The Chiswick Timeline, a public mural of historic maps of Chiswick, London, situated along the walls of the underpass next to the Turnham Green tube station, opened earlier this month. A project of Abundance London, the mural is a series of panels reproducing maps of Chiswick from as early as the late 16th century, and traces its development into the London suburb it is today. An accompanying fold-out book is also available. [Londonist]
At Retours, a digital magazine about railway history and design, Arjan den Boer looks at pictorial railway maps.
In the mid-20th century pictorial maps in cartoonish styles were a popular way of promoting travel and tourism. In contrast to objective, realistic maps they appeal to emotions such as romance, fantasy and humor. They are used to tell anecdotes about a region’s history, culture and landscape in a way attractive to old and young. These illustrated maps are meant to inspire, not to provide travel information.
Pictorial maps or Bildkarten seem to be the opposite of the schematic metro-like maps of railway networks from the same period, composed of straight lines and without any details. Schematic and pictorial maps share one thing though: they are only loosely bound to geographic reality. Their common goal is to convey a message—either the straightforwardness of a journey or the attractiveness of a region.
Lots of maps featured here, mostly from European rail services. Since much of the study of pictorial maps focuses on the United States, as well as Britain (especially in re MacDonald Gill), this is a refreshing filling in of the gaps.
We’ve seen “serio-comic” or caricature maps before, most of them dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but Caitlin takes us behind the scenes with a story about one of the artists behind such maps. The twelve maps published in Geographical Fun: Being Humourous Outlines of Various Countries (1868) were the handiwork of a 15-year-old teenager named Lilian Lancaster, who originally drew them to amuse her ill brother. Which is a great and surprising twist. The accompanying text (an introduction and accompanying verses) was by William Harvey (under a pseudonym), who tried to make an educational case for such maps (as one did).
Maps of real places done up in the style of fantasy maps are a thing, as those who have been following along will know by now. I’m planning a dedicated page on the subject in the Fantasy Maps section. That page will have to include Dan Bell’s maps of the Lake District—maps, he says, “that resemble the iconic style of J. R. R. Tolkien.” His maps have suddenly got a bit of media attention, which is atypical for this sort of project: BBC News, The Westmoreland Gazette. They resemble more the maps done for the Lord of the Rings movies than the maps created by Christopher Tolkien or Pauline Baynes: one tell is the triple-dot diacritic above the a, which is used in the movie maps and comes from Tolkien’s Elvish script. Bell, a 25-year-old “ordinary guy” from the Lake District, is selling prints of the maps online. [Kenneth Field]
I’ve blogged about Matthew Cusick and his art, which is based on collages of old maps, before, but this interview from last September in Dallas Innovates is long, in-depth and offers many insights into the artist and his work. [WMS]
The Routledge Handbook
Out last month, the expensive, 600-page Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography (Routledge). Edited by Alexander J. Kent (who co-wrote The Red Atlas) and Peter Vujakovic, the book “draws on the wealth of new scholarship and practice in this emerging field, from the latest conceptual developments in mapping and advances in map-making technology to reflections on the role of maps in society. It brings together 43 engaging chapters on a diverse range of topics, including the history of cartography, map use and user issues, cartographic design, remote sensing, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and map art.” [The History of Cartography Project]
New Academic Books
New academic books on maps and cartography published over the past couple of months include:
- The Social Life of Maps in America, 1750-1860 (University of North Carolina Press), the latest work by the historian of early American map literacy Martin Brückner;
- Paul Robert Magocsi’s Carpathian Rus’: A Historical Atlas (University of Toronto Press), a cartographic look at a strategic borderland in central Europe;
- Jasper Van Putten’s Networked Nation: Mapping German Cities in Sebastian Munster’s ‘Cosmographia’ (Brill), a study of city views in Renaissance Europe; and
- Claire Reddleman’s Cartographic Abstraction in Contemporary Art: Seeing with Maps (Routledge), an extremely theoretical study of modern map art.
More on Books We’ve Heard of Before
Related: Map Books of 2017.
The Melbourne Map is getting a new edition. The original came out in 1990. Inspired by bird’s-eye maps she’d encountered on her travels, Melinda Clarke teamed up with illustrator Deborah Young to create a pictorial map of the city that became something of a local success. Now, decades later, they’ve teamed up with illustrator Lewis Brownlie to create a new, updated version of the map. A crowdfunding campaign earlier this year was 584 percent successful, raising the equivalent of $88,000; production has been delayed a bit by revisions to the map, but it’s on track to be completed in 2018. They’re taking preorders; copies of the original map are also available. [ICA]
The York Museum Gardens’ Geological Mosaic Map is a four-metre-square pebble mosaic that depicts the Yorkshire part of William Smith’s 1815 geological map of Great Britain—a copy of which is held at the adjacent Yorkshire Museum. The mosaic was commissioned in 2015 and created by mosaic artist Janette Ireland, who “used many imaginative devices—including fossils, both real and formed from pebbles, discarded stone from the minster and tiny millstones made of millstone grit—to represent the ideas which Smith was demonstrating in his map. […] The pebbles in the mosaic reflect the colours Smith used in his map, but genuine Yorkshire rocks are displayed in the flower beds on either side of the mosaic, alongside strips of the pebbles used to represent them.” Photo gallery. [WMS]
Earlier this year Great Big Story did a short video piece about legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues, whom I’ve blogged about here on several previous occasions. Though this 2½-minute video is obviously less in-depth than, say, the Aspen Daily News’s profile of him from last year, I don’t mind another look at him and his work. [Atlas Obscura]
You Are Here NYC: Art, Information, and Mapping, an art exhibition at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery curated by Katharine Harmon and featuring maps in a similar vein to her 2016 book You Are Here: NYC (reviewed here), closed last week (my bad for not getting to it sooner), but in the interest of posterity, here’s Gothamist’s coverage.
Londonist Mapped: Hand Drawn Maps for the Curious Explorer came out last month from AA Publishing. (It’ll be out in North America next February.)
With Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps (University of Chicago Press, March 2017), Stephen J. Hornsby makes the case for the pictorial map as a distinct and significant genre of mapmaking that is worthy of study and preservation.
Because pictorial maps were artistic rather than scientific, Hornsby argues, they were ignored as a subject of cartographic study—“treated as ephemera, the flotsam and jetsam of an enormous sea of popular culture.”1 As such they have not been preserved to the same extent as more strictly cartographic maps. (Being printed on cheap acid paper didn’t help.) But as products of popular culture they were distinctive—and ubiquitous. “By World War II,” he writes, “pictorial maps had created a powerful visual image of the United States and were beginning to reimagine the look of the world for a mass consumer audience.”2 They were so prevalent, I suppose, that they were invisible. Taken for granted. It frequently falls to the historian of popular culture to point out that the common and everyday is, in fact, significant. That’s what Hornsby is doing here.
Opening today at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine and running until 10 March 2018, an exhibition of cartographic art called Go Where the Map Takes You: The Intersection of Cartography and Creativity. “Maps show many versions of our world, for many purposes, but their simplest purpose is to show the way from one place to another. The artists in this exhibition have used the techniques of mapping, and maps themselves, to show the way to the metaphorical and the metaphysical. We invite you to explore these artworks and see where they lead you.” Featuring several familiar artists.
Cartographers in the Field: “This Depression-era oil painting was created by USGS field man Hal Shelton in 1940. The painting depicts mapping techniques used in the early days of cartography, including an alidade and stadia rod for determining distances and elevations and a plane-table for sketching contour lines. A USGS benchmark is visible near the top. The straight white lines represent survey transects. Note the ‘US’ marking on the canteen: many of the USGS field supplies were obtained from Army surplus.” [Osher Map Library]