Monmonier on Critical Cartography

Mark Monmonier has posted an essay sharply critical of critical cartography and its distance from its own subject. It was originally commissioned as part of the forthcoming Cartographic Grounds but cut for reasons of space. Very incisive; I could quote you some but I’d end up quoting the whole damn essay. Go read. [via]

Transit Explorer


Yonah Freemark’s Transit Explorer is an online map of existing, planned and under-construction transit projects in cities across North America—“fixed-guideway transit,” which means bus rapid transit, light rail and commuter rail. I’ve spotted a couple of omissions (Montreal’s commuter rail and Winnipeg’s busway don’t appear) but that might be a problem with the underlying OpenStreetMap data. [via]

Civitates Orbis Terrarum


Hyperallergic has a review of Cities of the World (Taschen, November 2015), a reprint of colour plates from Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, which appeared in six volumes between 1572 and 1617. From Taschen: “Featuring plans, bird’s-eye views, and maps for all major cities in Europe, plus important urban centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this masterwork in urban mapping gives us a comprehensive view of city life at the turn of the 17th century.” Maps from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum can also be viewed online here and here. [via] Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

Cyber Squirrel 1

Cyber Squirrel 1, a map that tracks electrical outages caused by squirrels, birds, raccoons and other critters, is only semi-satirical. Its point is that animals disrupt the power grid more than hackers ever have. (The number caused by the latter may be one. Or two.) As Popular Science puts it, “If there is a cyber war happening, it’s one fought between humanity and nature, not nations against each other.” GizmodoWashington Post.

Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands

pocket-atlas-remote-islands Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands first appeared (in English translation) in 2010. Since then it seems to have achieved a longevity few books of any sort manage. A pocket edition came out in 2014. On Wikipedia (of all places) there’s a companion to the book, linking to entries for each of the Atlas’s essays. And just last week it was featured on The Paris Review’s blog. (See also this 2013 interview with Schalansky at, appropriately enough, The Island Review.) Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

Cartographic Design Principles

A couple of years ago the Ordnance Survey posted a series of cartographic design principles to inform and promote “good map design.” The principles are understanding user requirements, a consideration of the display format (e.g., paper vs. web), simplicitylegibilityconsistencyaccessibility (everything from data format to colourblind inclusiveness to licensing), a clear visual hierarchy, and good composition. (Last year the Ordnance Survey’s blog published a series of posts on these principles, using mostly similar text but different examples.)

Book Riot on Fantasy Maps

This Book Riot piece on fantasy maps from last September touches on a number of subjects I can never get enough information on: the editorial decision on whether to include a map, how one becomes a fantasy map maker, what information from the author does the map maker have to work with, how the maps are created. Practical subjects, in other words. Includes quotes from two people in publishing and two map makers: Tim Paul and Rhys Davies. [via]

Previously: Robert Lazzaretti, Fantasy MapmakerMapping An Ember in the AshesHow to Make a Fantasy Map.

Mapping the Refugee Crisis


Here are two interactive maps that show the scale of recent refugee migrations. Lucify’s interactive map (screenshot above) shows the flow of asylum seekers to European countries since 2012. And this interactive map, compiled by The Conversation from UNHCR data, shows the size of refugee populations originating from or residing within each country from 1975 to 2010. In each case, the numbers grow with each passing year. More from Scientific American’s SA Visual blog. [via]

Sending Driving Directions to Your Phone

Time’s John Patrick Pullen compares how easy or difficult it is to send driving directions to your phone using maps from Apple, Google and Microsoft before coming up with a surprise winner: “I pulled up MapQuest for a punchline on this story, but the joke’s on all of us. MapQuest is, by far, the easiest way to get maps from your desktop to your phone.” I really ought to try this out myself and see if I agree with him.

New Year’s Flooding in the Midwest

These two Landsat images illustrate the extent of flooding along the Wabash and Illinois Rivers at the end of last year, as 6-10 inches of rain fell over the midwestern United States. The image from 8 December 2015, above left, shows normal water levels; the image from 1 January  2016, above right, shows the rivers in flood. Use the slider to compare the two views. Original image. [via]

Upcoming Talks

January 14, London. Maps and Society lecture. University of London PhD candidate Nydia Pineda De Avila (PhD Candidate, Queen Mary, University of London) will speak on “Experiencing Early Lunar Maps through an Eighteenth-Century Collection.” Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Woburn Square, London WC1H OAB. 5:00 PM. Free admission.

January 19, Washington, DC. The authors of Mapping the West with Lewis and Clark (Levenger, 2015) will discuss their book. “Ralph E. Ehrenberg, chief of the Library’s Geography and Map Division, and his co-author, Smithsonian Institution curator emeritus Herman J. Viola, retrace the expedition with more than 100 images reproduced in exquisite detail.” Library of Congress, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20050. Noon. Free admission.

January 26, New York. Andrew Kapochunas of will give a talk entitled “How Maps and Map Collecting Helped an Immigrant Find His Place in the World.” “Andrew will take attendees on a journey through time, beginning with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th Century, and through space, as he discusses his struggle to find his place in the world.” New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, South Court: Classroom A, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018. 6:30 PM. Free admission.

Benjamin Franklin and the Gulf Stream


Though the effects of the Gulf Stream were known to seafarers for centuries, Benjamin Franklin was the first to name it and chart it. The Library of Congress’s map blog has a post about the maps of the Gulf Stream produced by Franklin with his cousin, Timothy Folger, a ship captain who knew the currents. “Folger and Franklin jointly produced a chart of the Gulf Stream in 1768, first published in London by the English firm Mount and Page. The Geography and Map Division holds one of only three known copies of this first edition (see above), in addition to a copy of the ca. 1785 second edition.”