On this day in 1570, says Google, Abraham Ortelius published the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. As a result he’s the subject of one of today’s Google Doodles. Google, of course, has some small interest in maps. [Nathaniel Kelso]
The Future Mapping Company looks at the unrecognized women of cartography. They point out that there are only two women (Marie Tharp and Jessamine Shumate) among the 200-plus names on Wikipedia’s list of cartographers, and come up with 10 names, some of which you might have heard of (Tharp, Phyllis Pearsall), others maybe you haven’t, but should have—and now you have. [NLS]
The Routledge Handbook
Out last month, the expensive, 600-page Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography (Routledge). Edited by Alexander J. Kent (who co-wrote The Red Atlas) and Peter Vujakovic, the book “draws on the wealth of new scholarship and practice in this emerging field, from the latest conceptual developments in mapping and advances in map-making technology to reflections on the role of maps in society. It brings together 43 engaging chapters on a diverse range of topics, including the history of cartography, map use and user issues, cartographic design, remote sensing, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and map art.” [The History of Cartography Project]
New Academic Books
New academic books on maps and cartography published over the past couple of months include:
- The Social Life of Maps in America, 1750-1860 (University of North Carolina Press), the latest work by the historian of early American map literacy Martin Brückner;
- Paul Robert Magocsi’s Carpathian Rus’: A Historical Atlas (University of Toronto Press), a cartographic look at a strategic borderland in central Europe;
- Jasper Van Putten’s Networked Nation: Mapping German Cities in Sebastian Munster’s ‘Cosmographia’ (Brill), a study of city views in Renaissance Europe; and
- Claire Reddleman’s Cartographic Abstraction in Contemporary Art: Seeing with Maps (Routledge), an extremely theoretical study of modern map art.
More on Books We’ve Heard of Before
Related: Map Books of 2017.
In an article I published in 2013, I argued that one key difference between fantasy maps and the real-world medieval and early modern maps they purport to imitate is blank spaces: fantasy maps are full of blank spaces (that which is not in the story is not on the map), whereas real-world maps were covered in cartouches, sea monsters, inset illustrations and other embellishments. One of my sources for that article was a book by Chet Van Duzer: Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps (reviewed here).
Recently Van Duzer has been giving talks on the very subject of the lack of empty spaces on old maps. Which, as you can imagine, is very relevant to my interests. In October he spoke on the subject at the Barry Lawrence Ruderman Conference on Cartography, and earlier this month he gave a similar talk at the New York Map Society. Here’s the abstract from the Ruderman Conference:
Historians of cartography occasionally refer to cartographers’ horror vacui, that is, their fear or hesitancy to leave spaces blank on maps that might be filled with decorations. Some scholars have denied that this impulse was a factor in the design of maps, but the question has never been examined carefully. In this talk I will undertake such an examination, showing that horror vacui was indeed an important factor in the design of maps, at least for some cartographers, from the sixteenth to the early eighteenth century. Some of the factors that motivated cartographers’ concern about empty spaces will also be examined, as will maps by cartographers who evidently did not experience this fear. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries maps began to be thought of as more purely scientific instruments, cartographic decoration declined generally, and cartographers managed to restrain their concern about spaces lacking decoration in the interest of presenting their work as modern and professional.
But since I couldn’t make it to those events, all I had was that tantalizing abstract. (Publish something!) Fortunately, we now have a little more: Greg Miller has written a piece about Van Duzer’s research over on the National Geographic All Over the Map blog.
I’ve belatedly heard the news that Robert G. Bartholomew died last April in Edinburgh at the age of 90. Robert and his older brothers John and Peter, who died in 2008 and 1987, respectively, were the last of six generations of Bartholomews working for the eponymous family mapmaking firm, John Bartholomew and Son, that was, among other things, responsible for the Times series of atlases before being subsumed into the HarperCollins publishing empire. Robert served as production manager, John as director and Peter as chairman. See the NLS’s Bartholomew Archive and the family’s website for more on the firm’s and the family’s history. [WMS]
Maps are artifacts of the era in which they were created: they reflect not only what people knew about the world, but how they saw it. That’s the thrust of Amelia Soth’s article for JSTOR Daily about The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences, and Marvels for the Eyes, a Fatimid-era cosmography compiled in Egypt in the 11th century; the Bodleian Library’s example is a late 12th/early 13th-century copy.
There is a philosophy underlying the geography. It pins abstract concepts to points in space, placing civilization and order at the center and wilderness and chaos at the edges. The medieval Arab world inherited the Greek conception of geography—in particular, that of Ptolemy, who separated the world into seven climates. The concentric arcs marked on the map represent these climates. The world is mapped as a circle with a center and a periphery; the regions grow hotter to the south and colder to the north, buffeted by different kinds of winds on the eastern and western sides, while the land at the heart of the map enjoys a harmonious balance of elemental forces. The people living at the center benefit from the temperate weather and grow up beautiful and healthy.
The Bodleian Map Room Blog posts some excerpts from an 1882 Austro-Hungarian guide to mapmaking. “The Schlüssel und vorlageblatter für den situations zeichnungs unterricht (which translates roughly as ‘Key and template for drawing lessons’) is a teaching aid created by the Institute of Military Geography in the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of War in 1882 for the drawing of maps. Inside there are a number of different terrain examples and sheets showing scales, text, topographical features and legends.” As the blog post points out, the purpose of the guide was to ensure uniformity in military mapmaking. [Benjamin Hennig]
The Barry Lawrence Ruderman Conference on Cartography takes place from 19 to 21 October 2017 at the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University. Speakers include a number of graduate students—the conference’s focus is on emerging scholars—as well as Connectography author Parag Khanna, who’s giving the keynote, and Chet Van Duzer, who’s giving a talk on the fear of blank spaces on early modern maps—something I’m very much interested in. [WMS]
Christina E. Dando’s Women and Cartography in the Progressive Era (Routledge) came out earlier this month. From the publisher: “As women became more mobile (physically, socially, politically), they used and created geographic knowledge and maps. […] Long overlooked, this women’s work represents maps and mapping that today we would term community or participatory mapping, critical cartography and public geography. These historic examples of women-generated mapping represent the adoption of cartography and geography as part of women’s work. […] This study explores the implications of women’s use of this technology in creating and presenting information and knowledge and wielding it to their own ends.” [WMS]
Related: Map Books of 2017.
Distilling the entire three-thousand-year history of maps and mapmaking into a 2,400-word article seems awfully hubristic, but Clive Thompson’s piece for the July 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine gives it a try, tying everything together right from the outset:
Is it possible that today’s global positioning systems and smartphones are affecting our basic ability to navigate? Will technology alter forever how we get around?
Most certainly—because it already has. Three thousand years ago, our ancestors began a long experiment in figuring out how they fit into the world, by inventing a bold new tool: the map.
Random and miscellaneous globe items:
James Wilson was America’s first globe maker; his Bradford, Vermont-based globe factory opened in 1813. Geolounge points to the above illustration of Wilson, undated but from the early 20th century, by Roy Frederic Heinrich.
The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center: “Dennis Townsend, a Vermont schoolteacher, created this collapsible, portable, and inexpensive paper globe for students as an alternative to the large, more expensive globes available mainly in schools and libraries.”
In my post about old British films about globemaking I said, “These films fascinate me because they describe a kind of globemaking—layers of plaster, paper globe gores, and varnish—that I don’t think happens any more.” On The Map Room’s Facebook page, a commenter replied that Lander and May use the same methods today. Handmade by Chris Adams, these artisanal globes appear to be closer in class and price to Bellerby than to Replogle.
Finally, via the Washington Map Society’s Facebook page, news that a book about 17th- and 18th-century cartographer and globemaker Vincenzo Coronelli, Marica Milanesi’s Vincenzo Coronell Cosmographer, 1650-1718, is now available, though apparently not easily.
The CIA has posted a short institutional history of its Cartography Center, which reaches back before the CIA was created: in 1941 the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI), which was replaced by the CIA’s forerunner, the OSS, hired a young graduate student named Arthur Robinson
Another CIA page looks at its first female cartographer, Marion Frieswyk, whom Robinson recruited in 1942.
The CIA also has a Flickr account, where they’ve posted a number of their maps in various albums sorted by decade (all of which are labelled “Cartography Maps,” which sounds dumb until you realize they probably mean Cartography Center Maps). I think the Cartography Tools album is even more interesting than the maps.
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Miriam Kingsberg reviews Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps (University of Chicago Press, March 2016), a collection of essays on the history of Japanese mapmaking edited by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko and Cary Karacas (see previous entry). “Cartographic Japan constitutes a significant addition to the academic literature on the history of Japanese mapping. Much like the works it describes, the volume may also be treasured as a piece of art and collector’s item in its own right.” Amazon, iBooks. [WMS]
William Rankin’s After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century is out this month from the University of Chicago Press (Amazon, iBooks). The book’s website explains in depth what it’s about, and makes all the book’s illustrations and data available for free download. [GIS Lounge]
This book can be read at two scales. Narrowly, it is a history of the mapping sciences in the twentieth century that situates technologies like GPS within a longer trajectory of spatial knowledge. But more expansively, by connecting geographic knowledge to territorial politics and new ways of navigating the world, it is also a political and cultural history of geographic space itself.
See also: Map Books of 2016.
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]