Maps of Antarctica at the British Library

“South Polar Chart,” The Scottish Geographical Magazine (1898). BL Maps 162.

Two recent posts at the British Library’s Maps and Views Blog provide “a whistle-stop tour through maps held in the British Library that chart Antarctica’s gradual emergence from obscurity into light.” The first covers maps of Antarctica through the nineteenth century, when the continent went from unknown to unexplored; the second the twentieth century, where maps of the continent “[reflect] the switch made by cartography to digital data from the latter part of the twentieth century.”

Tom Patterson’s Physical Map of the Contiguous United States

Physical Features Map of the Contiguous United States
Tom Patterson

Tom Patterson’s latest project is a map of the physical features of the contiguous United States.

This map showcases physical features—mountains, plains, rivers, lakes, etc.—of the 48 contiguous US states. Map colors reflect natural environments across the continent from the forested east to the snowcapped Rockies to the desert southwest. You will also find a smattering of cities and faint state lines for reference.

Emphasis on smattering: there are only enough human features—cities and borders—to orient the reader; the focus is on bodies of water and landforms.

It’s freely available and in the public domain: it can be downloaded, shared and modified.

Censorship and the Ordnance Survey

A blog post from the National Library of Wales explores how sensitive military and industrial sites were omitted from the published versions of Ordnance Survey maps.

The removal of military installations from OS maps was at its height in the 19th century and the World Wars, but throughout the Cold War and beyond, many sensitive sites were left off the maps entirely. It took the public availability of high-resolution satellite imagery at the turn of the 21st century to render this type of censorship largely ineffective, although labels are still omitted in some cases.

The Ordnance Survey did survey and map sensitive sites, but those maps were military-only. The differences between these military maps and the public maps make for a number of interesting comparisons: see the post for examples.

Engravers: The Unsung Heroes of Mapmaking

The Bodleian’s Map Room Blog (no relation) has a post about the “unsung heroes” of mapmaking: the engravers.

Until the nineteenth century, virtually all printed maps were produced by engraving the map on a sheet of copper—or later on, steel—as a mirror image of how the finished map would look. The plate was then inked and the image printed onto a sheet of paper in a printing press. This was incredibly skilled work, but often only very discreetly acknowledged, the engraver’s name appearing in tiny, modest letters in the bottom margin.

Identifying the engravers for cataloguing purposes—something a library like the Bodleian tries to do—can be a challenge.

The Guardian Interviews Martin Vargic

Detail from Martin Vargic, “Britannia Under the Waves.”

Yesterday’s Guardian had an interview with Slovak designer Martin Vargic, whom you may remember for his 2015 book Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps [Amazon, Bookshop]. In this interview, Vargic talks about his various projects—he’s been doing this since he was eight, and was a teenager when Miscellany was published. One imagines there’s a bit of a career ahead for him.

Meanwhile, Andrew Liptak wrote about Vargic’s “Map of the Literature II” at Tor.com last October. In November Vargic’s second book, Vargic’s Curious Cosmic Compendium, came out in the U.K. from Michael Joseph.

Previously: Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps.

How to Make an Illustrated Map

Five Squares + One Triangle in My Neighborhood (Nate Padavick)
Nate Padavick (The New York Times)

In the travel section of yesterday’s New York Times, map illustrator Nate Padavick offers a way to make lemonade from travel-restriction lemons with a short guide to making an illustrated map (pictorial map, map illustration—the terms are roughly interchangeable) of a favourite place—a neighbourhood, a vacation spot, “a place you’ve never been.”

The rigid and scientific rules of cartography simply do not apply here! Nope. While an illustrated map is often a wildly useless tool for providing directions, it can be a beautiful and highly personal reflection of a place you, friends and family know quite well. It can tell a story, a personal history, or be a unique lens through which one can experience a special place. An illustrated map can be loose and hand-drawn, filled with fun drawings and doodles that together make a sometimes inaccurate, but always spot on record of a memory or a place from one’s own perspective.

Not the first time we’ve seen map art as lockdown activity. Previously: Maps from Isolation; CityLab Wants Your Hand-Drawn Quarantine Maps; Still More Coronavirus Maps; Fuller’s Quarantine Maps.

Library of Congress Livestream on the History of Pandemic Maps

Tomorrow (23 April 2020), the Library of Congress will be livestreaming No One Was Immune: Mapping the Great Pandemics from Columbus to COVID-19, in which John Hessler and Marie Arana will “discuss the sweep of history from the 1500s smallpox pandemic that decimated the indigenous population of the Americas to the meticulous work that is being done now to map COVID-19.” To be streamed on the Library’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 7 PM EDT. [WMS]

An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands

An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands (cover)As you probably know, I’m keenly interested in fiction where maps are part of the story. The latest example of this comes from my friend Fran Wilde, whose story, “An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands,” went live on Tor.com this morning. This is a story that challenges our ideas of what a map is for and what a map does—what a map maps—as travellers from another world discover that their destination is already inhabited, and try to map themselves into a safe space in between the settled areas—which is a real twist on the colonial uses of maps in history. It can be read for free online; an ebook is also available at a nominal cost.

(See also my in-progress list of fiction about maps.)

Map Talks Online, Past and Future

Map Time is “a series of short conversations with experts on maps and mapping from across the globe” hosted by the Harvard Library and the Leventhal Center on Instagram Live. Held every Thursday at noon, through August. Schedule and upcoming speakers here. Past talks are available on YouTube.

How to Do Map Stuff is a full day of live online mapping workshops that will take place on Wednesday, 29 April. Coordinated by Daniel Huffman, speakers will host their own livestreams at announced times (the working schedule is here).

Presentations made at last year’s British Cartographic Society/Society of Cartographers conference were recorded on video. The BCS reports that they’re now available online via this web page.

British Library Exhibitions and TV Programs Revisited

BBC Four is rebroadcasting The Beauty of Maps, a four-episode series that coincided with the 2010 Magnificent Maps exhibition at the British Library. Two episodes broadcast so far, with the third this evening and the fourth tomorrow. They’ll be on iPlayer for the next month.

Meanwhile, the British Library’s 2016 Maps and the 20th Century exhibition (previously) is now available in virtual form—as in, you can “walk” through a virtual recreation of the physical exhibition. Articles related to the exhibition are available here, and of course the companion volume, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line, edited by Tom Harper, is still available: Amazon (Canada, UK), Bookshop.

The Magnificent Maps Puzzle Book

The Magnificent Maps Puzzle Book (cover)I missed Philip Parker’s Magnificent Maps Puzzle Book when it came out in Britain from British Library Publishing last October, but it seems to be available in North America this month (the logistics of delivering physical books during a pandemic permitting). From the publisher: “It features carefully devised questions inspired by general knowledge, observational skills, cryptic dexterity and mapping history. The result is a highly entertaining and satisfying means to explore some 40 inspirational maps and charts ranging from medieval portolans to the latest digital renderings. It’s beautifully designed and presented in durable flexi binding to allow for portable carto-quizzing.”

As a British Library publication, The Magnificent Maps Puzzle Book naturally features examples from their holdings. Another book that does so is Tom Harper’s Atlas, which I reviewed in 2018.

Related: Map Coloring Books and Games (Bookshop).


The Magnificent Maps Puzzle Book (cover)The Magnificent Maps Puzzle Book
by Philip Parker
The British Library, October 2019
Amazon (Canada, UK) | Bookshop

Daniel Huffman’s Atlas of North American Rivers

An Atlas of North American Rivers
From Daniel Huffman, An Atlas of North American Rivers (2020), Plate 7: Upper St. Lawrence.

Add An Atlas of North American Rivers to the list of Daniel Huffman’s long-unfinished projects that suddenly got finished lately. It’s a 48-page PDF of diagrammatic maps of North American river systems, from Alaska to Guatemala. The PDF can be downloaded here; if there’s interest he’ll do a hardcopy version, and, of course, prints are available for sale.

Previously: Landforms of Michigan.

The Washington Post Maps Wildlife Corridors in Wyoming

Washington Post
Washington Post

Last month the Washington Post published a feature on the impact of Interstate 80 on wildlife migrations in Wyoming, and how climate change would affect animals’ ability to move to new habitat as their usual stomping grounds are made unsuitable by global warming. The print version (above) and online version have related maps—one static, one dynamic—that illustrate wildlife paths and how they are stymied by the highway, as well as places where overpasses and tunnels might help. [Lauren Tierney]