In An Atlas of the Himalayas by a 19th Century Tibetan Monk (Brill), Diana Lange explores the origins of six maps drawn by an anonymous Tibetan artist for a Scottish explorer in the mid-19th century, and how those maps ended up in the British Library. For more on Lange’s research into this subject, see her guest post on the British Library’s map blog.
Britain had the Ordnance Survey, France the Cassini family. Japan had Inō Tadataka (伊能 忠敬, 1745-1818), who over a series of expeditions in the early 19th century conducted a systematic survey of Japan using modern techniques. Writing for Nippon.com, Inō’s biographer, Hoshino Yoshihisa, writes a long introduction to Inō’s life and work that is well worth the read. [Tony Campbell]
For more on the history of Japanese cartography, see Cartographic Japan, a collection of academic essays edited by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko and Cary Karacas that was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016.
The Leventhal Map Center’s latest exhibition, America Transformed: Mapping the 19th Century, opened last Saturday and runs until 10 November 2019.
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.
The first map produced by the Ordnance Survey, their blog reminds us, was this map of Kent. Published in 1801 at the scale of two inches to one mile (1:31,680), it took three years to complete; the OS started in Kent over fears of a French invasion. As such, the map “focused on communication routes and included hill shading to ensure men at arms could interpret the landscape with precision. Over time, this map design became less focused on these elements and was developed to appeal to a much wider audience.”
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.”
Gentleman, Soldier, Scholar and Spy: The Napoleonic-Era Maps of Robert Clifford, an exhibition running at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Ontario through 1 September 2018, showcases an unusual collection of maps held by the McMaster University Library: a cache of maps smuggled out of France in the early 1800s by British spy and cartographer Robert Clifford.
Clifford’s maps reveal a world on the cusp of an evolutionary shift in cartography brought about by the Napoleonic wars. Hand-coloured, manuscript maps depicting the precise and exacting geometry of Vauban-designed fortified cities give way to maps printed from engraved plates, incorporating new techniques and symbology to satisfy the shifting focus onto the surrounding landscape of unordered nature. Maps used primarily for the siege of cities in previous generations are re-placed by maps of vast expanses of territory for a new style of open warfare.
Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State, which opened on 20 April at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, “traces the cartographic history of Texas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries” through a small (26 item) collection of maps and documents, all of which are reproductions. Press release. [WMS]
At the Grolier Club in New York, Westward the Course of Empire: Exploring and Settling the American West, 1803-1869, an exhibition of maps from the collection of J. C. McElveen Jr. 50 maps on display, including Lewis and Clark’s map of the Northwest. Press release. [WMS]
A map drawn by an Indigenous guide for Lewis and Clark, recently discovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, is the subject of an entire issue of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation’s journal, We Proceeded On. (The issue is not available online.) The map was drawn some time in 1805 by Too Né, a member of the Arikara tribe who in 1804 travelled with the Lewis and Clark expedition in what is now North Dakota, and shows the extent of the territory known to the Arikara at that time.
Christopher Steinke, now a history professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, encountered the map during his graduate studies; he wrote it up for the October 2014 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, which also published an interactive version of the map on its website. (Here’s a link to Steinke’s article.)
Indigenous historians and William and Clark scholars don’t appear to talk to one another very much, which is why it’s taken until now for the latter to get so excited about the map Steinke discovered—which in my view is much more interesting and significant as an example of Indigenous mapmaking than it is as a piece of Lewis and Clark lore.
Here’s the press release from the Foundation, and here’s We Proceeded On editor Clay Jenkinson on what the map means for “Lewis and Clark obsessives.” [Tony Campbell/WMS]
We’ve seen “serio-comic” or caricature maps before, most of them dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but Caitlin takes us behind the scenes with a story about one of the artists behind such maps. The twelve maps published in Geographical Fun: Being Humourous Outlines of Various Countries (1868) were the handiwork of a 15-year-old teenager named Lilian Lancaster, who originally drew them to amuse her ill brother. Which is a great and surprising twist. The accompanying text (an introduction and accompanying verses) was by William Harvey (under a pseudonym), who tried to make an educational case for such maps (as one did).
The Unwritten Record, a blog by staff at the U.S. National Archives’s Special Media Archives Services Division, announced last month: “Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109. All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.” [Texas Map Society]
The Bodleian Map Room Blog posts some excerpts from an 1882 Austro-Hungarian guide to mapmaking. “The Schlüssel und vorlageblatter für den situations zeichnungs unterricht (which translates roughly as ‘Key and template for drawing lessons’) is a teaching aid created by the Institute of Military Geography in the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of War in 1882 for the drawing of maps. Inside there are a number of different terrain examples and sheets showing scales, text, topographical features and legends.” As the blog post points out, the purpose of the guide was to ensure uniformity in military mapmaking. [Benjamin Hennig]
A rare copy of James Palmatary’s 1857 map of Chicago is being auctioned next week, Crain’s reports. Only four copies are known to exist of the map, a bird’s-eye view that depicts the city as it was before the Great Fire; this is the only one in private hands. The remaining surviving copies are held by the Chicago Historical Society, the Library of Congress and the Newberry Library. The map is expected to fetch $20,000 to $30,000. [Tony Campbell]
Federerico Italiano unearths a scarily abstract 1888 weather map of Europe by Emil Letoschek that is nevertheless intelligible (at least if you read German).
Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis is to Australia what Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map is to America: a case where a first appearance on a map is referred to as a country’s birth certificate. The 17th-century map included data from Tasman’s voyages and named New Holland (Australia) and New Zealand for the first time. The National Library of Australia is working on conserving its 1663 copy, but an earlier, unrestored version dating from around 1659 recently turned up in an Italian home; earlier this month it was auctioned at Sotheby’s and sold for nearly £250,000. [Tony Campbell]
Meanwhile, at a somewhat more modest scale, an 1884 hand-drawn map of what would later become the tony Vancouver neighbourhood of Kitsilano by colourful local Sam Greer went for C$24,200—five times its estimated price.
Three academic books out this month deal with the subject of mapping, surveying, and empire-building:
The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence by S. Max Edelson (Harvard University Press) covers the period between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. From the publisher:
Under orders from King George III to reform the colonies, the Board of Trade dispatched surveyors to map far-flung frontiers, chart coastlines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sound Florida’s rivers, parcel tropical islands into plantation tracts, and mark boundaries with indigenous nations across the continental interior. Scaled to military standards of resolution, the maps they produced sought to capture the essential attributes of colonial spaces—their natural capacities for agriculture, navigation, and commerce—and give British officials the knowledge they needed to take command over colonization from across the Atlantic.
Britain’s vision of imperial control threatened to displace colonists as meaningful agents of empire and diminished what they viewed as their greatest historical accomplishment: settling the New World. As London’s mapmakers published these images of order in breathtaking American atlases, Continental and British forces were already engaged in a violent contest over who would control the real spaces they represented.
The First Mapping of America: The General Survey of British North America by Alex Johnson (I. B. Tauris) seems to cover similar territory, if you’ll pardon the pun, though I have very little information about it. [Amazon]
Finally, Daniel Foliard’s Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921 (University of Chicago Press) “vividly illustrates how the British first defined the Middle East as a geopolitical and cartographic region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through their imperial maps. Until then, the region had never been clearly distinguished from ‘the East’ or ‘the Orient.’ In the course of their colonial activities, however, the British began to conceive of the Middle East as a separate and distinct part of the world, with consequences that continue to be felt today.” [Amazon, iBooks]
Related: Map Books of 2017.