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]

Exhibition Writeups

A couple of reviews of recent map exhibitions that I’ve mentioned before. First, the Arctic Journal looks at the Osher Map Library’s current exhibition, The Northwest Passage: Navigating Old Beliefs and New Realities (see previous entry). And the St. Louis Library’s fantasy maps exhibit (see previous entry), which wrapped up earlier this month, got a writeup from Book Riot. [Book Riot/Osher Maps]

Library of Congress Conference Celebrates 500th Anniversary of Waldseemüller’s Carta Marina

Manuscript Page from the 1516 Carta Marina. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.
Manuscript Page from the 1516 Carta Marina. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Later this week, the Library of Congress will host a two-day conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1516 map, Carta Marina. Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography will take place on 6-7 October in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. The conference agenda is not limited to Waldseemüller or his 1516 map; notable speakers include Kirsten Seaver, Chet Van Duzer and, with a major lecture, Dava Sobel. Free admission; no tickets or reservations required.

(The 1516 Carta Marina should not be confused with the Waldseemüller map most people mean: it’s his 1507 Universalis Cosmographia that names “America.” Nor should it be confused with Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina.)

Early Map of Detroit Acquired

William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library has acquired an early hand-drawn map of Detroit—from the period it was a British outpost—that sheds new light on the city’s early history.

A framed 21-by-40-inch map that reveals a plan of the city in 1790 was discovered in a family home in Almonte, Ontario, after the owner contacted historians to check its validity. […]

Historians concluded that the rare, previously unknown hand-drawn, hand-colored map, titled “Rough sketch of the King’s Domain at Detroit,” was indeed an original—drawn on high-quality, watermarked 18th-century paper, and signed by its author, D. W. Smith (Captain David William Smith), dated September 1790.

An exhibition centred on the map is coming in 2017. Detroit News coverage. [WMS]

Treasures from the Map Room

treasures-map-room-obliqueA new book, Treasures from the Map Room, “explores the stories behind seventy-five extraordinary maps” held at the Bodleian Library, including the Gough Map, the Selden Map, and maps by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Edited by Debbie Hall, it’s out now in the U.K. and next month in North America. Buy at Amazon. [Tony Campbell]

Related: Map Books of 2016.

British Library Exhibition on 20th Century Maps Opening in November

The British Library’s upcoming exhibition, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line, runs from 4 November 2016 to 1 March 2017. Tickets are now on sale.

Two World Wars. The moon landings. The digital revolution. This exhibition of extraordinary maps looks at the important role they played during the 20th century. It sheds new light on familiar events and spans conflicts, creativity, the ocean floor and even outer space.

It includes exhibits ranging from the first map of the Hundred Acre Wood to secret spy maps, via the New York Subway. And, as technology advances further than we ever imagined possible, it questions what it really means to have your every move mapped.

The Evening Standard and TimeOut London look at one item going on display: Harry Beck’s original sketch of what would become the iconic Tube map.

Library of Congress Exhibition: Mapping a Growing Nation

buell
Abel Buell, A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America, 1784. On deposit to the Library of Congress from David M. Rubenstein.

Speaking of the Library of Congress, yesterday it opened a new exhibition both online and at the Library’s North Exhibition Gallery. Mapping a Growing Nation: From Independence to Statehood features the best known copy of Abel Buell’s 1784 New and Correct Map of the United States of North America—“which, among other things, has been recognized as the very first map of the newly independent United States to be compiled, printed, and published in America by an American. Additionally, the 1784 publication is the first map to be copyrighted in the United States, registered under the auspices of the Connecticut State Assembly.” Accompanying Buell’s map are other early maps—often the first maps—of each U.S. state; the maps will rotate on and off physical display for space reasons but will eventually all be featured online. [WMS]

Map Exhibition in Toronto: The Art of Cartography

The Art of Cartography, opening 13 August at the Toronto Reference Library and running until 16 October, is “a new exhibit showcasing the unexpected beauty of maps and atlases from the 16th to the 19th century. The exhibit features world maps, atlases, manuscript maps, sea charts, celestial maps, city plans and other cartographic curiosities from the library’s Special Collections.” The Toronto Star has some selections. [WMS]

The William H. Galvani Rare Maps Collection

Last month KVAL TV of Eugene, Oregon took a look at the recently catalogued William H. Galvani Rare Maps Collection at Oregon State University. The maps, more than a thousand in number, were bequeathed by Galvani, along with more than five thousand books, to what was then Oregon State College in 1947. It’s taken this long to catalogue the collection, which emphasizes military maps and includes maps from the 16th through the 20th centuries. [WMS]

New NLS Exhibition: You Are Here

A new map exhibition opens this Friday at the National Library of Scotland. You Are Here “challenges our acceptance of maps. It poses questions about how they are made and how we understand them. Drawn from our collection of more than two million maps and atlases, each map in the exhibition shows the answer to some or all of those questions. The maps on display zoom out from the Library itself to the whole world in the shape of the Blaeu Atlas Maior—‘the most beautiful atlas ever made.’ They also include one of the finest plans of Edinburgh and the first map of Scotland, as well as more utilitarian railway, fishing and schoolroom maps.” The exhibition runs until 3 April 2017. I imagine there will be more links once it opens. [NLS]

The Osher Map Library’s Digital Project

Slate’s Jacob Brogan looks at the Osher Map Library and its decade-long project to digitize its collection of maps, atlases and globes, and ruminates on the advantages and disadvantages of digitization.

Digitization also presents scholars with a new way of looking at maps, since, according to Fowler, “you can get a lot more detail than you could even looking through a magnifying glass.” As Matthew Edney, Osher professor in the history of cartography, pointed out, you can also dwell on an image longer than you could while studying a physical item under controlled conditions. “Rare book rooms kick you out,” he told me, but you can take your time with digital copies.

In some cases, that’s allowed Edney to discover new features of maps that he thought he already knew well. He points in particular to an 18th-century map of New England that was once owned by Hugh Percy, a British army officer who was a key player during the battles of Lexington and Concord. “Staring at it on screen, you realize there are these faint pencil lines, possibly indicating tentative knowledge,” Edney said. As he explains in a recent paper on the topic, such observations helped him better understand how Percy likely used the map—offering a picture of what the map meant at the time and not just what it shows.

Previously: A Look at the Osher Map Library.