Returning Maps to Their Context

Interesting essay for the History of Cartography Project from Matthew Edney, on the practice of treating maps as separate from the books they were originally published in—and physically removing them from those books—and the damage that does, both to the physical objects and to our understanding of the past.

The key issue is that over many centuries, maps have routinely been removed from their original contexts without clear records being kept. These practices have been extensively countered and halted since the 1970s, however they have left a legacy that requires great effort to overcome. But that effort always pays off: resituating early maps in the original contexts of their production, circulation, and use inevitably allows for more new interpretations of their meaning and significance.