I’ve finally updated the Map Books of 2017 page to account for all the books that were brought to my attention over the past few months.
Later this month it’ll be time for me to post the 2017 edition of The Map Room’s Holiday Gift Guide. Each year I put out a list of some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year. This year’s guide will be a rather smaller selection of the above list, focused on gift-giving (academic monographs and GIS manuals make less-than-ideal gifts, I’m thinking); the Map Books of 2017 page is meant to be more comprehensive.
Atlas of Nebraska by J. Clark Archer et al. (Bison Books). “Far more than simply the geography of Nebraska, this atlas explores a myriad of subjects from Native Americans to settlement patterns, agricultural ventures to employment, and voting records to crime rates.” [Amazon]
Update (30 Oct.): Jonathan Land Evans writes with information on overseas orders for his book, Bermuda Maps: “The most direct way by which people overseas may order copies is by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, as the museum now uses The Bookmart bookstore in Bermuda for all order-fulfillment involving shipping to addresses outside Bermuda. The hardback book is a large one, handsomely illustrated in colour, and costs $65 plus postage.”
Geographical magazine reviewsThe 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).
Last year I told you about The Un-Discovered Islands, a book by Malachy Tallack that told the stories of some two dozen islands that were once thought real but are now no longer on the map. It existed only as a British edition, though a U.S. edition was said to be forthcoming. That U.S. edition is coming next month from Picador, so readers in North America will be able to lay hands on a copy more easily, should they wish. [Amazon]
The odd thing about A History of Canada in Ten Maps, the new book by Adam Shoalts out today from Allen Lane, is that it’s almost entirely uncontaminated by maps. It’s not just because the electronic review copy I received (via Netgalley) contained no images of the maps being referred to in the text: I expect that will be rectified in the published version; if nothing else I was able to find an online version of each map (a gallery follows below). It’s that in the text itself the maps are quite literally an afterthought.
It turns out that A History of Canada in Ten Maps isn’t really a book about maps, or mapmaking, but exploration. For Shoalts, the maps are the evidentiary traces of the stories he really wants to tell. In nine of the ten cases, those are stories of Canada’s exploration; in the tenth, a key battle of the War of 1812. Combined, those stories form a mosaic tale of nation-building, one that supports the kind of national mythmaking that the previous government in Canada was particularly fond of.
The Reference is right in the middle of the Times atlas range: it’s inexpensive (£30 list, compared to £150 for the Comprehensive, £90 for the Concise and £50 for the Universal) and presumably a bit less unwieldy. The Mini, on the other hand, is positively dainty: at 15.1 × 10.6 cm, it’s smaller than a mass-market paperback! (Obviously the covers above are not to scale; see the somewhat-out-of-date comparison chart for the various atlas sizes.)
According to Amazon, both are available in Canada next month, and in the U.S. in April 2018. (If for some reason you cannot wait, here are direct links to the U.K. store: Reference, Mini.)
Derek Hayes’s latest historical atlas (there have been many) came out last week from Firefly Books: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads. “In this book, Derek Hayes compiles archival maps and illustrations, many never before published, showing the locations and routes of the world’s early railways, as well as the locomotive and rail technology that was key to the development of those railroads. In addition to maps, the illustrations include photos of most of the surviving first locomotives from collections around the world and of replicas too, where they exist.” [Amazon]
Critiques of fantasy maps have more to do with the shortcomings of fantasy worlds than the maps that depict them.
There’s something I’ve noticed about the recent round of debates about fantasy maps, something I’ve been noticing about discussions of fantasy maps in general. They don’t talk about fantasy maps in terms of their cartographic merit. That is to say, they don’t judge fantasy maps as maps.
When Alex Acks vents about fantasy maps, it’s because the mountain ranges in Middle-earth don’t make sense, not because the cartography of Pauline Baynes or Christopher Tolkien wasn’t up to the task. It’s more that the territory is shaped to fit the story rather than the other way around, less that the maps of said territory frequently lack a scale. When Boing Boing’s Rob Beschizza says that “Game of Thrones has such a terrible map it could be presented as a parody of bad fantasy maps,” he’s not saying that the cartography of the various Song of Ice and Fire mapmakers, such as Jonathan Roberts (The Lands of Ice and Fire), James Sinclair (books one through four) or Jeffrey L. Ward (A Dance with Dragons), is deficient. He’s saying that the Game of Thrones geography is terrible.
Now that Where the Animals Go, a book that maps tracking data from field biologists’ research projects, is available in a U.S. edition (previously), it’s getting another round of media attention on this side of the pond. This CityLab piece interviews the authors and highlights several of the maps (and the studies behind them).