Telling the Map

Christopher Rowe’s short story “Another Word for Map Is Faith,” which imagines an alternate America ruled by a theocracy that treats maps as infallible, and territory to be corrected to conform to the map, was the first speculative fiction story I encountered in which maps were a central role. (I soon found other examples.) It appeared in the August 2006 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which hasn’t made it easy to track down. But it’ll be included, along with nine other stories, in Rowe’s upcoming short story collection, Telling the Map, which comes out from Small Beer Press in July 2017. Check out that entirely appropriate cover: as Rowe notes, “[t]he concept for the cover originated with Gwenda Bond, who was inspired by the maps of Pauline Baynes.”

Previously: Another Word for Map Is Faith.

Mapping the Past

Another book I missed at the time of its publication: Charles Drazen’s Mapping the Past: A Search for Five Brothers at the Edge of Empire (William Henemann, August 2016). It’s a family history: Drazin’s grandfather and brothers were military surveyors from rural Ireland “who travelled around the world as officers in the Royal Engineer Corps—surveying, exploring, mapmaking, fighting— in the twilight years of the British Empire.” [WMS]

New Edition of London: A Life in Maps

This post on Londonist obliquely lets us know that there’s a new edition of Peter Whitfield’s London: A Life in Maps, out this month from the British Library (it comes out in June in the U.S.). “[R]edesigned and updated for a new audience,” the book originally came out as a companion to a British Library exhibition of the same name that ran ten years ago.

Related: Map Books of 2017.

Cartographies of Disease

The revised edition of Tom Koch’s Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine—“a comprehensive survey of the technology of mapping and its relationship to the battle against disease”—is now out from Esri Press. (Or at least it’s scheduled to be: the paperback is not yet in stock at Amazon.) [GIS Lounge]

Koch is also the author of Disease Maps: Epidemics on the Ground (2011).

Book Roundup for January 2017

early-dutch-maritime-cartographyGünter Schilder’s Early Dutch Maritime Cartography: The North Holland School of Cartography (c. 1580-c. 1620) comes out this month from Brill; its book launch takes place in Amsterdam on 27 January. [Tony Campbell]

Also scheduled for publication later this month: Mapping the Holy Land: The Origins of Cartography in Palestine by Bruno Schelhaas, Jutta Faehndrich and Halim Goren (I. B. Tauris).

Geographical magazine has reviews of two books I’ve mentioned here. Paul Presley reviews Treasures of the Map Room, which I reviewed here last month; and Laura Cole reviews Cheshire and Uberti’s Where the Animals Go, which I told you about last November.

The Map Books of 2017 page is now live; I’ll be adding books scheduled to be published during the year as I find out about them.

National Geographic Infographics

ng-infographicsSpeaking 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.

Recent Book Reviews

Atlas ObscuraAt The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Paul Weimer reviews Atlas Obscura. “So is there a point to the book? Is there any good reason to read the book and not just go trolling and traversing through the website, which has many more entries? Yes. Even in an interconnected world such as ours, there is a tactile experience to flipping through this book, coffee table style […] While wandering through links on the website is a time-honored tradition, the book has a presentation that the website can’t quite match.” I reviewed Atlas Obscura last September.

You Are Here NYC: Mapping the Soul of the CityForbes contributor Tanya Mohn reviews Katherine Harmon’s latest map art book, You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City (previously). If all goes well (it doesn’t always, mind), I should have my own review of this book up later this week. [WMS]

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City AtlasAs for the other new map book about New York City, Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s Non-Stop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, there’s a review up on Hyperallergic by Allison Meier, replete with photos of the book. “Every map is an intense act of creative collaboration, with essays and illustrations in Nonstop Metropolis from over 30 artists and writers. […] And the maps emphasize that this city’s character is often missing from our more official cartography.” [WMS]

Soviet Spy Maps, Redux

Shamelessly nicked from Architect of the Capital.

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 and Washingtonian magazine. No doubt they’ll come in handy with the new administration. And the deployment of the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov through the English Channel in October gave rise to this short piece on Soviet maps of the U.K. The maps are also featured in the British Library’s current map exhibition: they’re the lede in this article about the exhibition.

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.

[Benjamin Hennig/MAPS-L/WMS]

New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby

John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End,, 1675.
John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End, 1675.

nine-lives-ogilbyJohn Ogilby, the Scottish cartographer who in 1675 published the Britannia atlas—essentially the first road atlas of Great Britain—is the subject of a new biography by Alan Ereira. The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain’s Master Mapmaker and His Secrets came out last month from Duckworth Overlook. (Direct Amazon UK link, though it’s available from third-party sellers on other stores.) From the description I gather it will follow the argument made in the 2008 BBC series Terry Jones’ Great Map Mystery, which Ereira wrote and directed: that the Britannia was an invasion map designed to facilitate a Catholic takeover. (My understanding of this is third-hand: I haven’t seen the book or the series.) [WMS]

Review: Treasures from the Map Room

treasures-map-room-obliqueIf all maps must necessarily be selective, choosing what to show and what to leave out, surely map books must do the same. That thought came to mind as I perused Treasures from the Map Room—no relation—a book that presents maps from Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, collected and curated by the Bodleian Map Room’s senior library assistant, Debbie Hall.

“Although maps have formed part of the Bodleian’s collections from early on, they have been collected actively only since around 1800,” Hall writes in the introduction. Broadly speaking, the Bodleian’s map holdings come from a combination of bequests and legal deposit requirements. The latter in particular means that the Bodleian’s holdings of British maps—including virtually every Ordnance Survey map and a large number of commercially published maps—are very extensive. The bequests are sometimes much better known: maps named for their owners and donors rather than their creators—the Gough Map, the Selden Map—falling into the Bodleian’s hands.

Hall organizes her selection—some 75 maps—into seven chapters organized by theme: Travel and Exploration, Knowledge and Science, Pride and Ownership, Maps of War, The City in Maps, Maps for Fun, and Imaginary Lands. Sometimes those themes make for unlikely juxtapositions: Hall mentions the Tabula Peutingeriana and American highway maps in very nearly the same breath; and Maps for Fun, a chapter dealing with tourism, recreation and travel, includes a 15th-century Holy Land pilgrimage map—Reuwich’s Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam—alongside the MountMaps 3D Navigator Map. But apart from that the chapters present us with some very interesting maps indeed: Travel and Exploration gives us the Gough and Selden maps; Knowledge and Science discusses Mercator, Ortelius and early astronomical maps, John Speed, Christopher Saxton and the Ordnance Survey; Maps of War gives us fortifications and plans, siege and trench maps, but also silk escape maps of World War II; Imaginary Lands ranges from Hole’s Poly-Olbion maps to Leo Belgicus, Tolkien and Lewis, and the art of Layla Curtis.

We get, in other words, a taste of just about everything—but only a taste. The breadth of Treasures of the Map Room is both a blessing and a curse. We’re made aware of the volume and diversity of the Bodleian’s map holdings, but we never get a chance to drill down beyond the most cursory of examinations, never more than one example of something. On the other hand, Hall’s approach brings to the fore maps that might not otherwise be included in books like this—books that can privilege the rare and the ancient over the more mundane but more significant. For example, the map I found myself staring at the most was the 1864 Ordnance Plan of the Crystal Palace and its Environs, a 1:2,500 map of incredible detail and delicacy. You might find yourself lingering over some other map. Discoveries like this are, I suspect, the whole point of book that is, after all, about a library’s hidden treasures.

I received a review copy from the North American distributor for this book, the University of Chicago Press.

Treasures of the Map Room edited by Debbie Hall (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2016). Hardcover, 224 pp., £35/$60. ISBN 978-1-85124-2504. Buy at Amazon.

Previously: Treasures from the Map Room.

2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Books

Every year at about this time I post a gift guide that lists some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published this year. If you have a map-obsessed person in your life and would like to give them something map-related—or you are a map-obsessed person—this guide may give you some ideas.

This year, as you will see, I’ve organized the books by theme: we have five atlases of unusual and non-existent places, several colouring books, and a large number of historical map collections, among other books.

This is by no means a complete list of what’s been published in 2016. The Map Books of 2016 page includes many, many other books that might also suggest themselves as gift possibilities.

Atlases of the Unusual and Non-Existent

Books that call themselves atlases, but really aren’t, are thick on the ground this year: these are illustrated compendiums of fascinating, unusual or simply made-up places around the world. In The Spectator, Alex Burghart looks at three of themAtlas Obscura (which I reviewed here), Edward Brooke-Hitching’s Phantom Atlas, and Travis Elborough’s Atlas of Improbable Places. To which I’d add Aude de Tocqueville’s Atlas of Lost Cities, a catalogue of abandoned places that came out last April, and Malachy Tallack’s Un-Discovered Islands.

Children, crafts and colo(u)ring Books

Colouring books (or, if you’re American, coloring books) have been all the rage lately, and the past year has seen several such books with maps as their subject matter: A-Z Maps came out of the gate early back in October 2015, with Maps: A Colouring Book. Since then, we’ve seen Gretchen Peterson’s City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults, the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map, and the re-emergence of William Hole’s 17th-century illustrations of Michael Drayton’s poetry, repackaged as a 21st-century colouring book called Albion’s Glorious Ile—which is available both as a single volume and pamphlet-sized sections.

If colouring books aren’t for kids any more, but you’re looking for something child-sized, consider Justin Miles’s Ultimate Mapping Guide for Kids.

If making art is your thing, but you’re not so much about the colouring books, look at Jill Berry’s latest book on personal mapmaking, Making Art From Maps.

Historical Maps

These books explore some aspect of old and historical cartography. (Maps of the 20th Century and Great Britain get their own sections, below.) Cartographic Japan is a collection of essays exploring Japanese maps from the late 1500s. China at the Center (reviewed here) accompanies an exhibition of two pivotal Chinese world maps. Great City Maps collects historical and contemporary city maps. Jeremy Black’s Maps of War is a history of war cartography. Treasures from the Map Room is a diverse sampling of the Bodleian Library’s extensive cartographic holdings (I’m currently working on a review).

The Twentieth Century

Art, marketing and propaganda meet in the 20th Century. Paul Jarvis’s Mapping the Airways draws from the British Airways archives to provide a history of aeronautical cartography. War Map is the companion volume to an exhibition of pictorial conflict maps that wrapped up earlier this month. And speaking of companion volumes, don’t forget the big one: Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line accompanies the British Library’s current map exhibition.

Great Britain in Maps

Old maps of Britain, particularly at the city and county level, continue to find a renewed existence in book form. Birlinn continues its line of regional atlases of historical maps with Oxford: Mapping the City and Scotland: Mapping the Islands. Also seeing print this year was Somerset Mapped and a reprint collection of John Speed’s county maps called Britain’s Tudor Maps.

New York, New York: Maps and the City

New York City is the subject of two new books in which art, story and cartography intersect: Katherine Harmon’s third volume of map art, You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City; and Rebecca Solnit’s third city atlas, Nonstop Metropolis. (A review of You Are Here: NYC is forthcoming.)

Data into Maps

Where the Animals Go provides beautiful maps of animal tracking data, People and Places is a human atlas of the United Kingdom, and Speaking American maps the American vernacular: “who says what, and where they say it.”

World Atlases

When it comes to big, satisfying world atlases, the most recent to come out are the Oxford Atlas of the World, which is updated every year, and the Times Concise Atlas of the World. The Concise is the second-largest of the Times world atlases: see the comparative chart. (The largest atlases—the Times Comprehensive and the National Geographic—were last revised in 2014.)

(Links go to Amazon. If you buy something, I get a cut.)

Where the Animals Go

From James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, Where the Animals Go (Particular Books, 2016), pp. 100-101.

Co-authored by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics (Particular Books, 2016) is a book of maps by wild animals. It’s a compendium of tracking data from field biologists’ research projects, ably curated and turned into some spectacular maps (if the excerpts on the authors’ website are any indication). Greg has written a piece at All Over the Map.

where-the-animals-goWhere the Animals Go is available now in the U.K.; the U.S. edition comes out in September 2017.

Cheshire and Uberti first teamed up to produce London: The Information Capital (2014), which should be out in paperback any time now.

The Phantom Atlas

phantom-atlasEdward Brooke-Hitching’s new book, The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps (Simon & Schuster UK, November) is a book about fictitious and erroneous places that were presented on maps as real—“non-existent islands, invented mountain ranges, mythical civilisations and other fictitious geography.” Places like the Mountains of Kong, or the open ocean at the North Pole, or California as an island. Both the Economist’s 1843 Magazine and the Guardian have excerpts and examples from the book.

The hardcover seems to be available only in the U.K. right now, or through third-party resellers on Amazon. The ebook, however, is more widely available: here are links for the Kindle and iBooks. [Ian McDonald/WMS]

Related: Map Books of 2016.