Published late last month, Mark Monmonier’s new book, Patents and Cartographic Inventions: A New Perspective for Map History (Palgrave Macmillan) is on a somewhat more arcane and non-obvious subject than his usual fare. It’s an exploration of the U.S. patent system that focuses on map- and navigation-related inventions. The publisher’s description: “In probing evolving notions of novelty, non-obviousness, and cumulative innovation, Mark Monmonier examines rural address guides, folding schemes, world map projections, diverse improvements of the terrestrial globe, mechanical route-following machines that anticipated the GPS navigator, and the early electrical you-are-here mall map, which opened the way for digital cartography and provided fodder for patent trolls, who treat the patent largely as a license to litigate.” Actually sounds interesting as hell; the book is quite expensive, though. Amazon, iBooks.
NASA has released updated global maps of the Earth at night. The so-called “black marble” maps show where human activity lights up the darkness. NASA’s page highlights some of the differences between the 2016 and 2012 versions of the map with before/after interactive sliders. John Nelson has tried something different: overlaying the 2016 map on the 2012 map with a clipping mask shows newly illuminated parts of the globe as dark patches.
Speaking of National Geographic. If the magazine is known for its cartography and its photography, one should not forget the illustrations, charts and infographics that accompany many of the articles and appear on the back of every folded map that comes several times a year with a magazine subscription. Now there’s a book of them: National Geographic Infographics. Edited by Julius Wiedemann and published by Taschen, the book “gather[s] the magazine’s best infographics of the past 128 years.” More at Atlas Obscura and Wired.
Quartz takes a look at the Missing Maps project, which I suppose can best be described as a way to jumpstart mapping the unmapped developing regions of the world with OpenStreetMap. What’s interesting about Missing Maps is how it systematically deals out tasks to people best able to do them: remote volunteers trace imagery, community volunteers do the tagging and labelling. There’s even an app, MapSwipe, that gives its users “the ability to swipe through satellite images and indicate if they contain features like houses, roads or paths. These are then forwarded onto Missing Maps for precise marking of these features.” [WMS]
As part of an article looking at semi-automatic weapons being sold online, NPR produced the above map, which shows the locations of classified listings on Armslist (a website described as “the Craigslist of guns”) between 12 and 15 June 2016 (i.e., immediately after the Orlando nightclub shooting). About 90 percent of Armslist listings had location data; about one in four of these listings are for semi-automatic weapons. [Maps on the Web]
Maps and drawings are created by hand in an aluminum foil sheet. The metal is embossed with a variety of tools to produce raised lines and areas of varying height, texture and width. The maps are labelled with key letters that are identified on the pages preceding each map. The master drawing is duplicated by the Thermoform process to make clear, sharp copies. The 11×11½-inch plastic sheets are bound into volumes with cardboard covers and spiral plastic binders.
Today’s xkcd is a flowchart for figuring out the age of an undated world map. Look carefully.
It was, to say the least, an imperfect system. Caretakers essentially acted as the cemetery’s librarians, but without a Dewey Decimal system to guide them. Numbers were not necessarily sequential, or the system shifted over the years, making the maps essential to finding the older graves. And as time rolled on, the maps began to deteriorate, fraying at the edges or cracking apart.