Het Grote Kaartenboek (The Great Book of Maps)

Out today from WBooks: Het Grote Kaartenboek: Vijf eeuwen cartografie [The Great Book of Maps: Five Centuries of Cartography] a book collecting 500 years of maps from the National Archives of the Netherlands. Edited by Ron Guleij, it also features eight essays by guest authors. (In Dutch, naturally.) We’ve seen other map books that focus on the holdings of a specific library or archive: I’m thinking specifically of Debbie Hall’s Treasures from the Map Room (2016), which presented maps from the Bodleian Library, and Tom Harper’s Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library (2018). This one seems to be taking a look behind the curtain, with material on collection management (assuming Google Translate is not deceiving me).

Previously: The History of the Netherlands in 100 Old Maps.

Crossings: An Exhibition at the Newberry Library

Crossings: Mapping American Journeys, is an exhibition at Chicago’s Newberry Library that explores cross-country journeys of various kinds.

Maps, guidebooks, travelogues, postcards, and more from the Newberry’s collection recreate travelers’ experiences along the northern and southern borders of the US, across the continent’s interior, and up and down the Mississippi River.

These cross-country paths have been in use for centuries whether by water, railroad, car, or airplane. And they’ve remained remarkably consistent despite changes in transportation, commerce, and the people who’ve used them.

But not everyone has experienced travel and mobility equally. The same paths meant “discovery” to the European explorer, freedom to the enslaved, and loss and removal for Indigenous nations.

Crossings shows how centuries of movement—from the Lewis and Clark expedition to the American road trip—have forged deep relationships between people and places that survive to this day.

Crossings opened on February 25 and runs until June 25. Free admission; masks required.

Ortelius Online at the National Library of the Netherlands

World map from Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Koninklijke Bibliotheek

The National Library of the Netherlands has an online version of Ortelius’s 16th-century atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. In Dutch only. (From what I understand it’s not the only digitization of this work available online: see the atlas’s Wikipedia page for links to additional sites.) [Maps Mania]

‘Map Heaven’

“I call this ‘map heaven,’” said G. Salim Mohammed, the center’s head and curator. “This is a place where maps come alive.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s piece on the David Rumsey Map Center (paywalled; alternative Apple News+ link) focuses on the digital experiments undertaken by the center to make maps more accessible. (Examples we’ve covered here previously include digitally assembled versions of the Urbano Monte Map and a 1940 model of San Francisco, and also an AR globe app.) [David Rumsey Map Collection]

1761 Map of Fort Detroit Acquired, Crowdfunding Campaign Launched

William Brasier’s “Plan of the Fort at De Troit,” (1761)
William Brasier, “Plan of the Fort at De Troit,” 1761. William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.

A 1761 map of Fort Detroit that depicts the fort just after it was ceded by the French to British forces, commissioned by Gen. Amherst and hand-drawn by William Brasier, has been acquired by the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library.

The map had been in private hands since at least 1967. Because its $42,500 price tag put a substantial dent in the library’s acquisition budget, they’re crowdfunding the purchase—with $20,000 already pledged in matching funds. [Tony Campbell]

Previously: Early Map of Detroit Acquired.

Maps of the Pacific

Carte très curieuse de la Mer du Sud
Henri Abraham Chatelain, Carte très curieuse de la Mer du Sud, 1719. Map, 76.6 × 137.9 cm.

Maps of the Pacific is an exhibition of the State Library of New South Wales’s holdings of maps, charts atlases and globes relating to the Pacific Ocean. “This exhibition traces the European mapping of the Pacific across the centuries—an endeavour that elevated the science and art of European mapmaking. Redrawing the map of the world ultimately facilitated an era of brutal colonisation and dispossession for many Pacific First Nations communities.” Open now at the library’s exhibition galleries in Sydney, the exhibition runs until 24 April 2022. Free admission.

In related news, the library’s Mapping the Pacific conference (previously) has been postponed to March 2022.

‘The Vinland Map Is a Fake’

The Vinland Map
The Vinland Map

The general consensus has been for some time that the Vinland Map is a modern forgery. A battery of non-destructive tests by Yale University, which holds the map in its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, have been performed on the map, and the results of those tests have been announced: the map is a fake.

“The Vinland Map is a fake,” said Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the map. “There is no reasonable doubt here. This new analysis should put the matter to rest.”

Basically, the map’s inks contain titanium compounds first used in the 1920s, and an inscription on the parchment was altered to make it seem like the map belonged in a 15th-century bound volume.

Previously: Re-Analyzing the Vinland Map.

British Library Completes Flickr Release of George III’s Map Collection

The British Library has uploaded another 32,000 images from George III’s Topographical Collection to Flickr. The Library has been engaged in digitizing the King’s Topographical Collection (K.Top), which comprises some 40,000 atlases, views, plans and surveys dating from 1540 to 1824, for the past few years; last year they uploaded the first tranche of nearly 18,000 images to Flickr for free access and download. As of their announcement earlier this month, the Flickr collection (found here, helpfully organized by fonds) “now includes pretty much everything from the Topographical Collection, there is a small handful of images which we have still to release. We’re working on it!”

Previously: British Library Makes 18,000 of George III’s Maps and Ephemera Freely Available.

A Guide to the Library of Congress’s Collection of Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps are an invaluable tool for history research: they give a detailed snapshot of a city’s built environment at a given point in time. And they were made for just about every city, town and village. The Library of Congress has 50,000 fire insurance maps (700,000 individual sheets) in its collection, most of which were produced by the Sanborn Map Company. The Library has just released a resource guide to help researchers navigate its collection, and explain which maps are available (copyright is an issue with more recent maps). Announcement here.

Previously: Fire Insurance Maps Online.

Another Maps Issue from Library of Congress Magazine

Library of Congress Magazine (cover)The May-June 2021 issue of Library of Congress Magazine is entirely given over to maps: a lot of short one-page features on all sorts of subjects from Ortelius to COVID. Direct link to the PDF file (6 MB). [Edney]

This isn’t the first time the magazine has done this: the September-October 2016 issue (2.9 MB) was also almost entirely dedicated to maps. Previously: Library of Congress Magazine’s Map Issue.

Fire Insurance Maps Online

Penn State University Libraries’ collection of Pennsylvania Sanborn fire insurance maps dates to 1925, which means that as of this year they’re in the public domain—and freely available to use. Meanwhile, Maps Mania has a roundup of other fire insurance maps resources. The Library of Congress has a collection of 50,000 Sanborn atlases, 35,000 of which are available online (collections, navigator). In the United Kingdom, fire insurance maps were produced by Charles E. Goad Ltd.; Goad maps are available via the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.

Fire insurance maps are an invaluable resource for historical researchers: they’re extremely detailed snapshots of the built environment of virtually every city and town, and there are usually several such snapshots (I’ve seen at least three for my little village, for example), so you can chart a town’s growth over time at a level of detail an OS, quad or topo map can’t match.

Germany’s Elusive Map Thief

Writing at Atlas Obscura, Jeffrey Arlo Brown has the frustrating story of a German map thief—the extraordinarily slippery eel Norbert Schild—and the decades-long attempts by librarians to catch him, or when caught convict him, or when released stop him from stealing again.

All over Germany, librarians waited for the Bonn state prosecutor’s investigation to proceed. But they never filed charges against Schild. The evidence was largely circumstantial: While libraries could show that Schild used the damaged books, they couldn’t necessarily prove that he was the one cutting out the pages. A search warrant executed at Schild’s home on November 22, 2002, turned up “tools of the trade,” such as bibliographies and lists of historical materials at Germany libraries, but no actual stolen maps. Prosecutors in Bonn were busy, and the stakes may have seemed low—old books, not human lives. The charges in Trier—where Schild was caught red-handed—were dropped due to negligibility, after damages were estimated at just €500. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Bonn declined to comment.

Astonishing. [Tony Campbell]

British Library Makes 18,000 of George III’s Maps and Ephemera Freely Available

Mathew Dixon, “”A General Plan with a Project for the Defence of the Arsenals of Plymouth,” 1780. Map, 65 × 95 cm. King’s Topographical Collection, British Library.

At his death, King George III had a collection of some 50,000 maps, plans, illustrations and related ephemera. The military maps were kept by his son George IV; earlier this year more than 2,000 of those maps were posted online by the Royal Collection Trust. But the vast majority went to the British Library, where it makes up the King’s Topographical Collection (“K.Top”). The collection is wide-ranging and diverse—George III was a bit grabby when it came to maps—and includes maps made from 1540 to 1824; it also, famously, includes the Klencke Atlas.

For the past few years the Library has been engaged on a project to digitize the 40,000 items of the Collection; last month they announced that the first batch—some 18,000 images—has been released to Flickr—see this Flickr album—where they may be freely accessed and downloaded.

More from the British Library’s Maps and Views Blog here and here.

Previously: British Library Digitizing George III’s Map Collection; Picturing Places and the Klencke Atlas; George III’s Collection of Military Maps Now Online.

Osher Library Launches Fundraising Campaign

The Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education has launched a fundraising campaign to support their map conservation efforts.

In recognition of Maine’s Bicentennial, and in conjunction with our newly launched exhibition, “Mapping Maine: The Land and Its Peoples, 1677-1842,” we are raising funds to conserve historic maps of Maine and beyond to ensure that students and researchers of all ages continue to have access to cartographic resources vital to understanding the history of the world, the nation, the land we now call Maine, and our local communities. When historic maps, atlases, and globes come into our collections (via donations by individuals and organizations or by purchase)—like the 1855 Wall Map of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine, displayed below—they often arrive in fragile condition due to their age, the nature of the materials, and how they have been used over time. While we protect and store the items in our world-class climate controlled storage facility, many items need conservation in order to be displayed and utilized by our patrons of all ages.

The fundraising target is $50,000. Help them get there. [Osher]

Smithsonian Magazine Explores the Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

The September issue of Smithsonian Magazine has a very good piece summing up the case of the Carnegie Library rare book and map thefts, coverage of which has made regular appearances here on The Map Room. In 2017 Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library discovered that more than 300 rare books, maps and other items, worth around $8 million, had been stolen from their collection. Library archivist Greg Priore, who had physical access to the items, and bookseller John Schulman, who acted as his fence, were eventually arrested and charged; they pled guilty to a reduced set of charges last January. With everything that’s been happening, I missed their sentencing last June; the Smithsonian piece provides the details: Priore was sentenced to three years of house arrest and 12 years of probation, Schulman to four years of house arrest and 12 years of probation, sentences that some consider unconscionably light.

Previously: 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; Arrests Made in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Theft Update; Priore, Schulman Plead Guilty to Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts.