There are a lot of Tube map-inspired maps of non-Tube map things out there, and not all of them are worth mentioning. This one, however, is: Sasha Trubetskoy’s map of the major roads of the Roman Empire in the year 125, done up like a subway diagram, colour-coded by name (both real, where available, and “creatively invented,” where not) and with all text in Latin.
Three academic books out this month deal with the subject of mapping, surveying, and empire-building:
The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence by S. Max Edelson (Harvard University Press) covers the period between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. From the publisher:
Under orders from King George III to reform the colonies, the Board of Trade dispatched surveyors to map far-flung frontiers, chart coastlines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sound Florida’s rivers, parcel tropical islands into plantation tracts, and mark boundaries with indigenous nations across the continental interior. Scaled to military standards of resolution, the maps they produced sought to capture the essential attributes of colonial spaces—their natural capacities for agriculture, navigation, and commerce—and give British officials the knowledge they needed to take command over colonization from across the Atlantic.
Britain’s vision of imperial control threatened to displace colonists as meaningful agents of empire and diminished what they viewed as their greatest historical accomplishment: settling the New World. As London’s mapmakers published these images of order in breathtaking American atlases, Continental and British forces were already engaged in a violent contest over who would control the real spaces they represented.
The First Mapping of America: The General Survey of British North America by Alex Johnson (I. B. Tauris) seems to cover similar territory, if you’ll pardon the pun, though I have very little information about it. [Amazon]
Finally, Daniel Foliard’s Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921 (University of Chicago Press) “vividly illustrates how the British first defined the Middle East as a geopolitical and cartographic region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through their imperial maps. Until then, the region had never been clearly distinguished from ‘the East’ or ‘the Orient.’ In the course of their colonial activities, however, the British began to conceive of the Middle East as a separate and distinct part of the world, with consequences that continue to be felt today.” [Amazon, iBooks]
Related: Map Books of 2017.
A thing from 2015 that I hadn’t seen until recently: Londonist’s Tube Map of Roman London. “Stations indicate sites of major Roman landmarks, such as gates in the wall, municipal buildings and temples. Nobody knows what the Romans called their creations, so we’ve used the modern names, like Ludgate and Bishopsgate, which are medieval in origin. Stations in bold indicate locations where Roman remains are still accessible to the public.” [Londonist]
Out this month: the English translation of Andrea Carandini’s massive two-volume, 1300-page Atlas of Ancient Rome (Princeton University Press), which “provides a comprehensive archaeological survey of the city of Rome from prehistory to the early medieval period.” See the book’s website. [Amazon]
Other books seeing publication this month: Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps by Stephen J. Hornsby (University of Chicago Press), a history of the pictorial map art form during the 20th century [Amazon]; and Zero Degrees: Geographies of the Prime Meridian by Charles W. J. Withers (Harvard University Press), a history of prime meridians and the standardization thereof [Amazon].
Related: Map Books of 2017.
Vox, earlier this year, used maps to explain the fairly profound ideological shifts in the two major U.S. political parties over their respective histories: How Republicans went from the party of Lincoln to the party of Trump, in 13 maps and 23 maps that explain how Democrats went from the party of racism to the party of Obama.
Karl E. Ryavec’s Historical Atlas of Tibet (University of Chicago Press, May 2015) was reviewed in India Today by an unusual personage: Nirupama Rao, who among other things has served as India’s ambassador to China and the U.S. Rao calls it “a much-needed and welcome work of scholarship that should benefit and enlighten committed scholars and Tibet aficionados alike. This is a 200-page atlas that is a revelation in itself.” [Tony Campbell]
A brief mention in the Billings Gazette brought to my attention the existence of Thomas J. Noel’s Colorado: A Historical Atlas (University of Oklahoma Press), the revised edition of which came out last year. “The real key to the book are the full color maps drawn by Carol Zuber-Mallison,” writes the Gazette’s Bernard Rose. “They are extraordinary. With over 90 maps of Colorado from the location of the state and its rivers to cemeteries there is something for everyone.” [WMS]
A fascinating story from the University of Wisconsin—Madison’s Robinson Map Library, in which map and geospatial librarian Jaime Martindale used aerial photos held in the library to help a patron track down the site of a 1966 bomber crash in Sawyer County, Wisconsin. Neat stuff. [History of Cartography Project]
Out this month from University of Oklahoma Press: Mapping the Four Corners: Narrating the Hayden Survey of 1875 by Robert S. McPherson and Susan Rhoades Neel. From the publisher: “By skillfully weaving the surveyors’ diary entries, field notes, and correspondence with newspaper accounts, historians Robert S. McPherson and Susan Rhoades Neel bring the Hayden Survey to life. Mapping the Four Corners provides an entertaining, engaging narrative of the team’s experiences, contextualized with a thoughtful introduction and conclusion.” Buy at Amazon. [WMS]
See also: Map Books of 2016.
Rail Map Online is a web-based map showing every rail line that ever existed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Base layers can be toggled between Google Maps, satellite, OpenStreetMap and old Ordnance Survey maps. It doesn’t distinguish between existing and removed rail lines, though that appears to be coming; it’s a work in progress. [Tim Dunn]
Previously: British Railways, Past and Present.
The Geographers’ A-Z Map Company, which produces the iconic A-Z Maps line, is marking its 80th anniversary this year by posting a series of photos of company memorabilia—they plan 80 photos over 80 days. So far I’m particularly fascinated by the mapmaking tools and processes, like this scribing tool, this type layer and these negatives—all from the time when maps were photo typeset (only three decades ago!). [WMS]
BBC Future’s Caroline Williams explores the following question: why do modern maps have north at the top? “Given such a long history of human map-making, it is perhaps surprising that it is only within the last few hundred years that north has been consistently considered to be at the top.” Early European maps had east at the top (orientation is derived from orient, or east); Islamic maps faced south. When maps changed to north-at-top is difficult to pinpoint, or at least the article has difficulty in doing so, but it came relatively late in history. (Thanks to Denis Dooley for the link.)
Victor van Werkhooven’s cartographical pet peeve: historical maps of Europe that include Flevoland, which didn’t even exist until the 20th century. (Polders. Dikes. Land reclamation. You get the idea.) It’s not often that the physical shape of the world—the coasts, the shorelines—has to be taken into account when creating a historical map, but this is one such case. [Mapfail]