The Map Room - A Weblog about Maps
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.) Via @scalzi.
CanVec is a dataset produced by the federal Department of Natural Resources. It's been made available to use in OpenStreetMap: users have to download the data for a given area and import it into the OSM database.
It's a great resource, but I've been giving CanVec the side eye for years, largely because OSM users had been bungling the imports and not cleaning up the mess they made. To some extent it also encouraged a certain amount of laziness from Canadian OSM users: why go to the trouble of tracing imagery or going out with a GPS if you could just download the data from the Natural Resources FTP server?
That said, most of my complaints were from a few years ago; it's been a while since I've seen a CanVec-induced mess in the database (for example, doubled or even tripled roads imported on top of one another). And between existing imports and the improved Bing aerial and satellite imagery coverage, there weren't many places I was aware of that I could, you know, try a CanVec import for myself.
Hartney, a town of a few hundred people in southwestern Manitoba, managed to fall between the cracks of two swaths of aerial and satellite imagery. It was a noticeably empty patch of a map that was starting to fill up.
It was also the town my father grew up in. I spent a lot of time there as a child. I was, suffice to say, familiar with it. It was therefore a natural target for me to map. But with no imagery and no realistic chance of my visiting there in the near future, I was not likely to do so in the usual manner.
So I imported CanVec data.
It turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. For one thing, I didn't have to import the entire tile: I could import only the items I wanted. For another, I didn't have to resort to JOSM or some other application I was unfamiliar with; I could, it turned out, do it in Potlach, the Flash-based web editor I've always used, by importing the downloaded zip file as a vector layer and alt-clicking each element through into the edit screen.
But easier still wasn't objectively easy. I had to figure out what file to download from the FTP server by looking it up on the Atlas of Canada, and figuring out which of the files to import into Potlatch is a bit of a trial-and-error thing. There's also a bit of a delay before the CanVec layer shows up in your edit window.
In the end, though, I was able to figure it out, with the following results:
I practiced good edit hygiene: I created a separate user account for imports (here) and I cleaned up what I edited: I joined road segments so that a road five blocks long wasn't five separate ways, I straightened a badly garbled stretch of rail line, and I added a couple of points of interest I knew from personal experience.
In the end, I think I've left the map better than I found it. I didn't everything I could have: CanVec isn't perfect, and I'm not in a position to verify its data on the ground, so I adopted a less-is-more approach, so that I didn't simply add a ton of data for someone else to clean up. Nor did I add so much that it would discourage a local user from adding more, better, and more up-to-date material.
A positive experience overall. I was surprised.
Two books (well, one is sort of book-ish) related to map art and personal cartography to tell you about:
- Map Art Lab: 52 Exciting Art Explorations in Mapmaking, Imagination, and Travel by Jill K. Berry and Linden McNeilly (Quarry Books, 5/14): "map-related activities set into weekly exercises, beginning with legends and lines, moving through types and styles, and then creating personalized maps that allow you to journey to new worlds."
- Make Map Art: Creatively Illustrate Your World by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell (Chronicle Books, 2/14), a "creative toolkit" that includes a booklet and 30 pull-out sheets to use as templates for personal mapmaking projects.
Jill Kelly's previous work, Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking, was reviewed here in 2011.
In The Geology of Game of Thrones, a group of geologists has created a geologic map of Westeros and Essos, as well as an invented geologic history of the planet on which George R. R. Martin's epic takes place. Via io9.
This isn't the first time a fantasy world has been looked at through a geologic lens. Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth took a reasonably rigorous look at the landforms of Middle-earth. And Antony Swithin -- a geologist in real life under his real name, William Sarjeant -- created a geologic map of his invented island of Rockall (see previous entry).
Previously: Review: The Lands of Ice and Fire.
The table of contents for the Journal of Unlikely Cartography, Unlikely Story's single-issue special featuring science fiction and fantasy stories about maps (see previous entry), has been announced; the issue will be out in June.
A trap street is a fictitious street inserted by a mapmaker to catch plagiarists. Trap Street is also the title of a movie making the rounds of the festival circuit. Directed by Vivian Qu, Trap Street (Shuiyin jie) tells the story of a mapmaker who encounters a mysterious woman on an unmappable street. Based on the IMDB listing, it seems to be headed for a June release. (Does anyone have more information on this film?) Via Jennifer.
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