A 1952 pictorial map purporting to show the locations of lost mines and sunken treasures in the Americas led L. A. Times reporter Daniel Miller, who acquired a copy of said map a few years ago, down two separate rabbit holes: one in which he unburies the history of the mapmaker, John D. Lawrence, who was colourful in a very California way; the other in which modern-day treasure hunters are prospecting at one of the locations shown on Lawrence’s map: Mount Kokoweef. Miller speculates as to what Lawrence knew about the Kokoweef site; me, I’m always skeptical about reading too much into maps like this, which are often retellings of retellings of stories. Still a fascinating story.
Poems on Maps
The Leventhal Map Center looks at poems on maps. Not about maps, on maps. “It just so happens that many of the maps in our collection have poems inscribed on them, in legends, around borders, and hidden away in overlooked corners. We find them primarily on pictorial maps, and the poems are mainly by men from the 20th century literary canon, but the maps they are on cover a wide geographic range.”
xkcd: ‘Island Storage’
The xkcd from last Friday, “Island Storage,” is the most recent map-related way that Randall Munroe has hurt us in the eyes.
Anton Thomas’s Wild World: A Progress Report
Anton Thomas gives us an update on the map he’s been working on for the past two years: Wild World. “With much ocean ahead, and Antarctica, I think it’ll take another year to finish. But most of the land is done. And prints of certain continents are already available, so the map is going well. It’s just . . . more complex and detailed than I ever dreamed.”
Previously: Anton Thomas’s Next Project: Wild World.
Update, 20 Jan 2023: Interview with MapLab.
New Map Exhibition in Leiden
“When looking at maps, we should always be mindful of the question: Who is mapping what and for what purpose?” A new exhibition at the Museum Volkskunde in Leiden, in collaboration with Leiden University Libraries, Kaarten: navigeren en manipuleren [Maps: Navigating and Manipulating], which opened last month, gathers together contemporary art and antique maps from their respective collections to explore the question of truth and perspective in maps. One example: a “serio-comic map” from the Crimean war (in Dutch). Another video, also in Dutch. Runs until 29 October 2023. Tickets 15€ or less.
David Nuttall’s Maps of Fictional Places
Geofiction involves creating imaginary worlds through maps—maps of fictional places, but without the story attached—and David Nuttall has been at it since the age of five. He says he’s gotten better since then (his gallery, sorted by medium: see if he’s right). One of his maps is featured in the new (6th) volume of the NACIS Atlas of Design; Nat Case writes about it here:
David’s maps do wear the sorts of stylistic suits of clothes “regular” referential maps use. They studiously use stylesheets from particular eras and schools of cartography. And the “places” mapped, like most historical fiction, has strong roots in actual geographies. The patterns of settlement and transportation, the way landforms relate to one another: David knows his stuff. And so this map, “Kjempsavor Ayars,” looks like the Faeroes … and the Shetlands, the Outer Hebrides, or the islands of Norway. And the map artwork looks a lot like a kind of map-making from the early mid-20th century, where old schools of hand-lettering and drafting met an ever-more-engineered modern world. But, and this is such a puzzle to know what to do with: It’s not actually of anywhere. There’s no stories to back you up about this bridge or that ferry route, the Viking history of that settlement or the modern fishing industry at that port. It suggests there ought to be a history like that, but it unexpectedly leaves you with that job.
The Atlas of Design, vol. 6, costs $25 and can be bought here; David’s shop is here.
All Online Maps Don’t Suck?
The notion expressed in Monday’s xkcd, particularly in the alt-text—
OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now really good? And Apple Maps’s new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It’s cool how there are all these good maps now!
—is unexpectedly more on point than not.
In 2013 I wrote a screed saying that all online maps sucked: that no one map platform had a monopoly on errors. At the time Exhibit A for the suckiness of online maps was Apple Maps; since then, and particularly since 2018, Apple has been putting in the work. Not that they’re done, but still: the product is fundamentally better now than it was then. And it’s not like the other platforms have been idle in the meantime. No one platform is going to achieve Cartography’s ideal of the universal and accurate Map—that’s inherently unachievable—but better? I’ll take better.
xkcd’s Madagascator Projection
Uncharacteristically for xkcd’s Bad Map Projection series, the Madagascator is actually totally legitimate as a projection. Not that it’s any less mischievous, mind.
Update, 3 May: Turns out there was more to this xkcd cartoon. See Mercator: Extreme.
The Quarantine Atlas
Out today from Black Dog & Leventhal: The Quarantine Atlas, a book-length distillation of CityLab’s COVID-19 mapping project, in which they solicited readers’ hand-drawn maps of life under lockdown, the year 2020 in general, and how life has been changed by the pandemic. They received more than 400 submissions; 65 of those maps, plus essays by divers hands, are included in the book.
To mark The Quarantine Atlas’s release, editor Laura Bliss has a piece in Smithsonian adapted from the book’s introduction and generously illustrated with maps. Bloomberg, which absorbed CityLab a while back, features twelve quarantine maps from the various calls for submissions. Update: Plus an adaptation of David Dudley’s foreword.
The Quarantine Atlas
by Laura Bliss
Black Dog & Leventhal, 19 Apr 2022
Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books | Bookshop
Bellerby’s Globe for Ukraine
Bespoke globemaker Bellerby and Company is putting the finishing touches on a one-of-a-kind globe that will be auctioned to raise funds for the defence and rebuilding of Ukraine. “One of our talented painters, Anastasiya (Nastia), has been in the company close to 5 years. She is hand painting traditional Ukrainian folk art directly on to this unique and special globe.” The globe is inspired by Petrykivka painting. More at their Instagram post.
xkcd: The Goode Homolosine to the Rescue!
Randall Munroe’s map projection humour is increasingly on point, as last Friday’s xkcd demonstrates. (The mouseover text is even better: “There are two rules on this ship: Never gaze back into the projection abyss, and never touch the red button labeled DYMAXION.”)
Previously: xkcd: The Greenland Special; xkcd: All South Americas; Blame the Mercator Projection; xkcd’s Time Zone Map; xkcd’s Liquid Resize Map Projection.
CityLab Continues Its COVID Mapping Project
Bloomberg CityLab is continuing its COVID-19 mapping project: they’ve issued another call for reader-submitted maps. “[T]he new year is a chance to take stock of where we stand now. Once again, Bloomberg CityLab invites you to make a map that reflects on how your world has shifted or been reframed during the pandemic.” Due date is 17 January.
Previously: CityLab Wants Your Hand-Drawn Quarantine Maps; Maps from Isolation; CityLab Wants Your Homemade Map of 2020.
Preorder The Quarantine Atlas: Mapping Life under COVID-19 at Amazon (Canada, UK).
Max Schörm’s Modern Caricature Maps
Max Schörm has resurrected the art of caricature maps (maps where countries are made to look like people, animal or other objects; they were a regular feature of propaganda maps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries). For the past year and a half Max has been posting new maps three times a week to his Instagram account: the maps are of countries, but also continents, provinces, states, districts and cities; some of them are of countries’ historical boundaries (e.g. interwar Romania or Habsburg Hungary—or, going even further back, Pangaea) some of them (e.g. this pinwheel map of Myanmar) are even animated. There’s a lot of whimsy and pop-culture references that don’t always match up with the borders they’re filling out; these aren’t the “serio-comic” satirical maps of the pre-World War I era. Which is to say: they’re entertaining.
Previously: A ‘Serio-Comic Map’ for the Modern Age; Another Caricature Map of Modern Europe.
xkcd Sabotages Those Flag Maps
Maps where countries are coloured in with flag patterns: I’ve seen a lot of them around, especially on Reddit, but I haven’t necessarily liked them; xkcd’s comic from last Wednesday goes one step further in that it offers a way to hack them.
A Map of Every Chinese City
Inspired, he says, by Itchy Feet’s maps of Every European City and Every American City, Alfred Twu has come up with a Map of Every Chinese City. (Chinese version here.) Twu is no stranger to these parts: he worked on rail maps for California and the Northeast Corridor some years back.
Previously: Itchy Feet’s Map of Every European City; Itchy Feet’s Map of Every American City.
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