BBC Future’s Caroline Williams explores the following question: why do modern maps have north at the top? “Given such a long history of human map-making, it is perhaps surprising that it is only within the last few hundred years that north has been consistently considered to be at the top.” Early European maps had east at the top (orientation is derived from orient, or east); Islamic maps faced south. When maps changed to north-at-top is difficult to pinpoint, or at least the article has difficulty in doing so, but it came relatively late in history. (Thanks to Denis Dooley for the link.)
With the Great Lines Project, Karen Rann explores the history and origins of the contour line. In addition to her rather heavily illustrated blog, there’s a related exhibition, the Great Lines Exhibition (naturally enough), which opens today at the Lit & Phil (Literary and Philosophical Society) in Newcastle. Free admission. Details here and here. [WMS]
Update, 9 June: More from CityLab.
As I mentioned earlier this month, the 27th International Conference on the History of Cartography takes place on 9-14 July 2017 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. If you want to look even further ahead, it’s just been announced that the 28th ICHC will be held in Amsterdam on 14-19 July 2019. ICHC page. [WMS]
I have a longstanding interest in the extent to which people throughout history could access cultural production: books, music and so forth. Essentially, the economics of cultural life. So when I was poking around the University of Chicago Press website last month (previously), I was very interested to stumble across a book that came out last year: Genevieve Carlton’s Worldly Consumers: The Demand for Maps in Renaissance Italy (Amazon, iBooks), which examines the ways in which private individuals had access to maps. As you can imagine, very relevant to my interests.
It’s certainly not the only book relevant to those interests. There’s Susan Schulten’s and Martin Brückner’s work, of course; and I should also take a look at Christine Marie Petto’s When France Was King of Cartography: The Patronage and Production of Maps in Early Modern France (Amazon, iBooks). Expensive monographs all; methinks I need a university library card.
Previously: The Social Life of Maps.
The 27th International Conference on the History of Cartography will take place in Belo Horizonte, Brazil on 9-14 July 2017. Conference paper abstracts can be submitted until 15 October 2016. [Imago Mundi/WMS]
While poking around the University of Chicago Press website yesterday, I noticed that a fourth edition of Norman J. W. Thrower’s history of cartography textbook, Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society, is due out this month: Amazon. The changes from the third edition (Amazon, iBooks) appear to be limited: “For the fourth edition of Maps and Civilization, Thrower has added an additional chapter that serves to bring the volume completely up to date.” My gaps in cartographic knowledge are such that I’ve never read this book; this may be an opportunity to rectify that.
The sixth volume of the massive History of Cartography Project, Cartography in the Twentieth Century, is now available. Edited by Mark Monmonier, it takes two physical volumes and nearly two thousand pages to cover mapmaking in the twentieth century—and lists for an eye-popping $500 (U.S.), though it’s a bit cheaper on Amazon.
Volumes one through three are available for free download. Volumes four and five, covering the European Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, respectively, are still in development.
Previously: History of Cartography Project Co-Founder Dies.
Two more map books, this time of an academic bent:
- London: The Selden Map and the Making of a Global City, 1549-1689 by Robert K. Batchelor (University of Chicago Press, 1/14). Batchelor uses the information on the Selden Map to demonstrate how the city of London “flourished because of its many encounters, engagements, and exchanges with East Asian trading cities.” (Amazon)
- Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography by Will C. van den Hoonaard (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 8/13). “[A] journey of discovery through the world of women map-makers from the golden age of cartography in the sixteenth-century Low Countries to tactile maps in contemporary Brazil.” (Amazon)
If somebody who was vaguely interested in maps wanted a book to get them started, I think I might point them toward A History of the World in Twelve Maps, written by Renaissance Studies professor Jerry Brotton. This book first appeared in September 2012 in Great Britain, where it’s now out in paperback. The U.S. edition came out last month in hardcover.
It’s a history of cartography that takes a rather unique approach: instead of providing a straight narrative history, Brotton focuses on twelve maps (or, more precisely, mapmaking endeavours), ranging from Ptolemy’s Geography to Google Earth. But Brotton does a lot more than talk about just twelve maps.
Briefly noted: A Renaissance
Globemaker’s Toolbox: Johannes Schöner and the Revolution of Modern Science, John Hessler’s biography of German priest, astronomer and mathematician Johannes Schöner (1477-1547), an early globemaker who, among other things, created the first printed celestial globe gores as well as globe gores for Martin Waldseemüller’s world maps.
The survival of Schöner’s notes and annotations is unique in the history of cartography; not only do they show his thinking about theoretical and practical geography, but they also reveal the art of mapmaking during his lifetime. John Hessler discusses Schöner’s opinions on the canonical geography of Ptolemy, his reaction to the new discoveries of Columbus and Vespucci, and his involvement in the new astronomy of Copernicus. Schöner’s surviving notebooks, manuscripts, and associations with other scientists of the period offer unprecedented insight into the history of these materials, and into the geographical and astronomical concerns that fuelled the birth of modern science development during this critical period in its development.
Another mapmaker is getting a book-length biography. The Measure of Manhattan, Marguerite Holloway’s biography of surveyor John Randel, Jr. (1787-1865), whose decade-long survey of the island of Manhattan was the basis for that city’s street grid, comes out in February. Via BLDGBLOG, who blurbed it: “Marguerite Holloway’s engaging survey takes us step by step through the challenges of obsolete land laws and outdated maps of an earlier metropolis, looking for—and finding—the future shape of this immeasurable city.” Buy at Amazon | publisher’s page
Susan Schulten, a history professor at the University of Denver, writes to let me know about her new book, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America, out this month from University of Chicago Press.
From the publisher’s page: “Today, statistical and thematic maps are so ubiquitous that we take for granted that data will be arranged cartographically. Whether for urban planning, public health, marketing, or political strategy, maps have become everyday tools of social organization, governance, and economics. The world we inhabit—saturated with maps and graphic information—grew out of this sea change in spatial thought and representation in the nineteenth century, when Americans learned to see themselves and their nation in new dimensions.”
This sounds very interesting. Her previous book, The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950, came out in 2001. I may have to pick up both: maps and the history of mentalities is too much to resist.