Every year at about this time I post a gift guide that lists some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published this year. If you have a map-obsessed person in your life and would like to give them something map-related—or you are a map-obsessed person—this guide may give you some ideas.
This year, as you will see, I’ve organized the books by theme: we have five atlases of unusual and non-existent places, several colouring books, and a large number of historical map collections, among other books.
This is by no means a complete list of what’s been published in 2016. The Map Books of 2016 page includes many, many other books that might also suggest themselves as gift possibilities.
Atlases of the Unusual and Non-Existent
Books that call themselves atlases, but really aren’t, are thick on the ground this year: these are illustrated compendiums of fascinating, unusual or simply made-up places around the world. In The Spectator, Alex Burghart looks at three of them: Atlas Obscura (which I reviewed here), Edward Brooke-Hitching’s Phantom Atlas, and Travis Elborough’s Atlas of Improbable Places. To which I’d add Aude de Tocqueville’s Atlas of Lost Cities, a catalogue of abandoned places that came out last April, and Malachy Tallack’s Un-Discovered Islands.
Children, crafts and colo(u)ring Books
Colouring books (or, if you’re American, coloring books) have been all the rage lately, and the past year has seen several such books with maps as their subject matter: A-Z Maps came out of the gate early back in October 2015, with Maps: A Colouring Book. Since then, we’ve seen Gretchen Peterson’s City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults, the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map, and the re-emergence of William Hole’s 17th-century illustrations of Michael Drayton’s poetry, repackaged as a 21st-century colouring book called Albion’s Glorious Ile—which is available both as a single volume and pamphlet-sized sections.
If colouring books aren’t for kids any more, but you’re looking for something child-sized, consider Justin Miles’s Ultimate Mapping Guide for Kids.
If making art is your thing, but you’re not so much about the colouring books, look at Jill Berry’s latest book on personal mapmaking, Making Art From Maps.
These books explore some aspect of old and historical cartography. (Maps of the 20th Century and Great Britain get their own sections, below.) Cartographic Japan is a collection of essays exploring Japanese maps from the late 1500s. China at the Center (reviewed here) accompanies an exhibition of two pivotal Chinese world maps. Great City Maps collects historical and contemporary city maps. Jeremy Black’s Maps of War is a history of war cartography. Treasures from the Map Room is a diverse sampling of the Bodleian Library’s extensive cartographic holdings (I’m currently working on a review).
The Twentieth Century
Art, marketing and propaganda meet in the 20th Century. Paul Jarvis’s Mapping the Airways draws from the British Airways archives to provide a history of aeronautical cartography. War Map is the companion volume to an exhibition of pictorial conflict maps that wrapped up earlier this month. And speaking of companion volumes, don’t forget the big one: Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line accompanies the British Library’s current map exhibition.
Great Britain in Maps
Old maps of Britain, particularly at the city and county level, continue to find a renewed existence in book form. Birlinn continues its line of regional atlases of historical maps with Oxford: Mapping the City and Scotland: Mapping the Islands. Also seeing print this year was Somerset Mapped and a reprint collection of John Speed’s county maps called Britain’s Tudor Maps.
New York, New York: Maps and the City
New York City is the subject of two new books in which art, story and cartography intersect: Katherine Harmon’s third volume of map art, You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City; and Rebecca Solnit’s third city atlas, Nonstop Metropolis. (A review of You Are Here: NYC is forthcoming.)
Data into Maps
Where the Animals Go provides beautiful maps of animal tracking data, People and Places is a human atlas of the United Kingdom, and Speaking American maps the American vernacular: “who says what, and where they say it.”
When it comes to big, satisfying world atlases, the most recent to come out are the Oxford Atlas of the World, which is updated every year, and the Times Concise Atlas of the World. The Concise is the second-largest of the Times world atlases: see the comparative chart. (The largest atlases—the Times Comprehensive and the National Geographic—were last revised in 2014.)
(Links go to Amazon. If you buy something, I get a cut.)