But computer mapping may be about to overtake hand-drawn illustration. John M. Nelson has created an ArcGIS style that does the very thing Dan Bell does by hand: emulate the maps of Middle-earth executed by Christopher Tolkien and Pauline Baynes. The style is called, naturally, My Precious: John explains it here and here, and demonstrates the style with this map of the Americas.
There are, of course, some flaws in this method: a mechanical representation of a hand-drawn style risks falling into the uncanny valley’s cartographic equivalent, especially when mountain and forest signs are clone-stamped over large areas. And to be honest I’m not a fan of the Aniron font: those letterforms were used in the Lord of the Rings movies, but never the books’ maps, and now they’re found on damn near every Tolkien-style map, and we hates it, precious, we hates it forever. But Nelson is basically emulating modern fantasy map practice: modern fantasy maps are invariably done in Illustrator, labels are computer generated rather than hand-drawn, and hill signs are clone stamped. Applying it to real-world maps, and GIS software, is new, but a difference in degree.
The Gall-Peters projection is a second-rate projection with first-rate public relations; cartographers’ responses to the projection that focused on its cartographic shortcomings ended up missing the point. Something different is happening with the Equal Earth projection, which was announced last month as a response to Gall-Peters: an equal-area projection with “eye appeal.” It’s getting media traction: the latest news outlet to take notice is Newsweek. So, finally, there’s an alternative that can be competitive on the PR front, without having to mumble something about all projections being compromises until the eyes glaze over.
The end result is a Robinson-like pseudocylindrical projection that nevertheless preserves area—and, like the Robinson, is nicer to look at than a cylindrical equal-area projection like the Gall-Peters. It’s actually kind of impressive that they were able to square that particular circle. The article details their decision-making process and the math behind the projection and is worth a read. It’ll be interesting to see whether this map gains any traction. I wish it well.
The big book coming out this month, in all senses of the word, is Cartography. by our friend Kenneth Field (Esri Press, 28 June). “This sage compendium for contemporary mapmakers distills the essence of cartography into useful topics, organized for convenience in finding the specific idea or method you need. Unlike books targeted to deep scholarly discourse of cartographic theory, this book provides sound, visually compelling information that translates into practical and useful tools for modern mapmaking. At the intersection of science and art, this book serves as a guidepost for designing an accurate and effective map.” A hardcover edition is also available.
Borders, Trade and Diplomacy
June saw the publication of a new paperback edition of Jerry Brotton’s Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World (Reaktion, 18 June), in which the author “shows that trade and diplomacy defined the development of maps and globes in this period, far more than the disinterested pursuit of scientific accuracy and objectivity, and challenges our preconceptions about not just maps, but also the history and geography of what we call East and West.” Amazon
Carving Up the Globe: An Atlas of Diplomacy, edited by Malise Ruthven (Belknap/Harvard University Press, 18 June), “illustrates treaties that have determined the political fates of millions. In rich detail, it chronicles everything from ancient Egyptian and Hittite accords to the first Sino–Tibetan peace in 783 CE, the Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916, and the 2014 Minsk Protocol looming over the war in Ukraine. But there is more here than shifting territorial frontiers. Throughout history, diplomats have also drawn boundaries around valuable resources and used treaties to empower, liberate, and constrain. Carving Up the Globe encompasses these agreements, too, across land, sea, and air. Missile and nuclear pacts, environmental treaties, chemical weapons conventions, and economic deals are all carefully rendered.” Amazon
Henricus Martellus’s World Map at Yale (c. 1491): Multispectral Imaging, Sources, and Influence by Chet Van Duzer (Springer, 25 June) reports on the results of multispectral imaging of a map previously thought illegible due to faded text. “This volume provides transcriptions, translations, and commentary on the Latin texts on the map, particularly their sources, as well as the place names in several regions. This leads to a demonstration of a very close relationship between the Martellus map and Martin Waldseemüller’s famous map of 1507. One of the most exciting discoveries on the map is in the hinterlands of southern Africa. The information there comes from African sources; the map is thus a unique and supremely important document regarding African cartography in the fifteenth century. This book is essential reading for digital humanitarians and historians of cartography.” Amazon
Map Books of 2018 Updated
The Map Books of 2018 page has been updated to include several new forthcoming books and to reflect changes to previously announced publication dates (which happens quite a lot, it seems).
Zayde Antrim’s Mapping the Middle East (Reaktion, 1 April) “explores the many perspectives from which people have visualized the vast area lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Oxus and Indus river valleys over the past millennium. By analysing maps produced from the eleventh century on, Zayde Antrim emphasizes the deep roots of mapping in a world region too often considered unexamined and unchanging before the modern period. Indeed, maps from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, coinciding with the eras of European colonialism and the rise of the nation-state, have obscured this deeper past and constrained future possibilities.” Amazon
Jeremy Black’s Mapping Shakespeare: An Exploration of Shakespeare’s Worlds Through Maps (Conway, 10 April) “looks at the England, Europe, and wider world in which Shakespeare worked through maps and illustrations that reveal the way that he and his contemporaries saw their land and their place in the world. It also explores the locations of his plays and looks at the possible inspirations for these and why Shakespeare would have chosen to set his stories there.” Amazon, iBooks
She followed that up with another post focusing on one particular factor: the size of the geographic unit. Choropleth maps that shows data by municipality, county, region, state or country will look quite different, even if they show the same data. Averages tend to cancel out extremes. She gives the following examples:
The kerfuffle about Shetland being relegated to inset maps (Ed Parsons has taken to calling this “Insetgate”) is not quite done. Kenneth Field shares his thoughts in a post titled “In Praise of Insets,” in which he calls Scottish politician Tavish Scott’s proposal to ban the use of inset maps to portray Shetland as “utter nonsense” and goes on to defend their use more generally.
Insets are not just used to move geographically awkward places. They are commonly used to create larger scale versions of the map for smaller, yet more densely populated places. Often they are positioned over sparsely populated land to use space wisely. I’m guessing Scott would have an objection to an inset that, to his mind, would exaggerate the geographical importance of Glasgow compared to Shetland. Yet … in population terms it’s a place of massively greater importance so one could argue it deserves greater relative visual prominence on the map. Many maps are about people, not geography.
Each weekly lesson in the Cartography. MOOC focuses on the creation of one exemplary map that draws together key cartographic ideas. Lessons consist of about two hours of content, including video discussions, guided and self-guided exercises using ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online, quizzes, interactions between students and instructors, and supplemental resources. Participants who engage with all the course content will receive a certificate of completion and a discount code to purchase Cartography., the book, should they wish to continue their learning.
Registration opens on 18 April and continues until 2 May. It is, as I mentioned, free; Esri expects more than 10,000 people to sign up.
Cartography., the book, is currently scheduled to come out in June.
Yesterday I told you about Mapzen’s announcement that it would be closing down at the end of the month. So it’s bittersweet that I find, in my to-do list of links to post here, a Mapzen project. Morphology is a tool that abstracts the map into an unlabelled set of lines, patterns and forms. The default view combines several different features, but you can isolate single features: airports, roads, parks, bodies of water, and more. The work of Mapzen cartographer Geraldine Sarmiento, it was first presented as a NACIS talk last October. [Atlas Obscura]