The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps

The Eternal City (cover)Something I often do when reviewing a book is talk about it in terms of the expectations of its potential readers—particularly if readers might come to a book with expectations that the book does not meet, because the book is doing something different. If you’re expecting The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps, written by the art historian Jessica Maier and published last November by the University of Chicago Press, to be basically A History of Rome in 100 Maps, it isn’t: the count is more like three dozen. This doesn’t mean that The Eternal City is a slight book—it most certainly is not, though at 199 pages it’s a bit shorter than, say, A History of America in 100 Maps (272 pages).

But counting maps would miss the difference in Maier’s approach. To invoke xkcd, this is depth-first rather than breadth-first: there are fewer maps here, but they’re discussed in much more depth than the two-page spreads of the hundred-map books, and provided with much more context. This is a history of Rome in maps in which history, Rome and maps all get their proper share of attention.

Continue reading “The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps”

Edney Reviews ‘When Maps Become the World’

Matthew Edney reviews Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther’s When Maps Become the World (University of Chicago Press, 2020), a philosophy of science book that engages with maps and representation—with what Winther calls “map thinking.” Edney isn’t convinced by Winther’s approach: “Winther remains committed to outmoded and deeply flawed concepts of the nature of ‘the map’ that, to be honest, call into question the entire project.”

The Map Books of 2021 page is now live, but at the moment it has very few books listed. If there’s a book coming out in 2021 that should be on this page—basically, any and all books about cartography, maps and related subjects—please let me know. Ideally books should have a publication date (though I’m well aware that dates can move around a lot) and other details available, but I’ll work with what I can get.

Map Projections for Babies

Map Projections for BabiesLate last year Dan Ford launched a Kickstarter to create a board book (i.e., a children’s book printed on paperboard) about map projections called Map Projections for Babies. Presumably intended to be in the same vein as other board books on surprisingly advanced science topics (Chris Ferrie has a whole series of them; Quantum Computing for Babies is a typical title), Map Projections for Babies “explains how we unwrap the round Earth to make flat maps. This guide for babies (and their loved ones) describes a complex concept in kid-friendly terms. […] This project began last year, when I was inspired threefold by my daughter’s curiosity, my love for maps, and a growing number of board books that condense complex concepts for babies.” The Kickstarter was successful, the book is now at the printing stage and is on track for delivery in April; additional orders will be accepted at some point. [Geography Realm]

More About ‘Time in Maps’

Book cover: Time in MapsWhile you’re waiting for me to review Kären Wigen and Caroline Winterer’s Time in Maps: From the Age of Discovery to Our Digital Era, here is some more information about this collection of essays about how maps have been used to depict time. Time in Maps is the end product of a conference held at Stanford’s David Rumsey Map Center in November 2017, and the editors are history professors at Stanford, so naturally the university’s media channels are all over it: Stanford Today published a piece last week that coincided with the book launch, and there’s also a short video.

Previously: New Books from the University of Chicago Press.

 

Pandemic Atlas

Pandemic Atlas banner illustration

Alejandro Polanco’s latest Kickstarter project is the Pandemic Atlas. The idea, he says, “is to gather the most relevant information about the pandemics and major epidemics that have hit humanity throughout history to create an atlas in the visual style of my Minimal Geography project.” In 130 pages, the Pandemic Atlas explores major epidemics throughout history, and includes general chapters on heath subjects. The project’s inception actually predates the COVID-19 pandemic; it was initally inspired by the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic, but at the time there was not much interest in the topic. Fast forward today, when an atlas about historical pandemics is just a little too topical.

The Pandemic Atlas Kickstarter runs through 24 February (it’s already met its goal). €20 gets you a digital copy of the atlas, €60 adds the hardcover.

Previously: The Minimal Geography Atlas.

New Books from the University of Chicago Press

Two books from the University of Chicago Press

I received as review copies the following books from the University of Chicago Press, both now available:

In The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps, Jessica Maier “considers Rome through the eyes of mapmakers and artists who have managed to capture something of its essence over the centuries. Viewing the city as not one but ten ‘Romes,’ she explores how the varying maps and art reflect each era’s key themes. Ranging from modest to magnificent, the images comprise singular aesthetic monuments like paintings and grand prints as well as more popular and practical items like mass-produced tourist plans, archaeological surveys, and digitizations.” Amazon (Canada, UK) | Bookshop

Edited by Kären Wigen and Caroline Winterer, Time in Maps: From the Age of Discovery to Our Digital Era collects nine essays on the “ingenious and provocative ways” maps have attempted to depict time. “Focusing on maps created in Spanish America, Europe, the United States, and Asia, these essays take us from the Aztecs documenting the founding of Tenochtitlan, to early modern Japanese reconstructing nostalgic landscapes before Western encroachments, to nineteenth-century Americans grappling with the new concept of deep time.” Amazon (Canada, UK) | Bookshop

Related: Map Books of 2020.

A Slice Through America

Out last month from Princeton Architectural Press: A Slice Through America: A Geological Atlas by David Kassel. This is a history of stratigraphic illustrations, which Kassel has been collecting for decades. “Historic stratigraphic illustrations depict the earth beneath our feet in captivating hand-drawn diagrams. Each drawing tells a unique geologic story, exquisitely rendered in colors from pastel palettes to brilliant bolds that show evolving scientific graphic conventions over time. Created by federal and state geologists over the course of one hundred years, the maps reveal sedimentary rock layers that present an unexpected view of our treasured public lands, making this collection an important record of natural resources, as well as a beautiful display of map design.” Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop.

BCS 50th Anniversary Book Available to Download

BCS 50th Anniversary Book (cover)The British Cartographic Society’s 50th anniversary book, which came out in 2013, is now available as a free download (68 MB PDF). “This beautiful book, lavishly illustrated with over 130 maps, is presented in double-page map spreads for each year from 1963 to 2013, one map illustrating a UK event and the an overseas event for each of the fifty years.”

Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500

Amazon (Canada, UK)
Bookshop

Out tomorrow from Johns Hopkins University Press, Alida C. Metcalf’s Mapping an Atlantic World, circa 1500 explores how sixteenth-century European maps conceptualized a new, Atlantic-centred world. From the publisher: “Metcalf explains why Renaissance cosmographers first incorporated sailing charts into their maps and began to reject classical models for mapping the world. Combined with the new placement of the Atlantic, the visual imagery on Atlantic maps—which featured decorative compass roses, animals, landscapes, and native peoples—communicated the accessibility of distant places with valuable commodities. Even though individual maps became outdated quickly, Metcalf reveals, new mapmakers copied their imagery, which then repeated on map after map. Individual maps might fall out of date, be lost, discarded, or forgotten, but their geographic and visual design promoted a new way of seeing the world, with an interconnected Atlantic World at its center.” [WMS]

New Map Books: Early October 2020

New map books released in early October include:

The 27th edition of the Oxford Atlas of the World (Oxford University Press); this atlas is updated annually. This edition includes more satellite imagery, a new feature on plastics pollution, and an updated cities section. Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop

The 14th edition of the Times Concise Atlas of the World (Times Books). One step below the Comprehensive in the Times Atlas range, and a bit more than half the price. Available now in the U.K., next month in Canada, and next March in the United States. Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop

A History of the Second World War in 100 Maps by Jeremy Black (British Library) “selects 100 of the most revealing, extraordinary and significant maps to give a ground-breaking perspective on the Second World War. It follows the British Library’s enormously successful A History of America in 100 Maps, published in 2018.” Out tomorrow in the U.K.; the U.S. edition is out from the University of Chicago Press later this month. Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop

Philip Parker’s History of World Trade in Maps (Collins), in which “more than 70 maps give a visual representation of the history of World Commerce, accompanied by text which tells the extraordinary story of the merchants, adventurers, middle-men and monarchs who bought, sold, explored and fought in search of profit and power.” Also out now in the U.K. but later in North America. Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop

Finally, the paperback edition of Tom Harper’s Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library, which I reviewed here in 2018, is out tomorrow from the British Library. Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop

A Crowdfunded, Hand-drawn Atlas of Scotland

Artist and writer Andrew Barr is crowdfunding for what he is calling “the first major Scottish atlas for over 100 years”: a hand-drawn, hardcover Atlas of Scotland:

Produced as a visually striking hardback book, combining text with illustrated maps, the Atlas will shed new light on Scotland’s size and resources, its cultural and political history, as well as its long standing as one of the ancient kingdoms of Europe and the richness of its international connections.

As satellite images replace traditional paper atlases, modern technology leaves us with an incomplete picture of the nation. By returning to map-making in pen and ink, and by retelling the story of Scotland’s history and culture, this Atlas aims to delve deeper into the fabric of the land and reveal one of the world’s oldest nations in a whole new light.

Very much a nationalist project—and a personal project as well, which is not how atlases are usually done nowadays, hand-drawn or not. The atlas is projected to ship in October 2021. [History Scotland]

Underground Cities

Amazon (Canada, UK)
Bookshop

Mark Ovenden has made a career of publishing books about transportation systems and their maps that are both comprehensive and copiously illustrated. These include books about transit maps, railway maps and airline maps, as well as books about specific transit systems like the London Underground and the Paris Metro.

His latest, Underground Cities (Frances Lincoln, 22 Sep), is in some ways a natural progression from his past work: in the introduction he muses on the link between transit geekery and wondering about “what else lies down there beyond the walls” (p. 6). But in other ways this is quite a different book.

Continue reading “Underground Cities”

The Map Books of 2020 page has been updated with new book listings, the latest cover art and updated publishing schedules (which have been just as much in flux as they’ve been in previous years, if not more so). It is as up to date and as complete as I can make it, but it’s a smaller list than usual. If I’ve missed something or something on this list is in error, please tell me.

Map Books of 2020

Marie Tharp at 100

July 30 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of pioneering ocean cartographer Marie Tharp, whose seafloor maps provided evidence of continental drift. Columbia University’s Earth Institute is marking the event with blog posts, interviews, workshops and other social media and multimedia activity. See, for example, this overview of her legacy by Marie Denoia Aronsohn and a reprint of Tharp’s own piece, “Connect the Dots: Mapping the Seafloor and Discovering the Mid-ocean Ridge.”

The anniversary probably explains why two books about Tharp, aimed at children, are coming out this year:

Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret
by Jess Keating
Tundra Books, 30 Jun 2020
Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books | Bookshop


Marie’s Ocean
by Josie James
Henry Holt, 22 Sep 2020
Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books

Add those to Robert Burleigh’s Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor (2016), also aimed at young readers, and Hali Felt’s 2012 biography of Tharp (for adults), Soundings, which I review here.

Older posts about Marie Tharp can be found here.

Update, July 30: Suzanne O’Connell at The Conversation: “As a geoscientist, I believe Tharp should be as famous as Jane Goodall or Neil Armstrong. Here’s why.”