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.
A project of Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre, the London Medieval Murder Map is an interactive map that plots 142 murders from the first half of the 14th century onto one of two maps of London: a 1572 map from Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum or a map of London circa 1270 published by the Historic Towns Trust in 1989. The interactive map is powered by Google Maps, but the Braun and Hogenberg is not georectified, so the pushpins shift as you toggle between the base maps. [Ars Technica]
Atlas Obscura looks at the cartographic work of early American educator Emma Willard, who in 1829 published a series of maps to accompany her History of United States, or Republic of America, a school textbook that came out the previous year. The book was an early example of a historical atlas: it was “the first book of its kind—the first atlas to present the evolution of America.”
Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War is an interactive map of more than 1,000 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast. Like much of the material and personal history of that war, the wreck sites—”which include merchant and naval ships, passenger, troop and hospital ships, ports, wharfs, buildings and foreshore hulks”—are degrading; this is a project designed both to raise awareness and preserve information. Selecting a wreck site brings up a wealth of detail about the ship, its current state, and the circumstances of its loss. More at the project page and from BBC News. The map itself is a basic Mapbox affair, with a layer that only looks vintage (there are motorways). [Kenneth Field]
In Scotland: Defending the Nation (Birlinn, 4 October), Carolyn Anderson and Christopher Fleet “explore the extraordinarily rich legacy of Scottish military mapping, including fortification plans, reconnaissance mapping, battle plans, plans of military roads and routeways, tactical maps, plans of mines, enemy maps showing targets, as well as plans showing the construction of defences. In addition to plans, elevations and views, they also discuss unrealised proposals and projected schemes. Most of the maps—some of them reproduced in book form for the first time—are visually striking and attractive, and all have been selected for the particular stories they tell about both attacking and defending the country.”
There’s a lot of stuff relevant to our interests on the website of the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, and it’s hard to know what to begin with. One of the more recent projects, which CityLab saw fit to link to yesterday, is an interactive map showing elections to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1840 to 2016. It’s the kind of project that the user can get very, very lost in. In addition to the usual map of U.S. congressional districts, the site can also visualize the districts as a dot map to minimize the empty-land-doesn’t-vote problem (they call it a cartogram: it isn’t). There’s also a timeline showing the overall results over time at a glance; selecting a district gives shows how the district voted in past contests as a line graph. In other words: quite a lot of data, economically presented.
Native Land is an interactive map that shows traditional territories, indigenous languages and treaties in the Americas, Greenland, Hawaii, the Mariana Islands, Australia and New Zealand, though the treaty coverage is limited to Canada and the United States. In part because the map is ahistorical, there is some overlap in terms of languages and territories. The brainchild of Victor Temprano, who started the project in 2015, Native Land is also available as a mobile app: iOS, Android. [Atlas Obscura]
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
The “President’s Globe” is big—really big and important. Weighing in at a whopping 750 pounds and sized at an impressive 50 inches in diameter, the globe was specially designed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt for use during World War II. The massive representation of the earth helped the president gauge distances over water to allocate personnel and material in support of the war effort against the Axis Powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy. This feat of cartographic history was given as a Christmas present to the president in 1942, and he placed the globe directly behind his office chair, often referring to it during his workday.
Out last month, the expensive, 600-page Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography (Routledge). Edited by Alexander J. Kent (who co-wrote The Red Atlas) and Peter Vujakovic, the book “draws on the wealth of new scholarship and practice in this emerging field, from the latest conceptual developments in mapping and advances in map-making technology to reflections on the role of maps in society. It brings together 43 engaging chapters on a diverse range of topics, including the history of cartography, map use and user issues, cartographic design, remote sensing, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and map art.” [The History of Cartography Project]
New Academic Books
New academic books on maps and cartography published over the past couple of months include:
Wymer’s D.C. is an online collection of the hand-drawn maps, notes and (especially) photographs of John P. Wymer (1904-1995), who in a four-year period between 1948 and 1952 systematically photographed and documented the streets of Washington, D.C., taking thousands of pictures and drawing and describing the city, which he divided into 57 equal sections. The photos are displayed via an interactive map that overlays them over modern-day Google Street View imagery. The site is the brainchild of Jessica Richardson Smith, who as an intern stumbled across the Wymer collection in the holdings of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. as an intern and made the online collection part of her M.A. thesis work, and her husband, software engineer Thomas Smith. More at CityLab. See also Curbed, DCist, Forest Hills Connection and Washingtonian. [WMS]