Designing Better Maps Reviewed

DesigningBetterMaps_lg Gretchen Peterson reviews the second edition of Cynthia Brewer’s Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users (Esri Press, December 2015). “I’d say it’s much better than the previous edition. All the images have been updated and are now in keeping with modern cartography practices. All the typical things that you need to know are covered from fonts and labels to color and layout.” Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

Map of Colonial New Jersey Rediscovered

colonial-nj

A 1769 map of New Jersey by the famed colonial surveyor Bernard Ratzer, commissioned to settle a longstanding border dispute between New Jersey and New York, has been uncovered by a Harvard University librarian. The map, criss-crossed by competing and alternate boundary lines, has been digitized and is available to view online as part of Harvard’s Colonial North American project.

Mapping the Thaw

Scientists have been tracking seasonal freeze-thaw patterns for 30 years. This map, produced from data collected by NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, “shows the freeze-thaw status of areas north of 45 degrees latitude on March 5, 2015, as spring approached. Frozen land is blue; thawed land is pink. The measurement is possible because frozen water forms crystalline structures that can be detected by satellites.” NASA Earth Observatory.

Maps and Poetry

I’m not alone in looking at the use of maps in fantasy literature; Hunter College classics professor Adele Haft, on the other hand, has been studying something a bit more singular: the use of maps in modern poetry. According to her CV she’s published a number of papers on poems like “The Map” by Elizabeth Bishop; more recently she’s been publishing, in Cartographic Perspectives, a multi-part study of Australian poet Kenneth Slessor’s poetic sequence The Atlas: introduction, part one, part two, part three, part four.

How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet

OpenStreetMap, using Web Mercator, all zoomed out
OpenStreetMap

I’ve said it before: if you want to start a fight among cartographers, ask them what their favourite map projection is. Earlier this week I did just that: I felt mischievous and wanted to try out Twitter’s polling feature, so I ran a poll asking my Map Room followers what the best projection for world maps was. And because I was feeling particularly mischievous, I made sure to include both the often-reviled Mercator projection and its antithesis, the Peters projection, rounding out the list with two less controversial choices: the Winkel tripel projection used by National Geographic, and the brand-new Patterson projection announced late last year.

The results of the poll were utterly unexpected: 42 percent chose the Mercator projection.

Continue reading “How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet”

Gift Guide: Map Books of 2015

At about this time of the year I assemble a gift guide that lists some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published this year. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but if someone in your life is just a little bit obsessed about maps (and if you don’t have such a person, why don’t you?), and you’re looking for something to get them, this list might be of use.

Some of these books you’ve seen me blog about before; others I’m mentioning for the first time.

Continue reading “Gift Guide: Map Books of 2015”

Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps

Vargic's Map of the Internet 2.0 (detail)

Vargic's Miscellany of Curious Maps (book cover)In January 2014 a teenage design student from Slovakia named Martin Vargic posted a map of the Internet—inspired, he told The Independent, by the xkcd classic—on his DeviantArt page. The map quickly went viral. Since then, he’s been producing maps of all sorts of things—a revised Internet map, a literature map, historical maps, maps of the world after global warming and an ice age, a stereotype map (see previous entry), plus other infographics—at a dizzying pace, most of which are available for sale on his website. Now his maps are being collected in a book, Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps. It’s out now in the U.K. from Penguin imprint Michael Joseph; in North America it’ll be available in December from HarperCollins. Did I mention he’s a teenager?

Map of Middle-earth, Annotated by Tolkien Himself, Discovered

Detail of map of Middle-earth annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien

A map of Middle-earth annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien has been found. The map, found among the papers of illustrator Pauline Baynes, who died in 2008, was used by Baynes while she worked on a full-colour map of Middle-earth published in 1970. Tolkien’s annotations appear on the map in green ink and pencil; they not only correct some of the errors of the original map (executed by his son, Christopher); they also offer some geographical parallels to our own world (Hobbiton is at the same latitude as Oxford, Minas Tirith at Ravenna’s). Blackwell’s Rare Books is selling the map for £60,000; it’s the centrepiece of a forthcoming catalogue on the work of Pauline Baynes. [Tor.com]

Map: Exploring the World

Map: Exploring the World (inside)

Map: Exploring the World (cover) The run-up to every holiday season produces a fresh batch of lavishly illustrated map books, and this year does not appear to be an exception. Map: Exploring the World, a collection of “300 stunning maps from all periods and from all around the world,” came out last month from Phaidon Press. The book was assembled by “an international panel of cartographers, academics, map dealers and collectors,” the publisher says; Forbes contributor Bruce Dorminey’s look at this book reveals that one of them was Library of Congress map curator John Hessler.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings

Book cover: The Art of The Lord of the Rings When J. R. R. Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings, the map was not an afterthought. (For one thing, with characters travelling many miles over many months, separately and together, distances and dates had to add up.) Tolkien didn’t just draft; he drew—maps, sketches, drawings, whatever he needed to help him visualize the world he was inventing. About 180 of those maps and drawings are now collected in a new book out today: The Art of The Lord of the Rings, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (who previously authored The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion). Wired has some sample images. (From what I can tell, the British edition is slipcased.) [Boing Boing/MetaFilter]

Atlas of Cursed Places

Book cover: Atlas of Cursed Places The first thing to keep in mind about Olivier Le Carrer’s Atlas of Cursed Places (Black Dog & Leventhal, October 2015) is that it’s not an atlas. Rather, it’s a collection of brief essays about a series of unique places around the world. In that I suspect it’s much like Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands or Aude de Tocqueville’s Atlas of Lost Cities (English translation forthcoming next year). All of these books shared a publisher in France; all of them appear to have been conceived under the influence of Calvino.

The Atlas of Cursed Places’s essays are about places in the world that are, for one reason or another, particularly horrible, by dint of their history or geography. There are navigational hazards and environmental disasters, and sites of old horrors that were entirely human-made. Ghost towns, war zones, slums and mausoleums. Animal infestations. Each are engrossing, but the essays barely get started on their subjects: turn the page expecting more and you find yourself already on the next one. Each essay is an act of cruelty (very meta given the subject matter), whetting readers’ appetites but denying us the feast.

In the end this is an exercise in curation: the choices are fascinating, but the essays are affective rather than substantive. In that sense this book is an even lighter read than Alastair Bonnet’s Unruly Places (which seems to have much less Calvino in its book DNA).

(While not an atlas proper, this book does have a lot of maps illustrating each essay. But their effect is disorienting: each cursed place is indicated by a star on an old and out-of-date map, usually a plate from a century-old atlas.)

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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