The Unwritten Record, a blog by staff at the U.S. National Archives’s Special Media Archives Services Division, announced last month: “Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109. All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.” [Texas Map Society]
During the second half of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union’s military and civilian cartographers created topographical maps of the entire world of a very high standard of quality and accuracy. How they did so, and why, remains in large part a mystery, one that John Davies and Alexander J. Kent’s new book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, October) fails to solve completely.
The Red Atlas is not the definitive history of those Soviet mapping efforts because so much about those efforts remains a secret. The only reason we know about them is because, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, so many physical copies of those once-highly secret maps fell into the hands of map collectors. The Red Atlas talks about that: for more than a decade, Davies and Kent have been studying those maps. (I’ve been following their work. See the links at the bottom of this post for my earlier posts on the subject.) What they know about the Soviet mapping efforts—sources, methods, their reason for doing it—is extrapolated from the final product of those effort: the maps. The Red Atlas is above all else an exercise in cartographic forensics.
Over the past few years, Global News’s Patrick Cain has been producing interactive maps pinpointing the home addresses of Canada’s war dead. Most date from 2013. Toronto’s map covers both World Wars and Korea; Winnipeg’s and Vancouver’s cover World War I alone. This map covers D-Day casualties across the country. This map shows the next-of-kin addresses for Korean War casualties. [Canadian Geographers]
McMaster University’s Daily News has a piece on a large-scale map of Vimy Ridge—a World War I battle fought by Canadian troops that has since entered the national folklore—that reproduced from McMaster’s extensive collection of trench maps. The map, created by Canadian Geographic and 17 × 13 feet in size, is currently on display in the foyer of the university’s Mills Library, but it’s been on tour for at least the past year: the Vimy Ridge map is one of several giant floor maps produced by Canadian Geographic’s education division; each can be booked for a three-week loan period. [WMS]
Geographical magazine reviews The Red Atlas, the survey of Soviet-era topo maps of the world by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent out this month from University of Chicago Press. National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog also has a feature on The Red Atlas. I’ve received my own review copy of The Red Atlas and hope to have a review for you … at some point (I’m rather backlogged).
Meanwhile, Geographical also has a review of Alastair Bonnett’s latest book of geographical idiosyncracies, Beyond the Map, and All Over the Map takes a look at Andrew DeGraff’s book mapping movie plotlines, Cinemaps.
It’s a busy month for map book publishing; so far I’m aware of eight map-related book (many of them scholarly monographs) seeing print in October.
- New Views: The World Mapped Like Never Before by Alastair Bonnett (Aurum Press, 26 October). Collects 50 “unique and beautiful” maps of our world. [Amazon]
- Mapping Naval Warfare: A Visual History of Conflict at Sea by Jeremy Black (Osprey, 24 October). Examines original maps of naval battles and explores how battles represented through mapping. [Amazon]
- The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alex Kent (University of Chicago Press, 17 October). A look at the Soviet Army’s detailed global topogramical mapmaking program. My blog post. [Amazon]
- Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies by Andrew DeGraff and A. D. Jameson (Quirk, 24 October). A follow-up to Plotted, this time DeGraff turns his unique cartographic hand to movies. [Amazon, iBooks]
- Remapping Modern Germany after National Socialism, 1945-1961 by Matthew D. Mingus (Syracuse University Press, 5 October). Academic study of how maps were used to reshape postwar German identity. [Amazon]
- Mapmaker: Philip Turnor in Rupert’s Land in the Age of Enlightenment by Barbara Mitchell (University of Regina Press, 7 October). Biography of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s first inland surveyor. [Amazon]
- Terrestrial Lessons: The Conquest of the World as Globe by Sumathi Ramaswarmy (University of Chicago Press, 3 Oct0ber). The history and impact of the globe in colonial India. [Amazon]
- A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts (Allen Lane, 10 October). Despite the title, a popular history of Canada’s exploration rather than cartography. Look for my review next week. [Amazon, iBooks]
Related: Map Books of 2017.
Earlier this month Human Rights Watch released satellite imagery of burning buildings in minority Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—evidence, human rights observers say, of a government-led campaign against the Rohingya, four hundred thousand of whom have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Amnesty International has collated on-the-ground and satellite evidence and has produced a map showing active fires in Rakhine State. The Washington Post’s coverage also features maps, before-and-after satellite images and infographics.
An online map has been launched that marks the locations of at least 150 massacres of Aboriginal populations during the frontier wars in eastern Australia between 1788 and 1872. ABC News (Australia) has more information and talks with the project lead, Prof. Lyndall Ryan of the University of Newcastle.
I’ve known about escape maps—maps printed on silk to help prisoners of war escape Germany during the Second World War—for a while now, and have blogged about them before, but this Atlas Obscura piece on them taught me a few things I didn’t know, and is a fascinating read besides.
See also this article from the British Library, from last October. And in case you missed it, a book on the subject, Barbara Bond’s Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps (Times Books), came out last year.
That Soviet spies created detailed topographic maps of the world, including their Cold War enemies, is not news. Wired had a feature on the maps last year, and I’ve been aware of the work of John Davies and Alex Kent on the subject for more than a decade.
But for some unexplained reason interest in Soviet maps has had a bit of a resurgence lately. Elliot Carter writes about the Soviet maps of Washington, D.C., and their myriad little errors at Architect of the Capital
Finally, Davies and Kent have written a book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World, which, they say, will be coming from the University of Chicago Press in September 2017.
October is a busy month: I’m aware of six new map books coming out. Two deal with the mapping of war, three with the rich cartographical history of Great Britain, while the sixth is a colouring book.
Maps of War: Mapping Conflict Through the Centuries by Jeremy Black (Conway, 11 October). “There is little documented mapping of conflict prior to the Renaissance period, but, from the 17th century onward, military commanders and strategists began to document the wars in which they were involved and, later, to use mapping to actually plan the progress of a conflict. Using contemporary maps, this sumptuous new volume covers the history of the mapping of land wars, and shows the way in which maps provide a guide to the history of war.”
War Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps, 1900-1950 by Philip Curtis and Jakob Sondergard Pedersen (The Map House, 6 October). This is a companion book to the Map House’s exhibition of pictorial conflict maps, which I told you about last week.
Scotland: Mapping the Islands by Christopher Fleet, Charles W.J. Withers and Margaret Wilkes (Birlinn, 20 October). A follow-up to Scotland: Mapping the Nation (Birlinn, 2012), this book explores the Scottish islands through maps from the National Library of Scotland’s collection.
Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300 by Marcia Kupfer (Yale University Press, 25 October). Reinterpretation of the Hereford Mappa Mundi from an art history perspective. “Features of the colored and gilded map that baffle modern expectations are typically dismissed as the product of careless execution. Kupfer argues that they should rightly be seen as part of the map’s encoded commentary on the nature of vision itself.”
I told you about the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map (Laurence King, 10 October) last July; it’s available this week. “Based on the accurate maps of Ordnance Survey, the colouring pages explore the coasts, towns, forests and countryside of England, Scotland and Wales. Includes detailed maps of cities and other places of interest such as Britain’s most recognizable tourist and historical locations, plus a stunning gatefold of London.”
Britain’s Tudor Maps: County by County (Batsford, 13 October) reproduces the maps from John Speed’s 1611 Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. These apparently include the first individual county maps of Great Britain, so this is a work of some historical significance.
Five years of civil war has devastated the Syrian city of Aleppo, which had a population of more than two million before the fighting started. CNN provides interactive satellite imagery of Aleppo from before and after the destruction: sliders allow you to see the damage on a block-by-block level.
We’re familiar with caricature maps from before and during the First World War: maps that reimagine various countries as warring animals or caricatured faces. These aren’t the only examples of persuasive cartography or of pictorial maps of this or other wars, but I imagine they’ll be front and centre at a new exhibition at The Map House, an antiquarian map seller in London. War Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps, 1900-1950 opened last week and runs until 18 November. A companion book of the same name is apparently available as of next week. [Geographical]