Sylvia Sumira’s forthcoming book on globes—titled Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power in its U.S. edition and The Art and History of Globes in its British edition—is a history of globemaking during its peak: “Showcasing the impressive collection of globes held by the British Library, Sumira traces the inception and progression of globes during the period in which they were most widely used—from the late fifteenth century to the late nineteenth century—shedding light on their purpose, function, influence, and manufacture, as well as the cartographers, printers, and instrument makers who created them.” Out next month from University of Chicago Press (for North America) and in April from the British Library (Commonwealth markets): Amazon. [Boing Boing]
Reddit user atrubetskoy has produced a map of the U.S. showing how much snow it takes to cancel school. It’s an approximation, to be sure. But it’s not a map of winter wussiness: areas that rarely get a lot of snow don’t tend to have the infrastructure to deal with it. [io9]
Two more map books, this time of an academic bent:
- London: The Selden Map and the Making of a Global City, 1549-1689 by Robert K. Batchelor (University of Chicago Press, 1/14). Batchelor uses the information on the Selden Map to demonstrate how the city of London “flourished because of its many encounters, engagements, and exchanges with East Asian trading cities.” (Amazon)
- Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography by Will C. van den Hoonaard (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 8/13). “[A] journey of discovery through the world of women map-makers from the golden age of cartography in the sixteenth-century Low Countries to tactile maps in contemporary Brazil.” (Amazon)
Go read Casey N. Cep’s essay, “The Allure of the Map,” on the New Yorker‘s website: she explores the relationship between maps and literature on several fronts, including the role of maps in the creative process and the relationship between mapmaking and reality. Also quite a bit on the recurrent meme of the 1:1 map—the map as large as the thing being mapped—from Carroll to Borges to (I did not know) Gaiman (Swanwick and Eco too, if I’m not mistaken: more could indeed be said). Anyway: relevant to our interests. Go read.
Here are some map books that I recently found out about:
- Mr. Selden’s Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer by Timothy Brook (Bloomsbury Press/House of Anansi Press/Profile Books, 9/13). A book-length study of the enigmatic Selden Map of China, donated to the Bodleian Library in 1659 and only rediscovered in 2009. (Amazon)
- The Golden Age of Maritime Maps: When Europe Discovered the World by Catherine Hoffman, Hélène Richard and Emmanuelle Vagnon (Firefly Books, 9/13). One of those big, illustrated books of old maps; this one looks at portolan charts. It’s an English translation of L’Âge d’or des cartes marines. (Amazon)
- Maps of Paradise by Alessandro Scafi (University of Chicago Press, 11/13). Explores “the diverse ways in which scholars and mapmakers from the eighth to the twenty-first century rose to the challenge of identifying the location of paradise on a map, despite the certain knowledge that it was beyond human reach.” (Amazon)
- The International Atlas of Mars Exploration: The First Five Decades, 1953 to 2003 by Philip J. Stooke (Cambridge University Press, 9/12). The first of two volumes (the second will be subtitled Spirit to Curiosity) that maps the extent of exploration by orbiters and landers. (Amazon, author’s page)
If somebody who was vaguely interested in maps wanted a book to get them started, I think I might point them toward A History of the World in Twelve Maps, written by Renaissance Studies professor Jerry Brotton. This book first appeared in September 2012 in Great Britain, where it’s now out in paperback. The U.S. edition came out last month in hardcover.
It’s a history of cartography that takes a rather unique approach: instead of providing a straight narrative history, Brotton focuses on twelve maps (or, more precisely, mapmaking endeavours), ranging from Ptolemy’s Geography to Google Earth. But Brotton does a lot more than talk about just twelve maps.
Earth Wind Map is a transfixing animated visualization of global wind forecasts, updated every three hours. It would be fine enough to enjoy passively, but you can play with it: click and drag to change the view, select from a variety of map projections and pressure levels. Via io9 and GIS Lounge, among many others.
Previously: Wonderful Wind Map.
When it comes to maps and fantasy, I’m particularly interested in the ways that maps are used in the course of a story, as opposed to appearing at the front of the book for reference purposes. I’ve posted many examples over the past few years and have a bunch more in my to-read pile.
It looks like next year will add considerably to that list: Unlikely Story is publishing a single-issue Journal of Unlikely Cartography. The call for submissions:
From pirate maps leading to buried treasure to painstakingly-drawn maps of continents that never were, there are endless unlikely possibilities in the world of cartography. Send us your story of a rogue GPS taking a driver down non-existent roads, show us what lies in those unexplored territories labeled “here there be monsters,” give us haunted globes, star charts written in disappearing ink, and spiraling lines on crumbling parchment leading to the center of the labyrinth. As always, we want gorgeously-told tales, gripping characters, and unique worlds to explore. Genre doesn’t matter to us, along as your tale involves maps or cartography in some integral way.
Pays 5¢/word on publication, deadline February 1. I have had considerable difficulty in submitting to anthologies in the past (I write fiction very slowly; the story never quite gels in time for the deadline), but I really, really, really need to submit something to this.
Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, came out last month from University of California Press. At first glance it looks like it does for New Orleans what Solnit’s previous work, Infinite City, did for San Francisco: it’s a collection of essays and maps that, as before, displays two complementary or contrasting things on the same city map. In my review of Infinite City I suggested that not every city could sustain a project like this, though San Francisco obviously could; it seems to me that New Orleans is a natural followup.
The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was a landmark in historical cartography: an atlas that pinpointed locations from classical antiquity on modern maps. The result of more than a decade’s work and $4.5 million in funding support (here’s the project website), the print version of the Barrington Atlas, which came out in 2000, was both enormous and expensive: larger than either the National Geographic or Times Comprehensive atlases,1 and priced at an eye-popping $395.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, there’s an iPad version of the Barrington Atlas, which (they say) contains the full content of the $395 print atlas and costs only $20 (iTunes link). On that basis it’s a no-brainer: $20 is better than $395. (95 percent off!) Classicists with iPads who don’t buy this app have something wrong with them. But how does it work as a map app?
So today Tor.com posted something very much relevant to my interests: a piece by illustrator Isaac Stewart that describes his process for creating a map for a fantasy novel. In this case, The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley, who very helpfully provided a sketch from which Stewart could work.
This is utterly fascinating for me, because a significant gap in my research into fantasy maps has been the process of creating them. It’s sort of left me feeling like a wine taster that has no idea how wine is made. Stewart (who has also done work for Brandon Sanderson’s novels: his maps for The Alloy of Law have already caught my attention) takes us through every step, from inspiration through Photoshop.
Earlier this year I published an article pointing out that the main difference between historical and fantasy maps was information density: a real medieval map is full of detail, because cartographers don’t dare waste vellum; fantasy maps are relatively sparse—largely, I suspected, because only so much detail can legibly fit on a map printed for a mass-market paperback. That was an educated guess on my part; it’s interesting to see it confirmed:
A map meant to fit in a hardcover book (and subsequently a paperback) can’t be as detailed as a real-world map and still be legible. Even though I treat the map as a product of its fantasy world, it has to be understandable to modern audiences. Usually this means I can’t copy the exact style of my reference, but I can use it for inspiration.
I’ll be referring to Stewart’s post often, I think.
Aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, author of Earth from Above and related books of photography, ups the altitude somewhat with his new book, Earth from Space, in which he presents and interprets more than 150 satellite photos. Via io9’s holiday gift guide.
In 1879, surveyor (and future USGS director) John Wesley Powell proposed that the boundaries of future western states be determined by watersheds, in order to avoid water use conflicts. John Lavey takes this proposal to its logical conclusion, imagining a U.S. in which all 50 states follow watershed boundaries. Via io9.
Previously: Fifty Equal States Redux.
The USGS has released quad maps of the planet Mercury as a set of PDF files: “The 1:5 million-scale series of Mercury maps divides Mercury into 15 quadrangles, H-1 through H-15 (five Mercator, eight Lambert Conformal, and two Polar Stereographic quadrangles). The base mosaic was produced with orbital images by the MESSENGER Team and released by NASA’s Planetary Data System on March 8, 2013. This new global mosaic includes 100% coverage of Mercury’s surface.”
A couple of supremely detailed rail maps to bring to your attention, both of which show every line and station of long-distance, regional and commuter rail networks. There’s one for California, which uses a Beck-like, diagrammatic design, and one for the Northeast Corridor (see above), which opts for geographic accuracy. Despite the differences there’s a lot of overlap on the two design teams. Creative Commons licensed, with printed posters available.