Exhibitions in the Northeast

A new exhibition at Harvard University’s Pusey Library, Manuscript Maps: Hand-Drawn Treasures of the Harvard Map Collection, “highlights the process of mapmaking by looking at maps drawn by hand.” Opened yesterday; runs until September 27.

Meanwhile, in Schenectady, New York, there’s another exhibition at Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center: Parts But Little Known: Maps of the Adirondacks from 1556 runs until September 29.

Mapping in the Enlightenment

Mapping in the Enlightenment: Science, Innovation, and the Public Sphere, an exhibition at the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library, “uses examples from the Clements Library collection to tell the story of creating, distributing, and using maps during the long 18th century. Enlightenment thinking stimulated the effort to make more accurate maps, encouraged the growth of map collecting and map use by men and women in all social classes, and expanded the role of maps in administration and decision-making throughout Europe and her overseas colonies.” Fridays from 10 to 4 through October. [History of Cartography Project]

Picturing Places and the Klencke Atlas

From the Klencke Atlas, c. 1660. British Library.

This week the British Library launched an online collection of digitized “topographical materials” (i.e., views of and writings about places) called Picturing Places. More than 500 items—paintings, prints, drawings, texts and yes, maps—so far, sorted by theme and with dozens of accompanying articles.

Picturing Places demonstrates that topography involves far more than straightforward ‘pictorial evidence’ of what a place looked like in the past. We showcase some of the Library’s most treasured topographical materials, including Tudor views collected by Robert Cotton and maps and views owned by George III. But much of this material remains uncharted, and is being brought to wider attention for the first time. The first phase of Picturing Places features over 500 collection items, most never published before, and over 100 articles providing fresh perspectives and new ideas.

One of these digitized items is one of the Library’s crown jewels: the gigantic Klencke Atlas presented to Charles II in 1660, all of the pages of which can now be viewed online. How do you digitize an atlas that is 1.76 by 2.31 metres wide when open? Not with a flatbed scanner, you don’t. Here’s how:

Previously: British Library Digitizing George III’s Map Collection.

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.