The Map Room - A Weblog about Maps
The USGS has published a geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon and the largest moon in the Solar System, based on imagery from the Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Galileo probes. Via Centauri Dreams, Sky and Telescope.
Meanwhile, Sky and Telescope has produced a Mercury globe based on MESSENGER imagery. They already produce both visual and topographic globes of the Moon and Mars, as well as a globe of Venus coloured for elevation. (I'm crossing my fingers for globes of the outer moons, myself.)
This map from the American Intercity Bus Riders Association (PDF) attempts to map every intercity bus and train route in the United States -- i.e., everywhere you can go without a car. It's a huge, high-resolution, detailed map, and I wouldn't be surprised if they missed some. Via Grist and GIS Lounge.
Sylvia Sumira's forthcoming book on globes -- titled Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power in its U.S. edition and The Art and History of Globes in its British edition -- is a history of globemaking during its peak: "Showcasing the impressive collection of globes held by the British Library, Sumira traces the inception and progression of globes during the period in which they were most widely used -- from the late fifteenth century to the late nineteenth century -- shedding light on their purpose, function, influence, and manufacture, as well as the cartographers, printers, and instrument makers who created them." Out next month from University of Chicago Press (for North America) and in April from the British Library (Commonwealth markets). Amazon (UK). Via Boing Boing.
Reddit user atrubetskoy has produced a map of the U.S. showing how much snow it takes to cancel school. It's an approximation, to be sure. But it's not a map of winter wussiness: areas that rarely get a lot of snow don't tend to have the infrastructure to deal with it. Via io9.
Two more map books, this time of an academic bent:
- London: The Selden Map and the Making of a Global City, 1549-1689 by Robert K. Batchelor (University of Chicago Press, 1/14). Batchelor uses the information on the Selden Map to demonstrate how the city of London "flourished because of its many encounters, engagements, and exchanges with East Asian trading cities." (Amazon)
- Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography by Will C. van den Hoonaard (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 8/13). "[A] journey of discovery through the world of women map-makers from the golden age of cartography in the sixteenth-century Low Countries to tactile maps in contemporary Brazil." (Amazon)
Previously: More Map Books.
Go read Casey N. Cep's essay, "The Allure of the Map," on the New Yorker's website: she explores the relationship between maps and literature on several fronts, including the role of maps in the creative process and the relationship between mapmaking and reality. Also quite a bit on the recurrent meme of the 1:1 map -- the map as large as the thing being mapped -- from Carroll to Borges to (I did not know) Gaiman (Swanwick and Eco too, if I'm not mistaken: more could indeed be said). Anyway: relevant to our interests. Go read.
Here are some map books that I recently found out about:
- Mr. Selden's Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer by Timothy Brook (Bloomsbury Press/House of Anansi Press/Profile Books, 9/13). A book-length study of the enigmatic Selden Map of China, donated to the Bodleian Library in 1659 and only rediscovered in 2009. (Amazon: Canada, U.S., U.K.; Kindle: Canada, U.S., U.K.)
- The Golden Age of Maritime Maps: When Europe Discovered the World by Catherine Hoffman, Hélène Richard and Emmanuelle Vagnon (Firefly Books, 9/13). One of those big, illustrated books of old maps; this one looks at portolan charts. It's an English translation of L'âge d'or des cartes marines. (Amazon)
- Maps of Paradise by Alessandro Scafi (University of Chicago Press, 11/13). Explores "the diverse ways in which scholars and mapmakers from the eighth to the twenty-first century rose to the challenge of identifying the location of paradise on a map, despite the certain knowledge that it was beyond human reach."
- The International Atlas of Mars Exploration: The First Five Decades, 1953 to 2003 by Philip J. Stooke (Cambridge University Press, 9/12). The first of two volumes (the second will be subtitled Spirit to Curiosity) that maps the extent of exploration by orbiters and landers. (Amazon; Kindle; author's page)
If somebody who was vaguely interested in maps wanted a book to get them started, I think I might point them toward A History of the World in Twelve Maps, written by Renaissance Studies professor Jerry Brotton. This book first appeared in September 2012 in Great Britain, where it's now out in paperback. The U.S. edition came out last month in hardcover.
It's a history of cartography that takes a rather unique approach: instead of providing a straight narrative history, Brotton focuses on twelve maps (or, more precisely, mapmaking endeavours), ranging from Ptolemy's Geography to Google Earth. But Brotton does a lot more than talk about just twelve maps.
Familiar maps like the Waldseemüller map and even the Peters projection share the spotlight with maps that are perhaps less well-known: the maps of al-Idrisi and Diogo Ribeiro, the Kangnido map, the geopolitical maps of Halford Mackinder. Brotton didn't choose these maps for their intrisic qualities, but for their historical siginificance: for example, both the Hereford Mappa Mundi and Mercator's world map reflect the religious imperatives of their times; Blaue's Atlas Maior is placed in the context of a fiercely competitive 17th-century Dutch mapmaking industry; Cassini map of France demonstrates the shift to institutional mapping and modern surveying methods.
It's accessible and engaging, but fiercely erudite. To a certain extent the maps themselves are sidelined by Brotton's examination of their makers and their historical context, but that context is precisely the sort of thing I'm interested in. If nothing else, that context demonstrates that none of these maps were isolated productions: the products of trade, exploration, diplomacy and religious tradition. Not to know that is not to understand the maps.
Because this book is not lost in its own arcana despite being a serious and scholarly work, I suspect that it might well serve as a university-level introduction to the history of cartography. I'm quite impressed with A History of the World in Twelve Maps: I've been mucking about with maps for more than a decade, and this book still showed me that I had significant gaps in my understanding. I wish that this book existed a decade ago.
A History of the World in Twelve Maps
by Jerry Brotton
Viking (U.S.), November 2013 | Allen Lane (U.K.), September 2012
Buy at Amazon (Kindle, U.K.) | publisher’s page (U.K.) | Goodreads | LibraryThing
Earth Wind Map is a transfixing animated visualization of global wind forecasts, updated every three hours. It would be fine enough to enjoy passively, but you can play with it: click and drag to change the view, select from a variety of map projections and pressure levels. Via io9 and GIS Lounge, among many others.
Previously: Wonderful Wind Map.
When it comes to maps and fantasy, I'm particularly interested in the ways that maps are used in the course of a story, as opposed to appearing at the front of the book for reference purposes. I've posted many examples over the past few years and have a bunch more in my to-read pile.
Pays 5¢/word on publication, deadline February 1. I have had considerable difficulty in submitting to anthologies in the past (I write fiction very slowly; the story never quite gels in time for the deadline), but I really, really, really need to submit something to this.
Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, came out last month from University of California Press. At first glance it looks like it does for New Orleans what Solnit's previous work, Infinite City, did for San Francisco: it's a collection of essays and maps that, as before, displays two complementary or contrasting things on the same city map. In my review of Infinite City I suggested that not every city could sustain a project like this, though San Francisco obviously could; it seems to me that New Orleans is a natural followup.
The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was a landmark in historical cartography: an atlas that pinpointed locations from classical antiquity on modern maps. The result of more than a decade's work and $4.5 million in funding support (here's the project website), the print version of the Barrington Atlas, which came out in 2000, was both enormous and expensive: larger than either the National Geographic or Times Comprehensive atlases,1 and priced at an eye-popping $395.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, there's an iPad version of the Barrington Atlas, which (they say) contains the full content of the $395 print atlas and costs only $20 (iTunes link). On that basis it's a no-brainer: $20 is better than $395. (95 percent off!) Classicists with iPads who don't buy this app have something wrong with them. But how does it work as a map app?
How do you create an iPad version of an existing print atlas? If you're the National Geographic Society, with a century or more of cartography behind it, you're more than able to put out a $2 app that includes several levels of map detail and can be panned and zoomed to your heart's content. But if you're the Barrington Atlas, you don't have the same resources.
So what you end up with in the Barrington Atlas app are high-resolution versions of the original maps from the print version. These maps -- which are marvellous, by the way -- used the Lambert conformal conic projection: stitching them together to form a seamless single map would be a major effort, all the more considering that the maps were produced in the 1990s using Illustrator 6 on early PowerPC Macintoshes (the iPads on which this app runs are much more powerful computers). Instead, you browse the individual maps in a Cover Flow-style interface.
That's not to say that the app is completely uninteractive. Pressing the compass button shows you the adjacent maps, so you can explore after a fashion.
Pressing the key button opens up the legend.
Navigation is also facilitated by the Locator tab, which allows you to select individual maps from the key map interface, below. (This also shows the Barrington Atlas's coverage: I bet you weren't expecting it to include Tibet.)
All things considered, it's a reasonable approach to presenting the information without having to start from scratch, particularly for an app that will not have a broad audience.
That said, I did find a few interface problems: page-turning was slow and sometimes unreliable (tapping worked better than dragging), and the Cover Flow browsing was a bit blocky. It crashed on me once or twice. I tested this app on a new iPad Air; I wonder how well it runs on an iPad 2, which is the minimum hardware required. And the app doesn't save state: it doesn't remember what page of the Introduction you were reading or what map you were consulting; reopening the app starts from scratch.
Not that these are deal-breakers -- not for this kind of app. It works well enough, at least on top-of-the-line hardware, that those with an interest in this subject should be able to lay down their $20 without much hesitation. It beats $395, after all.Endnote
- Barrington Atlas: 33.7 × 46.5 cm. National Geographic Atlas of the World: 31.6 × 47.2 cm. Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World: 31 × 45 cm.
So today Tor.com posted something very much relevant to my interests: a piece by illustrator Isaac Stewart that describes his process for creating a map for a fantasy novel. In this case, The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, who very helpfully provided a sketch from which Stewart could work.
This is utterly fascinating for me, because a significant gap in my research into fantasy maps has been the process of creating them. It's sort of left me feeling like a wine taster that has no idea how wine is made. Stewart (who has also done work for Brandon Sanderson's novels: his maps for The Alloy of Law have already caught my attention) takes us through every step, from inspiration through Photoshop.
Earlier this year I published an article pointing out that the main difference between historical and fantasy maps was information density: a real medieval map is full of detail, because cartographers don't dare waste vellum; fantasy maps are relatively sparse -- largely, I suspected, because only so much detail can legibly fit on a map printed for a mass-market paperback. That was an educated guess on my part; it's interesting to see it confirmed:A map meant to fit in a hardcover book (and subsequently a paperback) can't be as detailed as a real-world map and still be legible. Even though I treat the map as a product of its fantasy world, it has to be understandable to modern audiences. Usually this means I can't copy the exact style of my reference, but I can use it for inspiration.
I'll be referring to Stewart's post often, I think.
Aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, author of Earth from Above and related books of photography, ups the altitude somewhat with his new book, Earth from Space, in which he presents and interprets more than 150 satellite photos. Via io9's holiday gift guide.
Speaking of gift guides, my gift guide to the map books of 2013, listing some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year, is now up.
In 1879, surveyor (and future USGS director) John Wesley Powell proposed that the boundaries of future western states be determined by watersheds, in order to avoid water use conflicts. John Lavey takes this proposal to its logical conclusion, imagining a U.S. in which all 50 states follow watershed boundaries. Via io9.
Previously: Fifty Equal States Redux.
The USGS has released quad maps of the planet Mercury as a set of PDF files: "The 1:5 million-scale series of Mercury maps divides Mercury into 15 quadrangles, H-1 through H-15 (five Mercator, eight Lambert Conformal, and two Polar Stereographic quadrangles). The base mosaic was produced with orbital images by the MESSENGER Team and released by NASA's Planetary Data System on March 8, 2013. This new global mosaic includes 100% coverage of Mercury's surface."
A couple of supremely detailed rail maps to bring to your attention, both of which show every line and station of long-distance, regional and commuter rail networks. There's one for California, which uses a Beck-like, diagrammatic design, and one for the Northeast Corridor (see above), which opts for geographic accuracy. Despite the differences there's a lot of overlap on the two design teams. Creative Commons licensed, with printed posters available.
At a list price of $395, the print version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (Princeton University Press, 2000), was more expensive than some iPads. Which makes the forthcoming iPad version of the Atlas, described in the announcement as "complete content of the classic reference work," a veritable bargain at only $20.In 102 interactive color maps, this app re-creates the entire world of the Greeks and Romans from the British Isles to the Indian subcontinent and deep into North Africa. Unrivaled for range, clarity, and detail, these custom-designed maps return the modern landscape to its ancient appearance, marking ancient names and features in accordance with modern scholarship and archaeological discoveries. Geographically, the maps span the territory of more than seventy-five modern countries. Chronologically, they extend from archaic Greece to the Late Roman Empire.
It'll be available on November 21: plenty of time for me to get a new iPad Air by then (it works on all iPads except the original).
Previously: Barrington Atlas.