Burmese Maps at Cambridge

Map of the Maingnyaung region, located between the Chindwin and Mu Rivers in Upper Burma, in the present-day Sagaing Region, ca. 1860. Textile map, 209 × 204 cm. Cambridge University Library Special Collections. Creative Commons licence.

Natasha Pairaudeau: “Imagine maps as big as bedsheets, and then imagine the sheets big enough for beds made wide enough to sleep extended families. Only such a double stretch of the imagination can provide the scale of the three Burmese maps in the University Library’s collection, which have recently been made available online in digital format.” [Cartophilia]

Scanning the Miranda Map

Speaking of scanning old maps. The State Library of New South Wales, Australia is scanning its copy of Jozeph da Costa e Miranda’s 1706 world map with a state-of-the-art high resolution scanner.

This digitisation process combines high resolution scanning, up to 1200 dpi, with precise lighting technique and incredibly accurate colour rendition. This process is ideal for scanning really large, long items like this map,  panoramas and items with high levels of fine detail.  The files captured at these resolutions allow up to 50× enlargement, making them excellent sources for detailed investigation into aspects of the physical substrate of the item and for innovative multimedia exhibition and display.

The map was scanned in 15cm sections and will be stitched together to create an exceptionally accurate and detailed high resolution file.

This short video (above) gives a close-up view of the process. [WMS]

Regions and Seasons

A new exhibition at the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center: Regions and Seasons: Mapping Climate Through History. “In this exhibition, you will discover how ‘Venti’ were wind personas who directed ancient ships and ‘Horae’ were goddesses of the seasons who dictated natural order during the 15th-17th centuries, how Enlightenment scientists started to collect and map weather data, and how 19th century geographers reflecting the golden age of thematic cartography created innovative techniques to represent vast amounts of statistical data and developed complex maps furthering our understanding of climatic regions.” Runs through August 27; also online.

Where Disaster Strikes

Where Disaster Strikes: Modern Space and the Visualization of Destruction, an exhibition of disaster maps, is taking place now until 19 April at Harvard’s Pusey Library.

Floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanoes, bombings, droughts, and even alien invasions: disaster can take many forms. And, although disasters are always felt dramatically, a disaster’s form and location impacts who records its effects and what forms those records take. “Where Disaster Strikes” investigates the intertwined categories of modern space and disaster through the Harvard Map Collection’s maps of large destructive events from the London Fire to the present.

Open to the public. The exhibition also has a substantial online presence.

Engraved in Copper

Engraved in Copper: The Art of Mapping Minnesota opened this week at the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Andersen Library. “This exhibit highlights unique engraved copper plates used to print topographic maps of Minnesota in the early 1900s, surveying and mapmaking techniques, and government documents related to the process. The plates are part of the evolution of government mapping and the history of the United States Geological Survey, from early mapping efforts to Geographic Information Systems.” Runs until 22 May.

Fantasy Maps Exhibit at Texas A&M Library

An exhibition of fantasy maps, Worlds Imagined: The Maps of Imaginary Places Collection, opens Friday at Texas A&M University’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. “The maps included are part of an ongoing effort by [Texas A&M’s] Maps and GIS [Library] and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection to develop a shared collection of maps of imaginary places. Cushing is known worldwide for its collection of science fiction and fantasy materials, even housing [George R. R.] Martin’s personal collection of memorabilia.” Worlds Imagined runs until 10 October 2017. [Thanks, Alex.]

Previously: Fantasy Maps Exhibit at St. Louis Central Library.

Maclean’s Profiles Nova Scotia’s COGS

Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences, a tiny, 200-student campus in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, gets two writeups in Canada’s national newsmagazine, Maclean’s, as part of its annual campus guide: its unique marine geomatics program is profiled here, and the W. K. Morrison Special Collection, which I told you about last June, is profiled here.

Engraved Copper Plates Retrieved

The British Library has acquired nine engraved copper plates, used to print maps of India for the East India Company in the late 18th and early 19th century, from a scrap metal dealer. Another plate had been acquired in 1988 from a Norfolk farmer, who had intended to use it as a mudguard for his tractor. The plates were apparently diverted to the scrap metal trade during a move in 1860; how they managed to avoid being melted down for their copper in the intervening 150 years is a minor miracle. Daily Mail. [WMS]

Previously: Copper Plates Used to Make Topo Maps on Display.

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.

The Chimney Map

The big news in the map world this week is a 17th-century map that was found in Aberdeen, Scotland, stuffed up a chimney to stop drafts. Discovered during renovations, the map was handed over to the National Library of Scotland, which found it to be in very bad shape: the 2.2×1.6-metre map, identified as work by the Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, was disintegrating, with pieces falling off every time it was moved. The Library’s restoration process is featured in an article in the winter 2016 issue of their magazine, Discover (direct PDF link), and in two videos about the map: one I’ve posted above, plus another, shorter video. You should take a look at them all: they present a fascinating look inside the conservation process. More coverage at Atlas ObscuraBBC News and Smithsonian.com.

The British Library on Fantasy Maps

Bernard Sleigh, "An ancient mappe of Fairyland," 1918. British Library.
Bernard Sleigh, “An ancient mappe of Fairyland,” 1918. British Library.

British Library curator Tom Harper writes about fantasy maps, which make up a major component of the Library’s current exhibition, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line (previously).

Fantasy maps increased in number during the 20th century due to the rise of science fiction and fantasy writing, and the birth of television and video games.

Many of them are products of the wildest imaginations, and are immersive places of escapism. Yet all of them retain vestiges of the ‘real’ world in which they were created—whether because of a particular feature illustrated in it, the way in which it has been drawn, or even the ‘real-world’ contexts which inspired it.

Harper’s examples aren’t what someone well-versed in fantasy fiction would expect: they include Milne and Tolkien, but also Sleigh’s 1918 map of Fairyland (above), San Serriffe, and other maps of the unreal from outside genre fiction. (A reminder that fantasy map does not only mean map accompanying a secondary-world fantasy novel in the Tolkien tradition.)

Opening Today: British Library Exhibition on 20th-Century Maps

Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line opens today at the British Library. It runs until 1 March 2017. Admission is £12, with reduced-price and free admissions in some cases.

The Guardian’s Mark Brown and the Spectator’s Stephen Bayley have long and thoughtful pieces about the exhibition. The Independent’s Simon Calder is somewhat more solipsistic, but observes that this exhibition “might prove to be a wintry retrospective on the summer of peak cartography.”

There was also a segment on BBC Breakfast (using music from The Lord of the Rings was a bit of cognitive dissonance); the clip is available on Twitter:

The British Library’s Maps and Views blog has a sample of the maps on display.

maps-20th-drawing-line-book-coverAs you’d expect from a major exhibition like this, a companion book is out this week from the British Library. It’s available from Amazon UK in both hardcover and paperback; those of us in North America will have to wait a bit until it turns up here.

Previously: British Library Exhibition on 20th Century Maps Opening in November.

A Roundup of Canadian Map News

Various items about maps and map history from here in Canada:

Last month former Canadian diplomat Dan Livermore donated his small collection of 17th- and 18th-century maps to the Brock University Library’s Special Collections and Archives, which will digitize the maps. St. Catharines Standard. [Tony Campbell/WMS]

Also last month, the Parry Sound North Star’s John Macfie came into possession of an 1886 map of the area by a local land agent, the history and provenance of which he explores in some detail. [WMS]

As the site of a major aviation base during World War II, the town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, is surrounded by crash sites and other historical points of interest; the town and local historical groups are now mapping those sites and creating trails to them. [WMS]

Michael Layland, author of a book about the early maps and charts of Vancouver Island, writes in the Victoria Times-Colonist about his map habit and his research methods for that book. [WMS]