Literature and Cartography

Here’s a book that, given my interest in maps and literature, I’ll have to track down: Literature and Cartography: Theories, Histories, Genres, edited by Anders Engberg-Pedersen and featuring contributions from 15 other authors. “Literary authors have frequently called on elements of cartography to ground fictional space, to visualize sites, and to help readers get their bearings in the imaginative world of the text. Today, the convergence of digital mapping and globalization has spurred a cartographic turn in literature. This book gathers leading scholars to consider the relationship of literature and cartography. Generously illustrated with full-color maps and visualizations, it offers the first systematic overview of an emerging approach to the study of literature.” Out today from The MIT Press. [Amazon]

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

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.

Once again I’ve done my best to organize the books by theme. This is not a complete list of what’s been published in 2017. That’s what the Map Books of 2017 page is for: that page includes many, many other books that might also suggest themselves as gift possibilities.

Recommended

It shouldn’t be a secret that I haven’t seen or read everything on these lists; I go by what information is publicly available. But two books I have seen, and can recommend. Both Stephen J. Hornsby’s Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps (reviewed here) and The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alex Kent (reviewed here) are beautiful collections of historically significant maps with informative accompanying text.

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Nowherelands

A book I missed hearing about earlier: Bjørn Berge’s Nowherelands: An Atlas of Vanished Countries 1840-1975 (Thames and Hudson, October 2017). Another in the line of books about obscure, unusual and out-of-the-way places, this one focuses on countries that really did exist, but only for a little while. From the publisher:

Some of their names, such as Biafra or New Brunswick, will be relatively familiar. Others, such as Labuan, Tannu Tuva and Inini, are far less recognizable. But all of these lost nations have fascinating stories to tell, whether they were as short-lived as Eastern Karelia, which lasted only a few weeks during the Soviet–Finnish War of 1922, or as long-lasting as the Orange Free State, a Boer Republic that celebrated fifty years as an independent state in the late 1800s. Their broad spectrum reflects the entire history of the 19th and 20th centuries, with its ideologies, imperialism, waves of immigration and conflicts both major and minor.

Via James Cheshire’s Ultimate Gift List for Map Lovers, which you should check out while I’m working on mine.

The Red Atlas

During the second half of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union’s military and civilian cartographers created topographical maps of the entire world of a very high standard of quality and accuracy. How they did so, and why, remains in large part a mystery, one that John Davies and Alexander J. Kent’s new book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, October) fails to solve completely.

The Red Atlas is not the definitive history of those Soviet mapping efforts because so much about those efforts remains a secret. The only reason we know about them is because, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, so many physical copies of those once-highly secret maps fell into the hands of map collectors. The Red Atlas talks about that: for more than a decade, Davies and Kent have been studying those maps. (I’ve been following their work. See the links at the bottom of this post for my earlier posts on the subject.) What they know about the Soviet mapping efforts—sources, methods, their reason for doing it—is extrapolated from the final product of those effort: the maps. The Red Atlas is above all else an exercise in cartographic forensics.

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Londonist Mapped

Londonist Mapped: Hand Drawn Maps for the Curious Explorer came out last month from AA Publishing. (It’ll be out in North America next February.) Londonist describes their book thusly: “The book presents dozens of beautiful maps of the capital, from historic plans to specially commissioned art. Here you’ll find maps of lost Victorian buildings, little-known musical history, subterranean London and many more. The book also includes a reprint of our popular Anglo-Saxon London map.” I wonder if it includes “Bridges of London.” [WMS]

Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

With Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps (University of Chicago Press, March 2017), Stephen J. Hornsby makes the case for the pictorial map as a distinct and significant genre of mapmaking that is worthy of study and preservation.

Because pictorial maps were artistic rather than scientific, Hornsby argues, they were ignored as a subject of cartographic study—“treated as ephemera, the flotsam and jetsam of an enormous sea of popular culture.”1 As such they have not been preserved to the same extent as more strictly cartographic maps. (Being printed on cheap acid paper didn’t help.) But as products of popular culture they were distinctive—and ubiquitous. “By World War II,” he writes, “pictorial maps had created a powerful visual image of the United States and were beginning to reimagine the look of the world for a mass consumer audience.”2 They were so prevalent, I suppose, that they were invisible. Taken for granted. It frequently falls to the historian of popular culture to point out that the common and everyday is, in fact, significant. That’s what Hornsby is doing here.

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Map Books of 2017 Updated

I’ve finally updated the Map Books of 2017 page to account for all the books that were brought to my attention over the past few months.

Later this month it’ll be time for me to post the 2017 edition of The Map Room’s Holiday Gift Guide. Each year I put out a list of some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year. This year’s guide will be a rather smaller selection of the above list, focused on gift-giving (academic monographs and GIS manuals make less-than-ideal gifts, I’m thinking); the Map Books of 2017 page is meant to be more comprehensive.

A Book Roundup

Writing for the Globe and Mail, Charlotte Grey reviews two recent Canadian books about mapmaking and mapmakers, both of which came out last month: Adam Shoalts’s History of Canada in Ten Maps (which I reviewed here last month) and Barbara Mitchell’s Mapmaker: Philip Turnor in Rupert’s Land in the Age of Enlightenment. Mitchell and her book also get local-author coverage from kawarthaNOW.

Meanwhile, All Over the Map’s coverage of The Red Atlas continues with this look at Soviet posters used to train cartographers.

It looks like posters from Andrew DeGraff’s Cinemaps are available for sale: not just prints (which go for around $55-85), but originals (which go for rather more).

Canada Before Confederation

Written by Chet Van Duzer and Lauren Beck, Canada Before Confederation: Maps at the Exhibition (Vernon Press, July 2017) explores 18 maps from the 16th through the 18th century. The book accompanies an exhibition of (presumably the same) maps and a conference, Canada Before Confederation: Early Exploration and Mapping, which takes place next month, 13-14 November, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia (preliminary conference program). The back cover copy mentions that the map exhibition has travelled or is travelling to several other locations, but I haven’t been able to find any online; if anyone knows where else it’s been, let me know and I’ll update this post. [WMS]

More New Map Books for October 2017

It’s an even busier month than I thought for map book publishing. In addition to the eight books I told you about earlier this month, plus the two new editions of the Times Mini and Reference atlases, here are three more map-related books that were published this month:

  1. Atlas of Nebraska by J. Clark Archer et al. (Bison Books). “Far more than simply the geography of Nebraska, this atlas explores a myriad of subjects from Native Americans to settlement patterns, agricultural ventures to employment, and voting records to crime rates.” [Amazon]
  2. Bermuda Maps by Jonathan Land Evans (National Museum of Bermuda Press), a look at Bermuda’s cartographic history back to the 1600s. Available directly from the National Museum of Bermuda; I’m not sure where to get it off-island.
  3. Explorer’s Atlas: For the Incurably Curious by Piotr Wilkowiecki and Michał Gaszyński (HarperCollins UK). Illustrated large-format book full of factoids. There’s an accompanying wall map. Published in the U.K.; available elsewhere through resellers. [Amazon UK]

Previously: New Map Books for October 2017New Editions of Two Smaller Times Atlases (One Very Small Indeed).

Update (30 Oct.): Jonathan Land Evans writes with information on overseas orders for his book, Bermuda Maps: “The most direct way by which people overseas may order copies is by e-mailing bookmart@psl.bm, as the museum now uses The Bookmart bookstore in Bermuda for all order-fulfillment involving shipping to addresses outside Bermuda. The hardback book is a large one, handsomely illustrated in colour, and costs $65 plus postage.”

You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City

You Are Here NYC: Mapping the Soul of the CityAn exhibition taking place now at the New York City Library, Picturing the City: Illustrated Maps of NYC, features 16 pictorial maps from the Library’s collection of illustrations. Running until 9 April 2018, it’s curated by Katharine Harmon, whose book, You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City, came out last November from Princeton Architectural Press. Here’s an interview with Harmon about the exhibition in Print magazine.

This seems as good an excuse as any to take a closer look at You Are Here: NYC. Past time, actually, since I’ve had a review copy in my hands for a year now.

You Are Here: NYC is the third of Katharine Harmon’s map books. The first, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, came out in 2003, the second, The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, in 2010. Harmon’s distinctive style in editing and curating these books, carries over to the present volume.

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Book Review Roundup

Geographical magazine reviews The Red Atlas, the survey of Soviet-era topo maps of the world by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent out this month from University of Chicago Press. National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog also has a feature on The Red Atlas. I’ve received my own review copy of The Red Atlas and hope to have a review for you … at some point (I’m rather backlogged).

Meanwhile, Geographical also has a review of Alastair Bonnett’s latest book of geographical idiosyncraciesBeyond the Map, and All Over the Map takes a look at Andrew DeGraff’s book mapping movie plotlines, Cinemaps. Tor.com excerpts Cinemaps’s map of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Previously: New Map Books for October 2017; Alastair Bonnett’s Beyond the MapSoviet Spy Maps, Redux.

‘The Un-Discovered Islands’ Comes to North America

Last year I told you about The Un-Discovered Islands, a book by Malachy Tallack that told the stories of some two dozen islands that were once thought real but are now no longer on the map. It existed only as a British edition, though a U.S. edition was said to be forthcoming. That U.S. edition is coming next month from Picador, so readers in North America will be able to lay hands on a copy more easily, should they wish. [Amazon]

Meanwhile, Tor.com has published an excerpt online.

Previously: Mapping Scottish and/or Nonexistent IslandsThe Un-Discovered Islands Reviewed.

A History of Canada in Ten Maps

The odd thing about A History of Canada in Ten Maps, the new book by Adam Shoalts out today from Allen Lane, is that it’s almost entirely uncontaminated by maps. It’s not just because the electronic review copy I received (via Netgalley) contained no images of the maps being referred to in the text: I expect that will be rectified in the published version; if nothing else I was able to find an online version of each map (a gallery follows below). It’s that in the text itself the maps are quite literally an afterthought.

It turns out that A History of Canada in Ten Maps isn’t really a book about maps, or mapmaking, but exploration. For Shoalts, the maps are the evidentiary traces of the stories he really wants to tell. In nine of the ten cases, those are stories of Canada’s exploration; in the tenth, a key battle of the War of 1812. Combined, those stories form a mosaic tale of nation-building, one that supports the kind of national mythmaking that the previous government in Canada was particularly fond of.

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