Maps of real places done up in the style of fantasy maps are a thing, as those who have been following along will know by now. I’m planning a dedicated page on the subject in the Fantasy Maps section. That page will have to include Dan Bell’s maps of the Lake District—maps, he says, “that resemble the iconic style of J. R. R. Tolkien.” His maps have suddenly got a bit of media attention, which is atypical for this sort of project: BBC News, The Westmoreland Gazette. They resemble more the maps done for the Lord of the Rings movies than the maps created by Christopher Tolkien or Pauline Baynes: one tell is the triple-dot diacritic above the a, which is used in the movie maps and comes from Tolkien’s Elvish script. Bell, a 25-year-old “ordinary guy” from the Lake District, is selling prints of the maps online. [Kenneth Field]
The York Museum Gardens’ Geological Mosaic Map is a four-metre-square pebble mosaic that depicts the Yorkshire part of William Smith’s 1815 geological map of Great Britain—a copy of which is held at the adjacent Yorkshire Museum. The mosaic was commissioned in 2015 and created by mosaic artist Janette Ireland, who “used many imaginative devices—including fossils, both real and formed from pebbles, discarded stone from the minster and tiny millstones made of millstone grit—to represent the ideas which Smith was demonstrating in his map. […] The pebbles in the mosaic reflect the colours Smith used in his map, but genuine Yorkshire rocks are displayed in the flower beds on either side of the mosaic, alongside strips of the pebbles used to represent them.” Photo gallery. [WMS]
One of the proposals in the new draft London Plan is to prohibit new fast food establishments within 400 metres of an existing school as a means of combatting childhood obesity.1 This is going over about as well as you’d think. Dan Cookson has mapped the locations of London’s fast food establishments and the 400-metre exclusion zones around each school; his map suggests a problem: there would be few places in the city able to host a new fast food joint.
Philip Parker’s History of Britain in Maps (HarperCollins) includes 100 maps covering the island’s entire history, from Matthew Paris and the Gough Map to maps of the EU referendum results. Out now in the U.K.; according to Amazon it’ll be in stock in Canada in December and in the U.S. next February. [Amazon]
Mapping the Borders, a series of talks, exhibitions and workshops hosted by the University of Sunderland from 18 to 25 November as part of this year’s Being Human festival, includes an art exhibition, a workshop on glass mapmaking, a full day of activities on the 19th, and a number of pop-up talks. [NLS]
Streams in Great Britain have many different names—brook, burn, stream, water—and it turns out that the variations are regional. On Twitter, Ben Smith has been posting maps of Britain’s obscure and idiosyncratic stream names. Atlas Obscura has more, and also points to Phil Taylor doing something similar with Britain’s lakes. Language maps, meet toponyms. [Benjamin Hennig]
A wide-ranging article at Bristol 24/7 explores at the different ways that Bristol has been mapped throughout history. It begins with a look at Jeff Bishop’s 2016 book, Bristol Through Maps (Redcliffe), which includes 24 maps of the city from 1480 to today. Then it goes on to Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place, which layers historic maps on top of a web mapping interface, and finishes with a roundup of the work of local artists and graphic designers. Quite the microcosm: so many kinds of mapping activity, all focused on one British city. [Tony Campbell]
A new post-Brexit map of the European Union shows Scotland as an EU member separate and independent from a rump “United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland,” which is coloured like other non-EU members. Commissioned by Interkart and produced by XYZ Maps, the 119 × 84 cm wall map costs £24/40€. Interkart, XYZ Maps. [WMS]
William Smith’s 19th-century geological maps of Britain are now available online via an interactive map interface. [Maps Mania]
Geographical magazine reviews Daniel MacCannell’s
That Soviet spies created detailed topographic maps of the world, including their Cold War enemies, is not news. Wired had a feature on the maps last year, and I’ve been aware of the work of John Davies and Alex Kent on the subject for more than a decade.
But for some unexplained reason interest in Soviet maps has had a bit of a resurgence lately. Elliot Carter writes about the Soviet maps of Washington, D.C., and their myriad little errors at Architect of the Capital
Finally, Davies and Kent have written a book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World, which, they say, will be coming from the University of Chicago Press in September 2017.
John Ogilby, the Scottish cartographer who in 1675 published the Britannia atlas—essentially the first road atlas of Great Britain—is the subject of a new biography by Alan Ereira. The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain’s Master Mapmaker and His Secrets came out last month from Duckworth Overlook. (Direct Amazon UK link, though it’s available from third-party sellers on other stores.) From the description I gather it will follow the argument made in the 2008 BBC series Terry Jones’ Great Map Mystery, which Ereira wrote and directed: that the Britannia was an invasion map designed to facilitate a Catholic takeover. (My understanding of this is third-hand: I haven’t seen the book or the series.) [WMS]
Running until 30 November at the Penarth Pier Pavilion in Penarth, Wales, Dyma Gariad (fel y moroedd)/Here is a love (deep as oceans) is an exhibition by Welsh artist Iwan Bala. It’s an angry, provocative collection of caricatures and maps about Brexit, from a strongly Remain perspective, done in a style described by the Penarth Times as “the rapid often stumbled, crossed out, corrected, blotted, re-adjusted rush to put thoughts on paper and the attempt of a poet to capture a line before it ebbs in the memory.” As the Pavilion describes the exhibition:
Responding to the result of the electorate’s vote on the UK’s EU membership, Bala began to make (alongside politicized ‘maps’), satirical caricatures of the principle [sic] players in the lead up to and result of Brexit. An Artist has a duty to comment, protest and become an agent provocateur through the medium of visual communication. Cartoons have a long and illustrious history, and have always lurked somewhere in the background environs of his artwork.
They may have been anticipating some pushback—the exhibition also had a content warning—and indeed the exhibition has gotten some angry responses sufficient that the Pavilion had to issue a statement defending their decision to host it. That alone tells me it was a success: art provokes. [WMS]
Today’s xkcd is a British map labelled by an American. It’s another one of those where the longer you stare at it, the more it hurts. Randall’s messing with us again.
One of the most celebrated 20th century children’s map reading guides is showcased in our forthcoming exhibition Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line. Published in 1948, Ronald Lampitt and James Deverson’s The Map that Came to Life follows the story of John and Joanna who use an Ordnance Survey map to walk to town. As they pass over fields, past houses and along footpaths, their surroundings are compared with map adjacent on the same page. The fields turn into contoured blank spaces, houses become black cubes, footpaths dashed lines. Map literacy is acquired by the reader as they accompany the children on their virtual journey, matching map with reality.
In The Map that Came to Life the map is portrayed as an objective, precise and above all truthful mirror of nature. And this inherent trustworthiness enabled maps to become important features of the lives of successive generations of people.
The idea that maps are objective and truthful is not something that would fly today, I think, but in the context of entry-level map education, which in Britain always seems to be specifically in terms of how to read an Ordnance Survey map, rather than maps in general, it seems harmless enough.