Map illustrations. Illustrated maps. Pictorial maps. Map art. There are many different names for a form of mapmaking that is, to appropriate a phrase, “not intended for navigation,” but rather for purposes such as advertising and promotion, political propoganda, decoration, or simply pure art. You may not be able to find your way home with such maps, but that’s not to say they don’t have a purpose.
I’ve reviewed books about maps in this general field before. Stephen J. Hornsby’s Picturing America (reviewed here) explores the rich pictorial map tradition in the United States during the early and mid-20th century. The Art of Map Illustration (reviewed here), on the other hand, is a focused, step-by-step guide to the how of modern-day map illustration.
Talking Maps, opening today at the Bodleian Libraries, is a major new map exhibition featuring maps from the Bodleian’s collections.
Highlights on show include the Gough Map, the earliest surviving map showing Great Britain in a recognizable form, the Selden Map, a late Ming map of the South China Sea, and fictional maps by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Map treasures from the Libraries’ collection will be shown alongside specially commissioned 3D installations and artworks, and exciting works on loan from artists and other institutions.
Briefly noted: the publication last month of Marieke van Delft and Reinder Storm’s De Geschiedeneis van Nederland in 100 Oude Kaarten (Lannoo), whose title, for the 98.6 percent of you who are not visiting this website from the Netherlands, translates as The History of the Netherlands in 100 Old Maps, which makes it the same sort of book as Susan Schulten’s History of America in 100 Maps (reviewed here), only about the Netherlands. And in Dutch. It’s not listed at every Amazon store (and at the moment is not in stock where it is listed), but it’s available (at a discount) from the publisher.
M. R. O’Connor’s book Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World came out in April from St. Martin’s Press. Not coincidentally, she’s published a couple of pieces on the subject of that book, both of which focus on humans’ ability to pay attention to their surroundings, and the effect that relying on GPS directions might have on that ability. In a piece for Undark, O’Connor argues that “our unshakeable trust in GPS,” which traces itself back through hundreds of years of believing in the infallibility of maps, gets us lost because we’re relying on the device rather than our senses. Her piece for the Washington Post focuses on the role of the hippocampus in navigation and spatial awareness, and the need to exercise that part of the brain.
I’ve given the Map Books of 2019 page another update. At the moment it lists 31 books that have come out or are scheduled to come out this year. This list is always changing as publication schedules are adjusted and I learn about new books. As always, if there’s a book that should be on this list, let me know.
In my work as a map designer and science writer, I have collected over the past two decades hundreds of curious stories related to cartography or geography. These stories have seen the light of day in the form of hundreds of articles in magazines and blogs, as well as in posters or maps of very diverse types. Now, I’ve decided to compile my best maps and lesser-known but interesting curiosities from all that material I’ve collected over the years. The result is this book, an atlas designed to awaken your curiosity. The thematic maps that I have selected are part of the ones that I have created in the last years, improving them and adapting them for this book.
Alejandro is currently running a Kickstarter for the book. €18 gets you the digital edition, €65 the print edition (in softcover).
The Map Books of 2019 page lists all the books scheduled to come out this year—at least the ones I’m aware of. If there’s a book coming out in 2019 that should be on this page, let me know.
So far there are not many books listed, but that will change as the year progresses. Also keep in mind that publication dates shift all the time: keeping on top of those changes can be a sisyphean task, but I’ll do my best.
For the last two and a half years, Betsy and Greg have written a blog of the same name for National Geographic; from 2013 to 2015 they did the same thing with Map Lab, a map blog for Wired. Their background with regard to maps is similar to mine: “We are not experts in cartography or its history; we’re journalists with a lifelong love of maps who were eager to learn more,” they write in the book’s introduction.
We’ve talked about James Niehuesbefore: the legendary artist has painted hundreds of maps of ski resorts and recreational areas since the late 1980s. I was excited to learn that he’s producing a coffee table book that includes all of his maps. It’s being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Pledging $75 or more gets you a copy of the book; other pledge levels get you a high-quality print. Clearly there’s some interest: at the moment the project has raised more than $223,000 from nearly 2,000 backers, 28 times its target of $8,000, with three weeks still to go. [Kottke]
Edited by the historian of exploration Huw Lewis-Jones, The Writer’s Map is a collection of essays and maps that explore the relationship between maps and stories; the essays are written both by the creators of those stories—Cressida Cowell, Lev Grossman, Frances Hardinge, David Mitchell and Philip Pullman make appearances—and by the mapmakers who were inspired by those stories, such as Roland Chambers, Daniel Reeve and others. It also draws an important connection between travel and adventure stories of the past and modern fantasy, and explains why “here be dragons” is as much an attractant as it is a warning. Read my review.
Every year at about this time I post a gift guide that lists some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published this year. If you have a map-obsessed person in your life and would like to give them something map-related—or you are a map-obsessed person and would your broad hints to have a link—this guide may give you some ideas.
A total of 17 books are included in this year’s guide, loosely organized by theme. The focus is on books that are visual and of interest to the general reader;1 this does not even try to be a complete list of what’s been published this year. For that, check out the Map Books of 2018 page, which may suggest other gift ideas to you.