I’ve known about escape maps—maps printed on silk to help prisoners of war escape Germany during the Second World War—for a while now, and have blogged about them before, but this Atlas Obscura piece on them taught me a few things I didn’t know, and is a fascinating read besides.
See also this article from the British Library, from last October. And in case you missed it, a book on the subject, Barbara Bond’s Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps (Times Books), came out last year.
Speaking of National Geographic. If the magazine is known for its cartography and its photography, one should not forget the illustrations, charts and infographics that accompany many of the articles and appear on the back of every folded map that comes several times a year with a magazine subscription. Now there’s a book of them: National Geographic Infographics. Edited by Julius Wiedemann and published by Taschen, the book “gather[s] the magazine’s best infographics of the past 128 years.” More at Atlas Obscura and Wired.
Are we already at the end of the year, and it’s time for the year-in-review writeups? It is? Man. I won’t be doing one of those, but at the National Geographic map blog, All Over the Map, Greg Miller has done so at All Over the Map, the map blog he and Betsy Mason write for National Geographic. Includes a gallery of the year’s best maps—some of which, I’m ashamed to say, I missed when they came out.
Map to Globe is an online tool that allows you to transfer a flat map onto a globe. Adam Whitehead has been trying it out with fantasy maps. Some work better than others. Westeros is not one of them, “because the maps of the North and the lands beyond the Wall need to be adjusted so they work on a globe.” Think of it as sort of a Mercator problem in reverse: imagining a flat map rather than a round world: the flat map’s lack of distortion is the issue.
As discussed before, in creating the maps of Westeros and Essos for A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin has not really taken projection into account at all. On his maps of Westeros, the Wall is 300 miles long but the distance between Deepwood Motte and Winterfell (hundreds of miles to the south) is also said to be 300 miles long and the south coast of Westeros—3,000 miles south of the Wall!—is said to be 1,200 miles long. These are all in perfect scale to one another, which is not really possible when you look at the maps as a representation of what the planet actually looks like.
Trying to circle the square, so to speak, leads to complications, as Whitehead points out on his Atlas of Ice and Fire blog.
Of course, if your fantasy world is flat instead of round, you don’t have this problem.
Neil Freeman’s Random States of America creates election maps from an alternate reality. They apply real-world election results to randomly generated state boundaries, which can yield radically different results than what actually happened.
Taking things one step further, Josh Wallaert of Places asked Freeman “to calculate who would win the 2016 election if the states were redrawn under plausible scenarios.” The result is a collection of electoral might-have-beens based on familiar scenarios: Pearcy’s 38 states, Freeman’s 50 states with equal population, even the megaregions based on commuter data we saw earlier this month. Each map demonstrates that, under the U.S. system, who wins depends on where you draw the borders.
At The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Paul Weimer reviews Atlas Obscura. “So is there a point to the book? Is there any good reason to read the book and not just go trolling and traversing through the website, which has many more entries? Yes. Even in an interconnected world such as ours, there is a tactile experience to flipping through this book, coffee table style […] While wandering through links on the website is a time-honored tradition, the book has a presentation that the website can’t quite match.” I reviewed Atlas Obscura last September.
Forbes contributor Tanya Mohn reviews Katherine Harmon’s latest map art book, You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City (previously). If all goes well (it doesn’t always, mind), I should have my own review of this book up later this week. [WMS]
As for the other new map book about New York City, Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s Non-Stop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, there’s a review up on Hyperallergic by Allison Meier, replete with photos of the book. “Every map is an intense act of creative collaboration, with essays and illustrations in Nonstop Metropolis from over 30 artists and writers. […] And the maps emphasize that this city’s character is often missing from our more official cartography.” [WMS]
Like The United Swears of America, The Great American Word Mapper explores regional variation in English language use in the United States based on geocoded Twitter data, this time through a search interface that allows side-by-side comparisons. As before, forensic linguist Jack Grieve is involved, along with fellow linguist Andrea Nini. [Kottke]
My last post was about engraved copper plates used in map printing. To understand the relationship between printed maps and the plates that print them (woodblock, copper plate or lithographic stone), see Tony Campbell’s article, “Understanding Engraved Maps,” reprinted at his indispensable Map History/History of Cartography site.
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.
End of the Line is an attempt to be the last word in tube map pastiche. […]
While Beck himself likely ‘copied’ a number of aspects that ended up on his map he did so with consummate skill to create something unique, innovative and functional. Most subsequent schematic maps are pale imitations. We wrote a semi-academic paper about it which you can access from my blog here.
All too often we see transit map templates used as a short-cut to recognition and success. With no hint of irony whatsoever (!) we’ve done exactly the same and mapped the weird and wonderful world of Becksploited maps onto some tube lines and stations.
Becksploitation. There’s a term for you. It’s not like there’s no use for it.
That Soviet spies created detailed topographic maps of the world, including their Cold War enemies, is not news. Wired had a feature on the maps last year, and I’ve been aware of the work of John Davies and Alex Kent on the subject for more than a decade.
But for some unexplained reason interest in Soviet maps has had a bit of a resurgence lately. Elliot Carter writes about the Soviet maps of Washington, D.C., and their myriad little errors at Architect of the Capital
Finally, Davies and Kent have written a book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World, which, they say, will be coming from the University of Chicago Press in September 2017.
Growing up, people hissed that I was born to be a mapmaker, being half of one thing and half the other. In our language, the word for mapmaker is also the word for traitor.
Alix E. Harrow’s fantasy novelette, “The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage,” published today on Tor.com, is set in an alternate turn-of-the-century America in which mapmakers from west of the Mississippi use magic to tame a chaotic, ever-changing land for the benefit of colonizers from the east.
They need mapmakers, you see—a few traitors like myself to hold the land still. They need us more than anything in the world, if they ever want to fulfill that destiny so manifestly their own, “to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.”
Without us, the land won’t lie still. It writhes and twists beneath their compasses, so that a crew of surveyors might make the most meticulous measurements imaginable, plotting out each hill and bluff and bend in the river, and when they return the next day everything is a mirror image of itself. Or the river splits in two and one branch wanders off into hills that shimmer slightly in the dawn, or the bluffs are now far too high to climb and must be gone around. Or the crew simply disappears and returns weeks later looking hungry and haunted.
Not for the first time, we have a story in which the relationship between map and territory is more than just descriptive. To map a place is to fix that place in place. This is a story that uses maps, memoir and footnotes—the trappings of late-19th- and early-20th-century exploration—to say some sharp things about the colonialism of that era.
While the map shows the historical probability that a snow depth of at least one inch will be observed on December 25, the actual conditions in any year may vary widely from these because the weather patterns present will determine the snow on the ground or snowfall on Christmas day. These probabilities are useful as a guide only to show where snow on the ground is more likely.
While the subject may seem whimsical, it’s based on 1981-2010 Climate Normals data; this paper details into the methodology involved. (It also answers a question that climatologists and meterologists get a lot.)
Remember the Washington Post’s six maps of America’s infrastructure
Previously: ‘The Massive Scope of America’s Infrastructure’.