“The Monsters of Maps,” a 10-minute video by Richard Tilney-Bassett, explores the late-19th- and early-20th-century phenomenon of “serio-comic” or caricature maps, which are no stranger to us here. In the video Richard wonders what a modern-day caricature map would look like; I’d point him to the work of Andy Davey (see here and here).
Cornell University Library has been home to the P. J. Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography since 2014, and that collection is very much available online. Today, though, a new exhibition of maps from that collection opens at the Carl A. Kroch Library’s Hirshland Exhibition Gallery. Latitude: Persuasive Cartography runs until 21 February 2020.
Cornell isn’t the only repository of maps intended to persuade or propagandize. The Library of Congress acquired a collection of 180 such maps, focusing on war and propaganda in the first half of the 20th century, in 2016.
JSTOR Daily interviews P. J. Mode, the map collector (and donor) behind Cornell University Library’s P. J. Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography. Mode began collecting maps in 1980, and proceeded in the usual manner until stumbling across what would become his niche.
When I was looking at those maps in dealers’ shops or catalogs, I often saw other maps that I thought were fun and interesting. I didn’t quite understand them all—unusual maps, strange maps of different kinds. The kind of maps that dealers refer to as “cartographic curiosities” (which basically means, “This doesn’t fit into one of my pigeon-holes…”). These were kind of fun and interesting, and they were inexpensive so, on a lark, I would buy them when I saw them and then I would kind of try to figure out what they were.
The dots don’t represent anything in particular, nor is their number and placement indicative of any kind of data. But when you’re looking at them, all spread out on a map of the United States like that—it’s hard not to be a little blown away.
Seven hundred of them. Seven hundred dots. That’s more than 500 dots—well on the way to 1,000. That could represent 700 people, or crime scenes, or cities. Or something that happens in this country every 20 seconds. These dots could potentially be anything—they’re red dots, so they could definitely mean something bad.
Whatever they might be, there’s no unseeing these dots.
Clickhole, The Onion’s satirical clickbait website, had a hilarious piece last October declaring that rising sea levels will turn Australia into a rhombus: good news for cartographers, for whom Australia will be easier to draw.
According to a new study by the National Ocean Service, melting icecaps and glaciers will raise sea levels enough to cause drastic coastal erosion to virtually every landmass on the planet, including Australia, which will transform from its current shapeless continental configuration into a crisp, tightly angled quadrilateral. While this will unquestionably result in an incalculable amount of economic and ecological devastation, it will likely be a welcome change for cartographers, who instead of spending hours trying to perfect the jagged and asymmetrical outline of the Australian coast like they do now, will in the coming decades be able to handily dash off a geographically accurate rendering of the continent in just a few seconds flat.
In your face, Wyoming. [Cartophilia]
More than 500 maps have just been added to the P. J. Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography at the Cornell University Library. That’s almost double the number they began with. Via email, P. J. Mode also says that “Cornell has implemented a much-improved image browser with a very robust search function. I hope there are some things that you’ll find new and interesting!”
The second came this past week, and is actually sourced, based on his own statements (but not direct quotes):
Judgmental Maps is a blog that posts snarky, profane city maps—basically, city maps overlain with snarky labels of various neighbourhoods—submitted by readers. (Think of the project as Yanko Tsvetkov but with less talent.) A map of Albuquerque posted there last March got noticed by a local radio station, which naturally stirred up some local controversy. This seems to happen a lot: last month it was Orlando. I’m sure this means something, though it’s escaping me at the moment. [via]
Persuasive cartography: it’s a term I haven’t encountered before, though I’ve seen kind of maps it refers to: propagandistic art that uses cartography to make a point—think of all those caricature maps leading up to World War I. Many of them can be found in Cornell University Library’s P. J. Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography: there are more than 300 maps available online, plus some pages about the genre. (Above: a 1951 map from the French Communist Party that takes a pro-Soviet line against the U.S. military.) [via]
The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need by Jake Manley isn’t the first map of its kind that I’ve seen (see also the map in Diana Wynne Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland); still, it’s clear that fantasy maps are a proven vehicle to satirize and critique the genre. (And be satirized and critiqued.) [John Scalzi]