Tim Robinson, cartographer and chronicler of the Irish regions of the Aran Islands, the Burren and Connemara, died of complications from COVID-19 on 3 April 2020; he was 85. “Generations of tourists have been guided and enthralled by his marvellous maps of these radiant places,” writes Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times. “But it is his astonishing books, the two-volume Stones of Aran and the Connemara trilogy, that will stand as timeless monuments to a genius who combined the linguistic brilliance of a poet with the precision of the mathematician he once was.” Also in the Irish Times, Paul Clements looks at Robinson’s idiosyncratic cartography: “For Robinson everything was mappable, and for good measure, he added a few puzzles, doodles and whimsies.”
Michael Hertz, whose design firm created the map of the New York City subway that in 1979 replaced a controversial (though critically acclaimed) design by Massimo Vignelli—a map that today’s map design largely follows—died earlier this month at the age of 87, the New York Times reports. See also BBC News, CNN, NBC New York, the New York Post—that’s rather a lot of attention.
That 1979 map that has been critiqued, fulminated against and re-imagined over and over again has nonetheless managed to become iconic; however much the map offended various design aesthetics, as the Times obituary (and previous coverage) shows, it was created with care and purpose: the curves were deliberate, the references to aboveground landmarks were deliberate. It was a team effort, but the Times obit had this interesting item about who should get the credit:
There has been some sniping over the years as to who deserves credit for the 1979 map, with Mr. Hertz taking exception whenever Mr. Tauranac1 was identified as “chief designer” or given some similar title.
“We’ve had parallel careers,” Mr. Hertz told The New York Times in 2012. “I design subway maps, and he claims to design subway maps.”
In 2004, the Long Island newspaper Newsday asked Tom Kelly, then the spokesman for the M.T.A., about who did what.
“The best thing I could probably tell you is to quote my sainted mother: ‘Success has many fathers,’” Mr. Kelly said. “That’s not to disparage any work that anybody else put into the map. But, in all honesty, it’s Mike Hertz that did all the basic design and implementation of it. In all fairness, the father of this map, as far as we’re concerned, is Mike Hertz.”
The 1979 map isn’t quite the same as the current version. Transit Maps posted a copy in 2015, and has this to say about it: “It’s funny how we call this the ‘same’ map as today’s version, because there’s a lot of differences, both big and small. The Beck-style tick marks for local stations as mentioned above, no Staten Island inset, the biggest legend box I’ve ever seen, the colours used for water and parkland … the list goes on!”
Antiquarian map and rare book dealer Kenneth Nebenzahl died last month at the age of 92, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The author of numerous book about antique maps and map history, most recently (as far as I can tell) Mapping the Silk Road and Beyond: 2,000 Years of Exploring the East (Phaidon, 2011), Nebenzahl also founded the Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography, in memory of his son; several of said lecture series have been published by the University of Chicago Press. His obituary. [Tony Campbell]
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 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.
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.
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]
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 1994. Her 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]
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.
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]
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 World, Courtiers 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.