing Better Maps and Designed Maps. Via geoparadigm.
Two more brief book items. Slate has a slideshow by Frank Jacobs excerpting material from his book and blog, Strange Maps, starting with Çatalhüyük and ending with a geological map of the Moon. And Katharine Harmon continues to get local media coverage for her latest book, The Map as Art; here’s the Seattle Times.
The Onion reports that Fritolaysia has cut off chiplomatic relations with Snakistan, in another one of those Onion riffs on geography: “The dispute over increased prices and decreased serving sizes escalated when Snakistan, swayed by the influence of the nation’s healthiest 1 percent, signed a historic fat-free-trade agreement with the Yogurtslavian nation of Colombo. Preparing for a long and grueling war of nutrition, Fritolaysia imposed trade snacktions and set up a blockade of Snakistan’s major ports, cutting off their commerce with Yumen, Mmmmadagascar, and the Chex Republic.” Via Cartophilia.
Mark Graham has mapped the half-million or so geotagged Wikipedia articles to show how many have been written about each country. Not surprisingly, the U.S. leads with 90,000 articles; Anguilla, on the other hand, has four.
Almost all of Africa is poorly represented in Wikipedia. Remarkably there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than all but one of the fifty-three countries in Africa (or perhaps even more amazingly, there are more Wikipedia articles written about the fictional places of Middle Earth and Discworld than about many countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia).
He’s also created maps normalizing the country-by-country data by area and by population. His work has gotten some traction: he’s also written about this in a subsequent article in the Guardian.
Via Boing Boing.
CQ Politics looks ahead to the next round of congressional redistricting in the U.S., and includes the interesting story of how the GOP’s attempt to rejig the congressional districts in Pennsylvania in their favour ended up producing the opposite effect. Quite a lot about politics (especially the impact of the 2010 elections on who controls the redistricting process), not so much about cartography, but interesting if election maps are your thing.
This morning I notice, thanks to a tip by mapperz, that a number of additional Canadian cities have been added to Street View: Edmonton, Hamilton, London (Ontario), Saskatoon, St. John’s, Sudbury, Winnipeg, Victoria. The cities surrounding Toronto are also in Street View (e.g., Markham, Mississauga, Oshawa, Vaughan), but I don’t know whether that was done when Toronto was added two months ago. Some cities I can confirm are not on Street View: Barrie, Cambridge (Ontario), Fredericton, Guelph, Newmarket, Niagara Falls (Ontario), Regina, Saint John (New Brunswick), St. Catherines, Thunder Bay, Windsor.
Mapperz reports that Singapore is now also on Street View.
Meanwhile, Google’s cars are collecting images in South Africa, presumably for a launch next year; the usual crime-related freakouts ensue. Via Peter.
Update, 11:30 AM: Google says nine Canadian cities: add Nanaimo and Sherbrooke (Quebec) to the above; was Hamilton announced before this? See also Google Maps Mania and Mapperz on today’s Street View updates, which include several tourist sites in the U.K.
Update, 3:20 PM: Google LatLong roundup of all Street View updates.