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.
“An Anciente Mappe of Fairyland,” produced by Bernard Sleigh around 1917, is a marvellous conflation of classical myth and fairy tales. Nearly five feet wide, it was apparently designed to hang in nurseries. The echoes of its design elements can still be seen in later fantasy maps and children’s book illustrations, such as E. H. Shepard’s maps of the Hundred Acre Wood and Pauline Baynes’s maps of Narnia, though none of them are this vibrant.
Since 2014 Anton Thomas has been working on a large and detailed hand-drawn pictorial map of North America. Done on a 120-×-150-cm piece of art paper with coloured pencils and pen, and full of little pictorial details, The North American Continent has taken more than 4,000 hours to draw—and re-draw. In an update earlier this month, Anton estimates there are still 200 hours of work remaining; he expects to be done by December, with prints going on sale early next year.
The map was the subject of two talks Anton gave at NACIS last year: see Drawing a Continent by Hand and Methods of a Hand-Drawn Map. And take note: Anton lives in Australia, but at the moment he’s in the U.S. to give talks and work out printing and distribution. He’ll be giving a presentation tomorrow evening at the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. (Another talk is scheduled for October 24 at the Rumsey Map Center in San Francisco Stanford.)
Zayde Antrim’s Mapping the Middle East (Reaktion, 1 April) “explores the many perspectives from which people have visualized the vast area lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Oxus and Indus river valleys over the past millennium. By analysing maps produced from the eleventh century on, Zayde Antrim emphasizes the deep roots of mapping in a world region too often considered unexamined and unchanging before the modern period. Indeed, maps from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, coinciding with the eras of European colonialism and the rise of the nation-state, have obscured this deeper past and constrained future possibilities.” Amazon
Jeremy Black’s Mapping Shakespeare: An Exploration of Shakespeare’s Worlds Through Maps (Conway, 10 April) “looks at the England, Europe, and wider world in which Shakespeare worked through maps and illustrations that reveal the way that he and his contemporaries saw their land and their place in the world. It also explores the locations of his plays and looks at the possible inspirations for these and why Shakespeare would have chosen to set his stories there.” Amazon, iBooks
There has been an explosion of maps that are not necessarily meant to be used for directions, but instead are considered works of art and inspired imagination. We want you to create an illustrative map that reflects a Canadian city (or a neighbourhood, community) or is inspired by the urban elements that make up a city (examples: waterfront, transit, cycling, walking, graffiti, parks, architecture, laneways/alleys, streets, traffic, taxis, weather, sewers, infrastructure, etc.)
You’ve got until the end of April. Submission guidelines here; includes some examples from the 2012 iteration of this competition (see above).
What do we mean by mapmaking? That’s a less straightforward question than it appears at first glance. A cartographer might talk about projections, scale, use of symbols, deciding which information to put on the map; a digital mapmaker might emphasize GIS and data layers and data sources. Your assumptions about what mapmaking is depends largely on the maps your yourself make. And what we mean by “map” can be quite different depending on the context.
KelownaNow reports that a pictorial tourist map of Kelowna, British Columbia will be updated by the original artist later this year. The original version, first released in 2012, was featured in the NACISAtlas of Design in 2014. This local news item was my segue into the work of pictorial map artist Jean-Louis Rheault, who’s been producing map illustrations for cities, agencies, organizations and businesses for decades. His Flickr account contains many examples of his work, as does the portfolio section of his website. [WMS]
In the mid-20th century pictorial maps in cartoonish styles were a popular way of promoting travel and tourism. In contrast to objective, realistic maps they appeal to emotions such as romance, fantasy and humor. They are used to tell anecdotes about a region’s history, culture and landscape in a way attractive to old and young. These illustrated maps are meant to inspire, not to provide travel information.
Pictorial maps or Bildkarten seem to be the opposite of the schematic metro-like maps of railway networks from the same period, composed of straight lines and without any details. Schematic and pictorial maps share one thing though: they are only loosely bound to geographic reality. Their common goal is to convey a message—either the straightforwardness of a journey or the attractiveness of a region.
Lots of maps featured here, mostly from European rail services. Since much of the study of pictorial maps focuses on the United States, as well as Britain (especially in re MacDonald Gill), this is a refreshing filling in of the gaps.
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.