Because Palestine, after all, has been removed. It is there on old paper maps, of the Holy Land, of the Roman and Ottoman empires, of the British mandate. Yet in our digital age, a search on Google Maps for Israel produces a map without Palestine. It displays Israeli urban centres down to a few thousand inhabitants, and even marks Ma’ale Adumin, an Israeli settlement on the occupied West Bank. At the same time it shows no Palestinian place-names or urban centres, not even major ones like Gaza City, Khan Yunis or Nablus. The dotted, inconsistent borders of the occupied territories leave the impression that they are not claimed or administered by anyone. […]
Historians of cartography have long studied the practices and consequences of cartographic omission. In a landmark study, “New England cartography and the Native Americans”, published posthumously in 1994, the British historian of cartography J. B. Harley analysed seventeenth-century maps to follow the progressive replacement of the Native Americans with European settlers. In Harley’s analysis, the maps were something more than historical records of that process. Because they made the colonists visible at the expense of the indigenous population, they were also instruments of colonial legitimisation.
Many colonial mapmakers preferred to leave the areas of predominantly indigenous presence blank, rather than to reproduce an indigenous geography; one example is Herman Moll’s 1729 map of New England and the adjacent colonies, seen above. The traces of indigenous presence, past and present, were gradually removed from the maps as the colonists pushed west. The apparent emptiness helped to justify the settlers’ sense that they had discovered a virgin territory, promised to them by Providence. The pattern was the same in all areas of colonial activity, including Australia and Africa.
Opening this Saturday, 25 June at the Art Institute of Chicago and running until 6 November, Unique Perspectives: Japanese Maps from the 18th and 19th Centuries “showcases the beauty of Japanese printmaking. The 18th- and 19th-century maps on view feature the world, the Japanese archipelago, and the country’s major cities, including Osaka, Yokohama, Edo, Nagasaki, and Kyoto. Highlights include works from trustee Barry MacLean’s comprehensive collection.” [WMS]
It is a mixed media print collection of historical maps, atlases, periodicals and books that is unique in the Province in terms of its focus on the early mapping of Nova Scotia and specifically the 18th Century nautical charts of J.F.W. DesBarres’ Atlantic Neptune. The collection also contains a complete run of the Gentleman’s Magazine from 1731-1802, and other early European periodicals containing maps not present in other collections. In addition to the maps that cover the advances in geographic knowledge over five centuries, there are a number of important atlases dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries as well as an interesting collection of Nova Scotiana from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Two large maps and six sketches of military defenses hand drawn by French military engineers in 1781 and used during the American War of Independence, the last such documents in private hands, will be auctioned off at a chateau in France next month,” Bloomberg reports. “Salvaged in 2007, the maps—that only barely escaped becoming mouse food—show British defenses along the East Coast, including fortifications near New York. They are being sold by the eighth-generation descendants of Marshall de Rochambeau, the commander of the French expeditionary force sent by King Louis XVI to aid the American rebels.” [WMS]
Another Italian map exhibit to tell you about: 1716-2016 Cielo e Terra, featuring the cartographic holdings of Rome’s Biblioteca Casanatense, including the 1716 celestial and terrestrial globes of Amanzio Moroncelli, opens tomorrow and runs until 28 November. [WMS]
There are several online versions of the Carte générale de France, the first comprehensive map of France produced by the Cassini family in the 18th century. Some, like those hosted by the EHESS and the David Rumsey Map Collection, georectify and stitch together the individual maps together to make a more-or-less seamless whole. On Gallica, the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s digital library, it’s presented as individual sheets; the Library of Congress does the same with its copy—the better to appreciate the originals, I suppose. [via]
In the 18th century, maps were everywhere: advertised with luxury goods in catalogs and with necessities in the newspaper, displayed in taverns and town halls and high-traffic areas in private homes, printed on parlor screens and ceramics and neckties—“cartifacts” serving no cartographic purpose. If political conflict built the market for maps, the cartouche—or decorative map title—refined it, adding beauty to the criteria for determining a map’s value. The brisk business in maps for navigating and decorating redefined what constituted their usefulness, in material and social terms. Owning a map meant economic status, educational achievement, and national identity; showing a map showed you belonged.
This is the “performative function” of maps, to create reality by plotting it.
Last week, Slate’s Rebecca Onion looked at the surveying and mapmaking career of George Washington. Her main source is this page by the Library of Congress’s Edward Redmond. “Beginning with his early career as a surveyor and throughout his life as a soldier, planter, businessman, land speculator, farmer, military officer, and president, Washington relied on and benefitted from his knowledge of maps. Between 1747 and 1799 Washington surveyed over two hundred tracts of land and held title to more than sixty-five thousand acres in thirty-seven different locations,” Redmond writes. Here’s a list of Washington’s maps—drawn by him, drawn by others according to his sketches, or of property owned by him—held by the Library of Congress. [via]
Last week, DC Public Library announced “the release of a century of historic Washington, D.C. maps in Dig DC, the online portal to DCPL Special Collections. These maps cover the District of Columbia and the region from the 1760s to the Civil War. To see them, head on over to the Maps: City & Regional collection on Dig DC!” Of the 8,000 or so maps in the library’s Washingtoniana Map Collection, 250 have been digitized so far; they’re working on scanning the entire collection. [via]
Though the effects of the Gulf Stream were known to seafarers for centuries, Benjamin Franklin was the first to name it and chart it. The Library of Congress’s map blog has a post about the maps of the Gulf Stream produced by Franklin with his cousin, Timothy Folger, a ship captain who knew the currents. “Folger and Franklin jointly produced a chart of the Gulf Stream in 1768, first published in London by the English firm Mount and Page. The Geography and Map Division holds one of only three known copies of this first edition (see above), in addition to a copy of the ca. 1785 second edition.”