Christopher Tolkien, 1924-2020

Christopher Tolkien, map from The Fellowship of the Ring (Unwin, 1954). The British Library.

Christopher Tolkien, the third son of J. R. R. Tolkien and the executor of his literary estate and editor of his posthumous works, died yesterday at the age of 95. But one of his legacies is likely to be overlooked: he drew the map of Middle-earth that appeared in the first edition of The Lord of the Rings. That map proved hugely influential. It helped set the norm for subsequent epic fantasy novels: they would come with maps, and those maps would look rather a lot like the one drawn by Christopher Tolkien.

Christopher Tolkien himself was self-deprecating about the execution of his map, and about the design choices he made. Regarding a new version of the map he drew for Unfinished Tales, he took pains to emphasize that

the exact preservation of the style and detail (other than nomenclature and lettering) of the map that I made in haste twenty-five years ago does not argue any belief in the excellence of its conception or execution. I have long regretted that my father never replaced it by one of his own making. However, as things turned out it became, for all its defects and oddities, “the Map,” and my father himself always used it as a basis afterwards (while frequently noticing its inadequacies).

However hastily it was drawn, it was pivotal all the same.

Bert Johnson, 1946-2019

Hubert O. (Bert) Johnson, longtime stalwart of the Washington Map Society and indefatigable administrator of its Facebook group, died earlier this month of a heart attack. He was 73.

Bert and I only knew each other online, and that mostly via what we posted. In fact, we made a regular habit of stealing each other’s links. He’d share many of The Map Room’s posts on the WMS Facebook group, and many of my posts had their origins in something Bert posted on the WMS Facebook group.

An obituary and funeral details are still to come.

Joseph E. Schwartzberg, 1928-2018

The History of Cartography Project notes the passing of Joseph E. Schwartzberg, who died on 18 September at the age of 90. A geographer, peace activist and world federalist, he specialized in the cartography of south Asia, editing the 1978 Historical Atlas of South Asia and serving as associate editor for books one and two of the third volume of The History of Cartography, for which he also wrote eleven chapters. Obituary in the Star Tribune.

William Reese, 1955-2018

New Haven rare book dealer William Reese died earlier this month at the age of 62; he’d been suffering from prostate cancer. Reese, who founded his eponymous company in 1975, is a familiar name to map collectors; both his first significant sale and his last sale, according to the New York Times obituary, were cartographic in nature. [Tony Campbell]

Previously: Intact Atlas, Asking 165 LargeReese Donates $100K to Yale for Map Digitization; Connecticut Public Radio on Forbes Smiley Sentence.

Peggy Osher, 1929-2018

Peggy Osher died Tuesday at the age of 88, the Portland Press-Herald reports. She had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She and her husband, the cardiologist Dr. Harold Osher, who survives her, donated their sizeable map collection to the University of Southern Maine in 1989 and advocated the creation of a dedicated map library; the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education opened in October 1994Her obituary notes that in 1974 she convinced her husband to buy a map on a trip to London—a decision that escalated, as it often does. The Osher family was profiled in 2011 by Maine magazine. [WMS]

Waldo R. Tobler, 1930-2018

The influential geographer Waldo R. Tobler died last month at the age of 88. Tobler, who taught at the University of Michigan and UC Santa Barbara, was best known for his First Law of Geography, which he coined in 1970: “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” See obituaries from the AAG and UC Santa Barbara.

Update, 8 March: Obituary in the Santa Barbara Noozhawk.

Update, 27 July: Obituary in Cartography and Geographic Information Science.

Robert G. Bartholomew, 1927-2017

I’ve belatedly heard the news that Robert G. Bartholomew died last April in Edinburgh at the age of 90. Robert and his older brothers John and Peter, who died in 2008 and 1987, respectively, were the last of six generations of Bartholomews working for the eponymous family mapmaking firm, John Bartholomew and Son, that was, among other things, responsible for the Times series of atlases before being subsumed into the HarperCollins publishing empire. Robert served as production manager, John as director and Peter as chairman. See the NLS’s Bartholomew Archive and the family’s website for more on the firm’s and the family’s history. [WMS]

Rodney W. Shirley

According to a Facebook post by the Washington Map Society’s Bert Johnson, Rodney W. Shirley, the author of several books of cartographic antiquarian research, including The Mapping of the WorldCourtiers and Cannibals, Angels and Amazons, and other titles on early printed maps, died last Saturday. I have not been able to find an obituary or other notice; I will update this post if I do.