Osher Library Launches Fundraising Campaign

The Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education has launched a fundraising campaign to support their map conservation efforts.

In recognition of Maine’s Bicentennial, and in conjunction with our newly launched exhibition, “Mapping Maine: The Land and Its Peoples, 1677-1842,” we are raising funds to conserve historic maps of Maine and beyond to ensure that students and researchers of all ages continue to have access to cartographic resources vital to understanding the history of the world, the nation, the land we now call Maine, and our local communities. When historic maps, atlases, and globes come into our collections (via donations by individuals and organizations or by purchase)—like the 1855 Wall Map of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine, displayed below—they often arrive in fragile condition due to their age, the nature of the materials, and how they have been used over time. While we protect and store the items in our world-class climate controlled storage facility, many items need conservation in order to be displayed and utilized by our patrons of all ages.

The fundraising target is $50,000. Help them get there. [Osher]

Mapping Maine

Moses Greenleaf, “Map of the Inhabited Part of the State of Maine,” 1820. Map, 52.5×61.5 cm. Osher Map Library.

Mapping Maine: The Land and Its Peoples, 1677-1842, an exhibition of maps celebrating Maine’s bicentennial while acknowledging the Wabanaki presence and history in the space that became Maine, opens today at the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education. The online component is here; there is a physical exhibition in the OML’s gallery, but visitors are limited to a maximum of four per one-hour timeslot: details here. Curated by Matthew Edney, the exhibition runs until 31 March 2021.

Mapping a World of Cities

Map of Tenochtitlan and the Gulf of Mexico, 1524
Map of Tenochtitlán and the Gulf of Mexico, attrib. Albrecht Dürer, 1524. 29.8×46.5 cm. John Carter Brown Library.

The Leventhal Center’s latest online map exhibition, Mapping a World of Cities, draws examples of city maps from ten map libraries and collections across the United States; those examples range from a 1524 map of Tenochtitlán (above) to a 1927 map of Chicago gangs.

Looking at maps helps us to understand the changing geography of urban life. Maps didn’t just serve as snapshots of how cities looked at one moment in time; in the form of plans, maps were also used to build, speculate, and fight over urban form. Historical maps reflect cities’ ethnic and economic transformations, systems of domination and oppression, sites of monumentality and squalor. They capture good times and bad, expansion, decay, and destruction. City dwellers take great pride in their cities, as part of a shared sense of place that embedded in a historical trajectory. Maps tell the stories of a city’s past, present—and perhaps its future.

The Library of Congress’s Geography and Map Division contributed five maps to the exhibition; see their post.

Seymour Schwartz, 1928-2020

Seymour I. Schwartz was known to map aficionados as a collector, cartographic historian and author of five books on the history of cartography (The Mismapping of America and Putting “America” on the Map, among others1). He donated his collection to the University of Virginia in 2008; a smaller tranche, regional in focus, went to the University of Rochester in 2010.

But maps were his side gig, a hobby his wife got him into to give him something else to do. Schwartz was a renowned surgeon with a long and distinguished career, a professor of medicine and the co-author of what became the standard textbook on surgery. He died Friday at the age of 92. Additional coverage: Associated Press, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Previously: Seymour Schwartz at 90; Seymour Schwartz at 90.

Smithsonian Magazine Explores the Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

The September issue of Smithsonian Magazine has a very good piece summing up the case of the Carnegie Library rare book and map thefts, coverage of which has made regular appearances here on The Map Room. In 2017 Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library discovered that more than 300 rare books, maps and other items, worth around $8 million, had been stolen from their collection. Library archivist Greg Priore, who had physical access to the items, and bookseller John Schulman, who acted as his fence, were eventually arrested and charged; they pled guilty to a reduced set of charges last January. With everything that’s been happening, I missed their sentencing last June; the Smithsonian piece provides the details: Priore was sentenced to three years of house arrest and 12 years of probation, Schulman to four years of house arrest and 12 years of probation, sentences that some consider unconscionably light.

Previously: 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; Arrests Made in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Theft Update; Priore, Schulman Plead Guilty to Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts.

Philadelphia Print Shop Reopening This Fall Under New Management

The Philadelphia Print Shop (not to be confused with the Denver-based Philadelphia Print Shop West), an antique prints, rare books and maps dealer that closed last December, is back in business. David Mackey has bought the business from Don Cresswell, who founded it in 1982, and is relocating it from Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighbourhood to nearby Wayne. A “COVID-style grand opening” is planned for October. [WMS]

An Atlas of the Himalayas

An Atlas of the Himalayas (book cover)In An Atlas of the Himalayas by a 19th Century Tibetan Monk (Brill), Diana Lange explores the origins of six maps drawn by an anonymous Tibetan artist for a Scottish explorer in the mid-19th century, and how those maps ended up in the British Library. For more on Lange’s research into this subject, see her guest post on the British Library’s map blog.

Amazon (Canada, UK) | Bookshop

Remains of Lost Fortifications in Gibraltar Found Thanks to 18th-Century Map

The remains of a fortified wall, originally part of Gibraltar’s northern defences but since lost to rubble, vegetation and time, was re-discovered and excavated thanks to an eighteenth-century map of the territory held by the British Library.

The map clearly indicated the location of the Hanover Wall, which had stretched from the Tower of Homage—the Moorish castle at the pinnacle of the defences—down to the Hanover Batteries lower down the Rock, but whose location had been lost. The Hanover Wall appears (under another name) on other maps at least as far back as 1627, when Spain held Gibraltar.

Workers directed by Carl quickly found the remains of the wall, which remained intact, although fully submerged under dirt and foliage. The efforts of these men revealed the long-lost wall, a critical part of the Northern Defences which had been lost amidst the rapid changes in Gibraltar throughout the 20th Century.

John G. Bartholomew, 100 Years After His Death

John G. BartholomewA short piece in the Edinburgh Evening News last April noted the 100th anniversary of the death of John G. Bartholomew (1860-1920), the fourth of six generations of mapmaking Bartholomews; their firm, John Bartholomew and Son, was responsible for the Times atlases before they were taken up by HarperCollins.

Speaking of his ancestor’s legacy, great-grandson, John Eric Bartholomew, told the Evening News that the fact John George Bartholomew is recognised as the man credited with being the first to put the name Antarctica on the map remains a great source of pride.

Little known is that, in 1886, Bartholomew had a brief flirtation with considering the name “Antipodea” for oceanographer John Murray’s map depicting the continent, before settling for Antarctica.

More about John G. Bartholomew at the Bartholomew family’s website and the NLS’s Bartholomew Archive. [WMS]

Previously: Robert G. Bartholomew, 1927-2017.

Antietam Battlefield Map Shows Burial Locations

Map of the Battlefield of Antietam (1864)
S. G. Elliott, “Map of the Battlefield of Antietam,” 1864. Map, 87 × 66 cm. New York Public Library.

A map of the battlefield of Antietam held by the New York Public Library that shows the location of graves of soldiers killed in the 1862 U.S. Civil War battle is the subject of a piece in today’s Washington Post.

Civil War historians are hailing it as an important new way to visualize the toll of the huge battle outside Sharpsburg, Md., in 1862.

“Every one of us who’s looked at this absolutely flips out,” said Garry Adelman, chief historian for the Washington-based American Battlefield Trust, which works to preserve historic battlefields. “This will reverberate for decades.”

The map is the only one of its kind known to exist. It was digitized by the New York Public Library, which owns it, and was spotted online by local historians a few weeks ago.

The map doesn’t just mark graveyards, it notes the burial locations of specific regiments and brigades—and in 45 cases, individual soldiers.

Mapping the Global Imaginary

In February 2019 a conference on the blurred line between factual and fictitious mapping in history, Mapping the Global Imaginary, 1500-1900, took place at Stanford University’s David Rumsey Map Center. Which I somehow missed. But no worries: videos of the conference panels are available online (see above for the first one), as is the talk by the keynote speaker, Sumathi Ramaswamy.

Maps of Antarctica at the British Library

“South Polar Chart,” The Scottish Geographical Magazine (1898). BL Maps 162.

Two recent posts at the British Library’s Maps and Views Blog provide “a whistle-stop tour through maps held in the British Library that chart Antarctica’s gradual emergence from obscurity into light.” The first covers maps of Antarctica through the nineteenth century, when the continent went from unknown to unexplored; the second the twentieth century, where maps of the continent “[reflect] the switch made by cartography to digital data from the latter part of the twentieth century.”

Engravers: The Unsung Heroes of Mapmaking

The Bodleian’s Map Room Blog (no relation) has a post about the “unsung heroes” of mapmaking: the engravers.

Until the nineteenth century, virtually all printed maps were produced by engraving the map on a sheet of copper—or later on, steel—as a mirror image of how the finished map would look. The plate was then inked and the image printed onto a sheet of paper in a printing press. This was incredibly skilled work, but often only very discreetly acknowledged, the engraver’s name appearing in tiny, modest letters in the bottom margin.

Identifying the engravers for cataloguing purposes—something a library like the Bodleian tries to do—can be a challenge.

‘With Savage Pictures Fill Their Gaps’: Chet Van Duzer on Horror Vacui

Chet Van Duzer’s presentation about the lack of empty spaces on old maps—horror vacui—at the November 2017 meeting of the New York Map Society has now been uploaded to YouTube.

As I’ve said before, the subject of empty spaces on maps is of considerable interest to my own research on fantasy maps: fantasy maps tend to be full of empty spaces not germane to the story, whereas real-world maps were covered in cartouches, sea monsters, and ribbons of text. As a result I’m very interested in what Van Duzer has to say about the subject, and have been looking for something exactly like this recorded talk for some time.

I wasn’t disappointed. Van Duzer lays out, with some particularly over the top examples, how empty spaces on maps were consumed (his term) by text, ships, sea monsters and other embellishments that were designed for that very purpose. Some of those embellishments were absolutely enormous, others curiously redundant: a single map does not need four identical scales or a dozen or more compass roses, for example. “Everything we’re seeing here was a choice on the part of the cartographer,” he says at one point; “all this information could be disposed differently.”

Previously: Horror Vacui: The Fear of Blank Spaces.

British Library Exhibitions and TV Programs Revisited

BBC Four is rebroadcasting The Beauty of Maps, a four-episode series that coincided with the 2010 Magnificent Maps exhibition at the British Library. Two episodes broadcast so far, with the third this evening and the fourth tomorrow. They’ll be on iPlayer for the next month.

Meanwhile, the British Library’s 2016 Maps and the 20th Century exhibition (previously) is now available in virtual form—as in, you can “walk” through a virtual recreation of the physical exhibition. Articles related to the exhibition are available here, and of course the companion volume, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line, edited by Tom Harper, is still available: Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop.