Talking Maps

The Gough Map. Wikimedia Commons.

Talking Maps, opening today at the Bodleian Libraries, is a major new map exhibition featuring maps from the Bodleian’s collections.

Highlights on show include the Gough Map, the earliest surviving map showing Great Britain in a recognizable form, the Selden Map, a late Ming map of the South China Sea, and fictional maps by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Map treasures from the Libraries’ collection will be shown alongside specially commissioned 3D installations and artworks, and exciting works on loan from artists and other institutions.

The exhibition is co-curated by Jerry Brotton, who among other things wrote A History of the World in Twelve Maps (my review) and Bodleian map librarian Nick Millea. They’ve co-authored a companion book to the exhibition, also out today, and also called Talking Maps (Bodleian).

The Bodleian is also publishing a number of other map books to coincide with the exhibition, including Mark Ashworth’s Why North is Up: Map Conventions and Where They Came From (Bodleian) and Brotton and Millea’s Fifty Maps and the Stories They Tell (Bodleian).

(See the Map Books of 2019 page for more Bodleian titles.)

Talking Maps opens today and runs until 8 March 2020. Free admission. More information from the Bodleian and Queen Mary University of London (where Brotton teaches).

Maps from the Bodleian Library were previously featured in Debbie Hall’s Treasures from the Map Room (Bodleian, 2016), reviewed here.

The History of the Netherlands in 100 Old Maps

Briefly noted: the publication last month of Marieke van Delft and Reinder Storm’s De Geschiedeneis van Nederland in 100 Oude Kaarten (Lannoo), whose title, for the 98.6 percent of you who are not visiting this website from the Netherlands, translates as The History of the Netherlands in 100 Old Maps, which makes it the same sort of book as Susan Schulten’s History of America in 100 Maps (reviewed here), only about the Netherlands. And in Dutch. It’s not listed at every Amazon store (and at the moment is not in stock where it is listed), but it’s available (at a discount) from the publisher.

Marleen Smit contributed to the book; here’s her post about it (in English). There’s a brief promotional video (in Dutch).

Mapping Memory: An Exhibition of 16th-Century Indigenous Maps

Unknown artist, Map of Teozacoalco (detail), ca. 1580, tempera on paper, 176×138 cm, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin Libraries.

Mapping Memory: Space and History in 16th-century Mexico, a new exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, presents “a selection of maps, known as Mapas de las Relaciones Geográficas, created by Indigenous artists around 1580. These unique documents show some of the visual strategies used by native communities for the endurance and perseverance of their cultures throughout the so-called colonial period and well beyond.” Opened 29 June; runs until 25 August.

Many Moon Maps

National Geographic’s 1969 map of the Moon

With the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 almost upon us, there’s been an uptick in moon-related content, which includes moon-related map content. For example:

New Exhibition. Opening today at The Map House in London, The Mapping of the Moon: 1669-1969, an exhibition of three centuries of lunar cartography. “The exhibition includes rare early 17th and 18th Century observations of the moon from astronomers such as Athanasius Kircher and Jean-Dominique Cassini, important maps produced by NASA for lunar exploration, globes and signed material by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean and Jim Lovell.” Runs until 21 July. [ARTFIXDaily]

New Map. The July 2019 issue of National Geographic has a new map of the Moon that updates the 1969 painted version (see above) with a mosaic based on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery. I don’t know whether that means a physical version of the map will be included with the issue as an insert, but I hope it does.

New Way to Navigate. NASA has a post on using GPS on the Moon. Now, I’d thought that using GPS on another world would require the deployment of a GPS satellite constellation around said world. No, this is about using Earth-orbiting GPS signals for lunar navigation, which simulations suggest is possible. The mind boggles.

An Exhibition of Maps of the Imagination in Strasbourg

An exhibition at BNU Strasbourg, Hors du Monde: La Carte et l’Imaginaire, explores the role of imagined places on maps, from monsters on Renaissance maps to California-as-an-island to fantasy maps. The press dossier (PDF; in French) serves as a fairly detailed guide. Opened 18 May; runs until 20 October 2019. Admission 3€.

Three Men Arrested for Map Thefts in France

Three men have been arrested for stealing approximately €20,000 worth of maps from municipal libraries in France, Le Parisien reports (in French). The men were arrested near Béziers after an investigation that began after an aborted attempt at stealing from Avignon’s municipal library. Between late 2018 and early 2019 the men managed to steal at least five 15th- or 16th-century maps from libraries in Limoges, Auxerre and Le Mans; the maps have not yet been recovered. [Tony Campbell]

New Leventhal Exhibition: America Transformed

The Leventhal Map Center’s latest exhibition, America Transformed: Mapping the 19th Century, opened last Saturday and runs until 10 November 2019.

During the 19th century, the United States expanded dramatically westward. Immigrant settlers rapidly spread across the continent and transformed it, often through violent or deceptive means, from ancestral Native lands and borderlands teeming with diverse communities to landscapes that fueled the rise of industrialized cities. Historical maps, images and related objects tell the story of the sweeping changes made to the physical, cultural, and political landscape. Moving beyond the mythologized American frontier, this map exhibition explores the complexity of factors that shaped our country over the century.

As usual, there’s a comprehensive online version, which is peppered with acknowledgements of the very white, very settler-colonialist perspective of the maps on display. Which are, of course, justified, but as far as I can see they’re asterisks and asides on an otherwise unchanged exhibit.

Le Monde en sphères

Le Monde en sphères, a new exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, looks at spherical representations of the world throughout history. Globes, to be sure, but there are other spherical representations to consider as well. See the exhibition website (in French; buggy in some browsers) or visit the physical exhibition, which opens on 16 April 2019 and runs until 21 July at the François Mitterand building. Tickets €7-9.

An Exhibition of Historic Maps of New York City: New Amsterdam to Metropolis

Untapped Cities has photos from an exhibition of historic and antique maps of New York City at the gallery of Manhattan rare book dealer Martayan Lan. New Amsterdam to Metropolis: Historic Maps of New York City features maps of the city dating back to the 16th century. It opened last November and runs until the end of May 2019. Some (but not all) of the maps, the New York Times notes, are for sale, which is what happens when it’s a rare book dealer rather than a museum or library doing the exhibition.

BNSF’s Map Archives

BNSF is one of the largest railways in North America. It’s the end product of a series of rail mergers, and as such it has records for all its antecedent railroads. Including, as an item posted to its website this month reveals, maps, which BNSF is now in the process of digitizing.

Some of the most historically significant maps that BNSF has are maps filed by our predecessor railroads. These maps depicted the beginning of the railroad as we know it, and were often the first official survey of some of the more remote areas of the developing West.

Many of our vital maps were found in boxes or stashed in file cabinets or storage rooms. “We went to 200-plus locations going through thousands, if not tens of thousands of boxes,” said Obermiller of the conversion. “Now we are preserving the most vital maps to ensure we are retaining our vital records and are good stewards of our heritage.”

No word in the piece as to whether those records are available to researchers or the public.

16th-Century Hand-Drawn Maps Imitate the Style of Printed Maps

Seven maps from late 16th-century Mexico are the focus of a 2018 study by University of Seville researcher Manuel Morato-Moreno (Cartographica article, press release). Part of a series of maps sent back to Spain by local administrators, the maps are hand-drawn, but imitate the style of printed maps: the hatching deliberately evokes woodcuts, while the animals are reminiscent of cartouches, sea monsters and other illustrative elements. But the maps also incorporate Indigenous design elements.

Although all the maps were done in the European style, they also show some characteristics that suggest the influence of indigenous cartography, like footprints on the routes and eddies in the rivers, in which fish can also be seen on the surface of the water. Having these indigenous conventions in coexistence with European cartographic characteristics suggests an effort to adapt the two cartographic styles to each other. “The authors of these maps might have unconsciously mixed European and native conventions,” the researcher adds.

In addition, the experts have identified the influence of another renaissance practice which originated in the portolan charts: drawings of figurative scenes of indigenous people and animals of the region, like deer, rabbits, vultures and armadillos. “Possibly the disproportionate representation of these animals is a way of emphasising the animal species that were characteristic of the region, or, as in the case of the armadillo, highlighting those exotic species that were unknown in Spain.”

More at, and via, Atlas Obscura.