A new map exhibition opens this Friday at the National Library of Scotland. You Are Here “challenges our acceptance of maps. It poses questions about how they are made and how we understand them. Drawn from our collection of more than two million maps and atlases, each map in the exhibition shows the answer to some or all of those questions. The maps on display zoom out from the Library itself to the whole world in the shape of the Blaeu Atlas Maior—‘the most beautiful atlas ever made.’ They also include one of the finest plans of Edinburgh and the first map of Scotland, as well as more utilitarian railway, fishing and schoolroom maps.” The exhibition runs until 3 April 2017. I imagine there will be more links once it opens. [NLS]
Linguist Jack Grieve studies regional variations in languages using quantitative methods. A year ago he posted a number of maps of the United States showing regional variation in swear word usage, based on a corpus of nearly nine billion geocoded tweets. Stan Carey of the Strong Language blog has more on the maps:
Hell, damn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states—together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas—are the areas of particular motherfucker favour. Crap is more popular inland, fuck along the coasts. Fuckboy—a rising star—is also mainly a coastal thing, so far.
Digitization also presents scholars with a new way of looking at maps, since, according to Fowler, “you can get a lot more detail than you could even looking through a magnifying glass.” As Matthew Edney, Osher professor in the history of cartography, pointed out, you can also dwell on an image longer than you could while studying a physical item under controlled conditions. “Rare book rooms kick you out,” he told me, but you can take your time with digital copies.
In some cases, that’s allowed Edney to discover new features of maps that he thought he already knew well. He points in particular to an 18th-century map of New England that was once owned by Hugh Percy, a British army officer who was a key player during the battles of Lexington and Concord. “Staring at it on screen, you realize there are these faint pencil lines, possibly indicating tentative knowledge,” Edney said. As he explains in a recent paper on the topic, such observations helped him better understand how Percy likely used the map—offering a picture of what the map meant at the time and not just what it shows.
This book can be read at two scales. Narrowly, it is a history of the mapping sciences in the twentieth century that situates technologies like GPS within a longer trajectory of spatial knowledge. But more expansively, by connecting geographic knowledge to territorial politics and new ways of navigating the world, it is also a political and cultural history of geographic space itself.
Another map colouring book has just been announced, this one from the Ordnance Survey: “The book will take you on an immersive colouring-in journey around Great Britain, from the coasts and forests to our towns and countryside. Expect to see iconic cities, recognisable tourist spots and historical locations across England, Scotland and Wales via the 55 illustrations. The Great British Colouring Map also includes a stunning gatefold of London. We can’t wait to share it with you—it will be on shelves in October.” Pre-order at Amazon.
The Ordnance Survey has created a series of data visualizations showing the most popular walking and cycling routes, based on OS Maps usage. “The 500,000 plus routes were illustrated in a series of beautiful data visualisations by [cartographic designer] Charley [Glynn], who found itamazing that the people who created routes for their outdoors adventures had logged almost every bit of British coastline. It neatly frames the rest of the data and gives the illusion you are looking at a map of Great Britain. The darker, thicker areas illustrate the higher concentration of routes and reveal popularity.” Flickr gallery. [Mountain Bike Rider]