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.

Tolkien’s Annotated Map On Display for One Day Only

Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth, recently purchased by Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, is being put on display—but only for one day. Mark your calendars: Thursday, 23 June 2016, from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Weston Library. [Tony Campbell]

(The only other instance of a single-day map exhibition I can think of was when the Austrian National Library put the infinitely more delicate and valuable Tabula Peutingeriana on display for a single day in 2007.)

Previously: Bodleian Library Acquires Annotated Tolkien MapMap of Middle-earth, Annotated by Tolkien Himself, Discovered.

Fantasy Maps Exhibit at St. Louis Central Library

Fantasy Maps: Imagined Worlds, a new exhibition at St. Louis’s Central Library, features enlarged prints of fantasy maps and a 75×25-foot illustrated map of St. Louis on the floor of the library’s great hall. Opens today and runs until 15 October according to this page. There’s nothing on the library’s website, but see the writeup in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [WMS]

The W. K. Morrison Special Collection

bellin-accadie
Jacques Nicolas Bellin, “Carte de l’Accadie et Païs Voisins Pour servir a l’Histoire Generale des Voyages,” 1757. Map, 21 × 33 cm. NSCC W. K. Morrison Special Collection.

Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences has begun digitizing the maps from the W. K. Morrison Special Collection. Morrison, once a cartographer at the Centre, left them his collection of more than 2,500 maps when he died in 2011.

It is a mixed media print collection of historical maps, atlases, periodicals and books that is unique in the Province in terms of its focus on the early mapping of Nova Scotia and specifically the 18th Century nautical charts of J.F.W. DesBarres’ Atlantic Neptune. The collection also contains a complete run of the Gentleman’s Magazine from 1731-1802, and other early European periodicals containing maps not present in other collections. In addition to the maps that cover the advances in geographic knowledge over five centuries, there are a number of important atlases dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries as well as an interesting collection of Nova Scotiana from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

So far about 270 maps have been digitized; they’re available hereMedia release (from last December), Chronicle Herald. [WMS]

Preserving Blaeu’s ‘Archipelagus Orientalis’

archipelagus-orientalis
Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia.

The National Library of Australia’s copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, a 1663 map that has one of the earliest depictions of New Holland and Tasmania, is in “an exceedingly fragile state”—and it’s only one of four copies left. After a successful appeal two years ago to raise funds for conservation work, the map is now heading to the University of Melbourne, where conservation experts will determine the best way to preserve it. [History of Cartography Project]

Bodleian Library Acquires Annotated Tolkien Map

A map of Middle-earth annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien himself that was discovered among the papers of illustrator Pauline Baynes last year and subsequently put up for auction has been purchased by Oxford’s Bodleian Library for its Tolkien archive. News coverage: BBC NewsGuardian.

Previously: Map of Middle-earth, Annotated by Tolkien Himself, Discovered.

And Now Some Map News from Denver

The Denver Post has a piece that is simultaneously a profile of Christopher Lane, proprietor of the Denver-based Philadelphia Print Shop West (which sells its share of antique maps) and a look at the Rocky Mountain Map Society’s upcoming Map Month. Its theme, “Illusions, Delusions & Confusions,” will be explored by a series of lectures at the Denver Public Library running from 2 May to 9 June and two concurrent exhibitions on myths in maps at Denver’s Central Library and at the Map Library of the University of Colorado Boulder: brochure, program (PDF). [via]

A Look at the Osher Map Library

Edgar Allen Beem’s essay in the May/June issue of Humanities serves as a good introduction to the Osher Map Library, a major map collection housed at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. The Osher Map Library turns up a lot in my online cartographic perambulations; it’s good to know the history and origins of the place and the people working there (e.g. faculty scholar Matthew Edney, who also directs the History of Cartography project, and director Ian Fowler, who joined in 2014).

Stanford’s David Rumsey Map Center Opens Today

rumseymapsposterAs I mentioned earlier this month, the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University opens today (KQED coverage). To celebrate, there’s a grand opening and open house tonight from 6 to 7 PM at the Center, which is located on the fourth floor of Green LibraryPresentations and workshops take place on the 20th and 21st, for which registration is required. That’s followed by a day-long open house on the 22nd.

The Center’s first exhibition, A Universe of Maps: Opening the David Rumsey Map Center, runs from today until 28 August (here’s the online version).

Previously: David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Opens April 19.

UpdateNational Geographic coverage. [WMS]

Conserving Old Maps

On the National Library of Scotland’s blog, a look at steps taken to conserve and repair two damaged 19th-century maps. “These case studies show some of the treatment options available for large maps, and demonstrate the challenging decisions that have to be made in order to care for the Library’s collections in their entirety. The principles at the heart of every conservation intervention are reversibility and retreatability, which ensure that we can always return to an object in the future if circumstances change.” [via]

David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Opens April 19

In 2009 it was announced that map collector David Rumsey, whose eponymous website has been a must-visit for any map aficionado, would be donating his collection of 150,000 maps, plus digital copies, to Stanford University. Preparations to receive Rumsey’s collection began last summer. Now the David Rumsey Map Center is set to open—an event that will be marked with a reception on 19 April, the opening of an exhibition called A Universe of Maps: Opening the David Rumsey Map Center, and a series of presentations and workshops over the following two days. Speakers include Anne Knowles, Susan Schulten and Chet Van Duzer, among others, as well as Rumsey himself. [via]

Here’s a page previewing the Center. Here’s a short video:

Previously: Rumsey Donates Maps to Stanford.

Talking About Map Thefts

Here’s a profile of Thomas Durrer, the University of Virginia detective assigned to the Gilbert Bland map theft case, in the spring 2016 issue of Virginia, the university’s alumni magazine. [via]

map-thief island-lost-mapsBland’s career predated Forbes Smiley’s (he lacked Smiley’s ostensible pedigree) and was the focus of Miles Harvey’s 2000 book The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime (AmazoniBooks).

Smiley was, of course, the subject of Michael Blanding’s 2014 book The Map Thief (Amazon, iBooks; see my review). Blanding is on a bit of a campus speaking tour at the moment, discussing the Smiley case. He’s at the University of Florida tonight, the University of Miami tomorrow night, and more college campuses in April and May.