This striking high-resolution map of Canada’s roads and highways, produced by EarthArtAustralia, is a work of GIS: it’s assembled from Canadian GIS road data, with roads coloured and weighted by importance (freeways are bright yellow, back roads are blue). This map is also inarguably a work of art: I could easily have one on my wall. It’s certainly being sold as such, with high-resolution digital downloads and prints available. (EarthArtAustralia has a number of downloadable and frameable maps based on road and waterway data: they’ve been coming at a furious clip lately.)
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.
Meanwhile, the Boston Public Library’s exhibition on the mapping of the mythical island of Hy-Brasil (see previous entry) wraps up next month; here’s another look at it from Hyperallergic’s Allison Meier. [Leventhal Map Center]
We’re familiar with caricature maps from before and during the First World War: maps that reimagine various countries as warring animals or caricatured faces. These aren’t the only examples of persuasive cartography or of pictorial maps of this or other wars, but I imagine they’ll be front and centre at a new exhibition at The Map House, an antiquarian map seller in London. War Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps, 1900-1950 opened last week and runs until 18 November. A companion book of the same name is apparently available as of next week. [Geographical]
The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection at the George Washington University Museum collects historical documents and other items relating to the history of Washington, DC. The Washington Post has a profile of its patron, Albert H. Small, who donated the collection to the university in 2011, and the collection itself. Of interest to us is the collection’s maps of the capital city, including the Arnold Map of 1862 (above):
Published during the Civil War, the map’s detailed, topographical view of Washington included all 53 forts that guarded the city. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered all the maps confiscated lest they fall into Confederate hands. Small has one. There’s a 1671 map of Maryland, too, the second map of the colony ever published, and a 1904 map of the St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds.
“It’s probably the best map collection outside the Library of Congress,” Goode said.
Open now and running through 26 February 2017 at the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Center, Shakespeare’s Here and Everywhere asks “What roles do place, identity and travel play in his comedies, tragedies and histories? Explore these questions and more through maps, atlases and illustrations of Shakespeare’s time and beyond.” [Tony Campbell]
The Northwest Passage: Navigating Old Beliefs and New Realities opens 29 September 2016 at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine. [WMS]
Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography runs from 4 October 2016 to 15 January 2017 at the AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Utrecht, Netherlands. The exhibition “will explore the different representations of Australia. Alongside the VOC’s historical maps of Australia’s coast, drawn by Dutch cartographers in the 17th and 18th centuries, are striking depictions of the country in contemporary art works of Aboriginal artists that are derived from thousands of years of traditions.” [WMS]
The Ordnance Survey is launching a National Map Reading Week, to be held 17-23 October 2016, aimed at improving people’s map-reading skills. The OS cites evidence that a surprising number of people in the U.K. do poorly at maps and geography:
People were asked to plot various locations, from cities to National Parks on an outline map of Britain and we were pretty surprised at the results. Some 40% of people struggled to pinpoint London and only 14% could accurately plot Edinburgh’s location. […]
Even more worrying to us, just 40% of those surveyed felt they could confidently read a map with 10% never having used a paper map.
Now, map literacy and geographical knowledge aren’t the same thing: you can know how to read a map without being any good at placing something on a blank map (at least in theory). Either way, the Ordnance Survey will be producing guides and hosting workshops during the week in question. (In the meantime, they point to these map reading guides.)
As a major publisher of maps, it’s in their interest to do this sort of thing—a map-reading public is a map-buying public, after all—but increasing map literacy is an unquestionably good thing.
A freedom of information request sent to Transport for London in 2013 turned up this 2009 map of the London Underground’s track network (17.1 MB PDF)—complete with sidings, switches and yards. Among other things, you can see how a train can cross from one line to another. CityMetric picked up the story last week and it’s gone seriously viral since then: Boing Boing, Jalopnik, Wired.
If this is the sort of thing that fascinates you, you should go look at Franklin Jarrier’s maps of urban rail networks (which I told you about in 2011). These aren’t official maps, but they do for many systems around the world what the map above does for the Tube.
Cameron Booth has released an apparently final version of his subway-style Amtrak network map, which he’s been working on for the past few years. In this version he’s reworked it to improve spacing and lettering; routes do not overlap one another, which also improves clarity. It doesn’t reduce well to a single screen (he does sell prints), but it’s no small achievement to show the crowded Northeast Corridor and the rest of the network in one go and still show all the lines and connections clearly. Wired coverage.
A brief mention in the Billings Gazette brought to my attention the existence of Thomas J. Noel’s Colorado: A Historical Atlas (University of Oklahoma Press), the revised edition of which came out last year. “The real key to the book are the full color maps drawn by Carol Zuber-Mallison,” writes the Gazette’s Bernard Rose. “They are extraordinary. With over 90 maps of Colorado from the location of the state and its rivers to cemeteries there is something for everyone.” [WMS]
The Berliner Morgenpost has an interactive map showing the results of the Berlin state elections held on 18 September 2016. (Berlin is a state in its own right.) The choropleth map is shaded to show the margin of plurality; more information is given when you hover over or click on a particular district. The biggest gains were made by the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland and liberal Freie Demokratische Partei; the Pirate Party, which won 15 seats in 2011, was wiped out. [Maps Mania]
This post describing how to make a fantasy map using macaroni has been making the rounds of Tumblr for a while—it was first posted in January 2014—but it just got picked up by Tor.com recently, so let’s talk about it. The point of the post is how quick and easy it is to make a good looking fantasy map:
LOOK AT THIS WONDERFUL PIECE OF SHIT IT TOOK ME LITERALLY TEN MINUTES TO MAKE TOPS AND NOW YOU JUST NEED TO FIGURE OUT WHERE TO PUT ALL YOUR DWARF-FUCKING ELVES AND LIZARD-PEOPLE WITH BOOBS
(All caps in the original. Yes, it’s like that throughout. Sorry about that.)
But it seems to me that its quick-and-easy appeal is also an indictment of the fantasy map making process—just like the Uncharted Atlas bot (previously), which demonstrates that fantasy map terrain can be algorithmically generated. They do not, in other words, require much in the way of human imagination.
Meanwhile, on the Atlas of Ice and Fire blog, Adam Whitehead has a look at the maps of the Malazan world. Originally co-created by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont as the basis of a role-playing campaign, the Malazan world is the setting for multi-volume fantasy series by both authors.
Atlas Obscura, the website, has been aggregating an online database of unusual and interesting places around the world for the past several years. Atlas Obscura, the company, has been expanding at a rapid pace these past few years, hiring former Slate editor David Plotz as their CEO in 2014. One result of said expansion has now come to fruition in the form of Atlas Obscura, the book, out this week from Workman Publishing. Written by co-founders Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras and associate editor Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura is basically a curated subset of the online Atlas Obscura experience.
Like the Atlas of Cursed Places (reviewed here), Atlas Obscura is not an atlas per se. There are maps, but they exist to locate the subjects of the essays that make up this book. Those subjects—those weird and wonderful places—also appear on the website, but the essays are different; in the sample I compared, the book’s version is considerably briefer and more dense. This is to be expected: when you have fewer than 500 pages to work with, you have to make some zero-sum editorial decisions. Fewer, more fulsome pieces, or more pieces of shorter length. Atlas Obscura has opted for the latter, with pieces that are frustratingly, tantalizingly brief, each followed by a little information on how to get there (or, in some cases, whether you can get there). Even then only a fraction of the places that appear online appear between the book’s covers.
But browsing a website is not the same experience as reading a book. No one would try to go through the entire Atlas Obscura database; the book allows for a big-picture look at the sort of thing found there. A curated subset, as I said above. A taster’s menu. The book also rewards serendipity and pleasant surprises: whether you’re reading from beginning to end (as I did for this review), looking for specific continents, regions or countries, or flipping through pages at random, you’re bound to encounter an entry you hadn’t expected to come across. If there’s value in a hard-copy (or electronic: Kindle, iBooks) version of something freely available online in expanded form, it’s here. And let me be clear: that’s not nothing.
I received an electronic advance review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
Related: Map Books of 2016.