Matthew H. Edney’s Cartography: The Ideal and Its History (University of Chicago Press, April) is a full-throated jeremiad against the concept of cartography itself—the ideal of cartography, which after 237 densely argued pages Edney says “is quite simply indefensible.” Or as the subtitle to the first chapter states: “There is no such thing as cartography, and this is a book about it.”
On the surface this is a startling argument to make, particularly for Edney, who holds two roles that are very much about cartography and its history: he’s the Osher Professor in the History of Cartography at the University of Southern Maine (where, among other things, he’s affiliated with the Osher Map Library) and the current director of the History of Cartography Project. With this book, Edney is essentially undermining the foundations of his own profession.
Estonia’s first national atlas is coming next month, ERR News reports. Among its 500-odd maps “will also be less serious themed maps, such as the spread of kama and blood sausage in Estonia, a map of 1938 with the birthplaces of the Estonian elite, and a map of the location of public saunas in 1967.” The atlas will be published in Estonian and English.
In How to Draw a Map (HarperCollins UK, September), father and son cartographers Alexander and Malcolm Swanston provide “a fascinating meditation on the centuries-old art of map-making, from the first astronomical maps to the sophisticated GPS guides of today.” In other words, title not to be taken literally: as you can tell from the online excerpt available here, it’s a potted history of mapmaking—a familiar genre around these parts. [Amazon, Apple Books]
Earlier this year I told you about Barely Maps, the minimalist map project undertaken by Peter Gorman, who in a series of posters reduced maps to their most cryptic and abstract state. He’s been selling prints on Etsy, but now Peter has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the next phase of his project: a book that collects 100 of his minimalist maps, along with the stories behind their creation.
Peter sent me a proof copy of the book. The cover is as minimalist as you might expect from such a project. The maps are familiar if you’ve been following the Barely Maps project: here they take up an entire right-hand page, with a brief description on the facing page.
Peter is using offset printing to produce this book, which requires a 250-copy minimum print run. Supporting the Kickstarter starts at $39, which gets you one copy of the book and free U.S. shipping. Higher tiers add map prints to the cart. As I write this post, the Kickstarter is about 88 percent of the way to its $10,000 goal.
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.