Cartography Essay

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[Posted here on 31 January 2002, with kind permission of the author and CHOICE: current reviews for academic libraries (Middletown, CT: Association of College and Research Libraries) July/August 2001, Vol. 38, No.11/12, pp. 1899-1909 (copyright by the American Library Association)]

Author's Note: The following essay was written for Choice, the journal of the American Library Association, and includes books in the English language only. Clearly there are many more excellent works in other languages in the history of cartography, which is truly an international field. Interested readers should search the bibliographies of Imago Mundi for references to these, or consult the bibliographies on the Education pages of the Groupe des Cartothécaires of LIBER.

This essay provides an over-view of recent developments in the history of cartography, beginning with general works and resources, followed by an account of the age of discoveries, a watershed in the history of maps. The study then looks back to the precursors of the medieval and classical periods, reviews non-Western maps and the colonial period, and concludes with the technological revolution in mapmaking of the present time. Most works are drawn from the last fifteen years, which have been dominated by the publication of the multivolume The History of Cartography, edited by J. Brian Harley and David Woodward.


Maps are now such commonplace objects and geographical forms so standardized in our minds that it is hard to imagine a world in which this was not so. For example, we recognize the shape of a familiar landmass like Africa, whether it appears on a map, a coffee mug or on the back of a teenager's partly shaved head. When our standard view is challenged, we are disturbed and angry. Showing the Australian map of the world with south on top provokes a roar of outrage from a college history class: "Turn it right side up!" But there is a history of cartography, a history of the development of mapping, and it is not a simple story of forward progress. And there will be a history of future mapping, which may take forms as yet unimagined by us.

The field of the history of cartography has been transformed in the past two decades. A map has been traditionally defined by geographers as a "representation of things in space," a definition that implies a certain level of physical correspondence. A new definition, according to Harley and Woodward, reads thus: "Maps are graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes, or events in the human world." This definition takes one away from seeing maps as objective representations of physical space into considering them as human documents with all their attendant biases and failings. Such artifacts as diagrams of imaginary cosmographies, landscape paintings, and "mental maps" may now be considered maps. The working out of this definition is seen in its widest form in Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian and Pacific Societies (volume 2, book 3 of History of Cartography), which discusses the dreaming diagrams of the Australian aborigines, the cosmographic calendars of the Mayans, and ritual sand paintings of the Navajos. These works are not "maps" in the traditional sense, but they do incorporate spatial relationships and individual places, often in terms of spiritual significance.

Traditionally, the history of cartography had been dominated by geographers and was viewed as a triumphal march toward the increasingly accurate, measured maps of the present. Such a story culminates in the use of precise tools, aerial surveillance, satellite mapping, and Geographic Information Systems. The maps of the past tended to be discounted as crude and clumsy approximations of "real" space. Not that these early map historians were slipshod-despite the changes in the orientation of the field, classics, such as books by Raymond Beazley (The Dawn of Modern Geography), George Kimble (Geography in the Middle Ages), and John Wright (The Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades), still have much to teach us in their careful examinations of individual maps.

As historians of cartography have moved away from geographical accuracy as the chief quality of a map, they examine instead maps in themselves. What was the mapmaker intending to show? Is it possible that measurement was not particularly important and that some other consideration shaped the map in question? Editors Harley and Woodward address these questions in Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean (volume 1 of The History of Cartography), which appeared in 1987 and pulls together the research of many scholars of the preceding decades. Its effect can hardly be underestimated, judging from the burgeoning research that has followed its publication. Volume 2 is published in three parts: Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies, Cartography in Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies, and the book on traditional non-European societies cited above. Volume 3, on the cartography of the European Renaissance, will be issued shortly. Subsequent volumes will take the history up to the present time.

The field of the history of cartography has attracted scholars from a number of academic fields. Art historians, literary theorists, and political historians have joined geographers in studying and analyzing maps of the past. Art and Cartography, a selection of essays edited by Woodward, is a particularly interesting illustration of the cross-fertilization of academic fields.

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General Works

At present there is no comprehensive one-volume history of cartography. Leo Bagrow's classic History of Cartography, enlarged and revised by R. A. Skelton in 1966, was the last attempt, and now the multivolume History of Cartography, cited above, appears to be its replacement. The best brief introduction is by Norman J. W. Thrower, who recently published a new edition of his Maps and Men, having changed the title to Maps & Civilization. Thrower, a geographer and cartographer, is most insightful on the modern period, where his mastery of the techniques of mapmaking is supreme. The book includes a helpful appendix with a glossary of mapping terms. Peter Whitfield's The Image of the World: 20 Centuries of World Maps is less scholarly but has an excellent selection of color illustrations.

John Snyder's Flattening the Earth: Two Thousand Years of Map Projections is a general book about a more specialized subject. Snyder deals with the eternal problem of representing a more or less spherical Earth on a plane surface and describes various solutions that have been found. This is an excellent introduction to an important subject in cartography, since the type of projection chosen can radically alter the appearance and meaning of the map. Catherine Delano-Smith and Roger Kain's English Maps: A History serves as a good overview of the field, although its subject is limited to maps made in England or for English use. The authors offer a comprehensive view of mapmaking and map use from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, putting maps into their cultural and political context.

For reference there is the useful Cartographical Innovations: An International Handbook of Mapping Terms to 1900, edited by Helen Wallis and Arthur Robinson. The book is made up of a series of brief essays on the terms, each followed by a bibliography. General categories include types of maps, maps of human occupations and activities, maps of natural phenomena, reference systems and geodetic concepts, symbolism, techniques and media, methods of duplication, and atlases. Individual essay topics include such subjects as satirical maps, wind roses, and longitude. Another good reference book is the regularly updated Who's Who in the History of Cartography, edited by Mary Alice Lowenthal. Primarily a guide to people working in the field, it also includes a useful introductory section, including a general bibliography, a list of important research centers and map collections, and a list of journals. Since the history of cartography is an international field, one expects many of these sources to be in languages other than English.

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Journals and Web Sites

The flagship journal in the field is the venerable Imago Mundi, founded in 1935 and now into its 53rd volume. Published annually, it includes scholarly articles, book reviews, an annual bibliography, and a calendar of events in the field, such as lectures, conferences and exhibits. A list of the contents throughout its history can be found at the Imago Mundi Web site. Among other useful journals is Terrae Incognitae, published by the Society for the History of Discoveries. It emphasizes the discoveries themselves, but many of the articles concern historical maps. The product of the Smith Center at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Mapline, carries brief articles along with news about lecture series and information on the library's collections. The Washington Map Society publishes The Portolan, which is issued three times a year, and includes longer articles and an excellent annual bibliography. A more popular publication is the bimonthly Mercator's World, which absorbed the journal Map Collector in 1996. It publishes nonacademic (i.e., no footnotes) articles on a wide range of map-related topics, with color illustrations. Though the publication has an impressive board of directors, the articles are not always carefully edited-caveat lector! Mercator's World is directed at collectors as well as scholars and contains information on map auctions and sales, an important inclusion since map collectors play a significant role in the field of the history of cartography. Some are scholars in their own right, and some have generously supported the academic world with lecture series, fellowships, and gifts to map libraries.

The main discussion list on the Internet is MapHist, founded in 1994 and monitored by David Cobb, librarian at Harvard University. Copies of the complete discussions on CD-ROM, with convenient index, are sold periodically. {Afternote: in February 2002 the list moved to Utrecht. For subscription and other information see the MapHist homepage}. The list broadcasts announcements of conferences, fellowships, and new books, as well as lively debates on map-related topics. Participants include map dealers, librarians, college and university professors, graduate students, and amateur enthusiasts.

The Web has two principal gatekeeper sites that provide links to many other sources. The first, Map History/History of Cartography, is established at the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. This site includes a general introduction to the subject as well as news and guides to library collections and map dealers. A recently added link directs one to articles and books posted on the Web. There is also an e-journal, MapForum, which has published ten issues so far. The other site, <Odden's Bookmarks, operates out of the University of Utrecht. Though these are excellent sites, the problem inherent in studying the history of cartography on the Internet is the generally poor quality of map reproductions. Perhaps this will change in the future, but at the moment one should not depend on Internet images, which take a long time to download and are usually blurred and often unreadable. Some sites are experimenting with new technology, but the software (even if free) takes hours to download and may tax the memories of some computers. Some sites, such as the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, forbid printing, making the maps difficult to study. At present there is no substitute for seeing a map in the original or in good facsimile.

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Cartographic Theory

New theoretical approaches to the history of cartography can be found in The History of Cartography, particularly Harley's opening essay in volume 1. Harley is also the author of "Maps, Knowledge and Power" in The Iconography of Landscape, edited by Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels. Here he makes clear the way that maps, rather than being objective sources of information, can be used to establish control, a theme now being expanded on by writers in specialized historical fields. Books by Mark Monmonier (How to Lie with Maps, Drawing the Line) apply these ideas with mostly modern examples, written in a breezy, popular style. Mappings, edited by Denis Cosgrove, includes a selection of articles across the historical spectrum, mostly incorporating postmodernist theory. Soon to appear in English translation from the University of Chicago Press is Christian Jacob's L'Empire des Cartes: Approche théorique de la cartographie à travers l'histoire [Editor's update, May 2008 - the details are: Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography throughout History. Translated by Tom Conley. Edited by Edward H. Dahl. (University of Chicago Press, 2006)]. Trained as a classicist, Jacob ranges over the entire field of cartography, drawing examples from every period of history.

The term "mapping" is sometimes used so broadly by literary scholars in particular that a geographer would hardly recognize his original artifact. An example is Tom Conley's The Self-Made Map. This work, set in early modern France, does discuss such cartographers as Oronce Finé, but it ranges into the cartographic writing of Rabelais, the arrangement of words on a page in printed texts, and the design of capital letters.

An event that did much to establish a new view of map history was an exhibition titled "The Power of Maps," by the Smithsonian Institution in 1992-93 and curated by Lucy Fellowes and Denis Wood. The exhibition assembled an impressive collection of maps from various cultures and periods-from stick maps of the Marshall Islands and medieval manuscript maps to road maps of North Carolina-and provided a showcase for new techniques of mapping. A memorable display was an animated sequence showing the sea bottom beneath the polar ice sheets. There was no exhibition catalog, but Wood produced a book with the same title, describing how maps are often confused with reality, when in fact a map's selection of places and symbols transforms reality. Unfortunately, the book, a rambling personal essay, is poorly illustrated, always a drawback for a book about maps. The postmodernist approach of Wood and others was criticized as an oversimplification by Jeremy Black in Maps and Politics.

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Mapping the Discoveries

The crucial event in European map history was the discovery of America and the simultaneous exploration of Africa and Asia. European geographers and mapmakers found it necessary to revise their view of the world. In the preceding century, several forces had come together (the rediscovery of Ptolemy's work, the refinement of nautical maps, the improvement of measuring techniques) to give intimations of a more scientific approach to cartography. Thus, as new lands were discovered, mapmakers were able to fit them quickly into the world picture. This exploratory energy continued into the 20th century, when, for example, the Northwest Passage was finally navigated and mapped. Peter Whitfield's New Found Lands, after a brief account of ancient and medieval explorers, swings into high gear in the fifteenth century, carrying the story up to the end of the nineteenth century. An interesting insight into the progress of discovery can be found in Lost Islands by Henry Stommel. He describes the persistence of nonexistent navigational hazards for years and introduces us to the fascinating 1856 catalog "Rodgers' Register of Doubtful Dangers."

Harley's Maps and the Columbian Encounter accompanied an exhibition commemorating the year 1492. Harley also produced a video of the same title, which drives home the point that Western maps were a factor in the domination and elimination of Native American cultures, overwhelming Native mapping traditions and place-names, and legitimizing conquest. Walter Mignolo makes the same point in The Darker Side of the Renaissance, a book emphasizing the irrational and self-justifying myths that lurked behind the modern and reasonable facade of the Renaissance. Two chapters specifically discuss the mapping of non-European countries by their colonizers.

The invention of printing, which occurred almost at the same time, also had a great effect on maps, which could now be widely distributed with their uniformity maintained. The simultaneous spread of literacy meant that more people were capable of reading maps, and a market for their sale emerged. Five Centuries of Map Printing, edited by David Woodward, is a technical overview, issued on the 500th anniversary of the first printed map. Woodward observes that, while map printing led to an explosion in map availabil-ity, the process also limited the mapmaker in such areas as color and pictorial elements. Excellent studies of early printed maps include Rodney W. Shirley's Mapping of the World: Early Printed World Maps, 1472-1700, and Tony Campbell's Earliest Printed Maps, 1472-1500. The first is a cartobibliography of maps of the world, while the latter includes all types of maps. Cartobibliographies are organized with an entry for each map. In Shirley's work, for example, each entry includes the name of the mapmaker (if known), the place and date of publication, the size, the title of the book, a brief description, and a photograph. These are indispensable tools for the researcher.

Sea Charts of the Early Explorers, a beautifully illustrated volume by Michel Mollat du Jourdin and Monique de la Roncière, begins with the first appearance of nautical charts in the West in the thirteenth century and shows how they were modified up through the seventeenth century. R.A. Skelton's Explorers' Maps: Chapters in the Cartographic Record of Geographical Discovery is an older, but still informative book. Skelton closely links the various voyages to the maps that were used and those that resulted. His notes and observations on the individual maps are always valuable.

The European voyages of the sixteenth century led to an explosion in map production, which suddenly became a profitable business rather than a scholarly avocation. Two of the most famous sixteenth-century mapmakers, Abraham Ortelius (d. 1598) and Gerard Mercator (d. 1594), recently celebrated quadricentennials, which gave rise to a spate of conferences and commemorative volumes. Ortelius's work is described in essays written by Marcel van der Broecke and others in Abraham Ortelius and the First Atlas. Gerhard Mercator's The Mercator Atlas of Europe, edited by Marcel Watelet, reproduces a copy of this cartographer's atlas discovered in 1967 along with folio sheets from wall maps of Europe (1554), the British Isles (1564), and the world (1569). An accompanying text volume provides a group of interpretive essays. This is a beautiful, but rather expensive, book. Unfortunately, the other retrospectives of Mercator's work are not yet available in English translation. The mapmakers of the sixteenth century are cataloged in Robert Karrow's Mapmakers of the Sixteenth Century and Their Maps: Bio-Bibliographies of the Cartographers of Abraham Ortelius, 1570. Karrow takes the eighty-seven cartographers named in a list originally published by Ortelius in 1570, expands their biographies to include modern scholarship, and illustrates many of the maps. Two thousand maps are cataloged in this useful work.

Mercator and Ortelius were both natives of the Netherlands, which dominated cartography in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Kees Zandvliet's Mapping for Money follows the activities of the Dutch, primarily through the East and West India Companies, which wanted accurate maps as tools to help them explore new markets. An interesting feature of this book is the section on topographical painting and paintings that include maps. The painter Vermeer's works are widely known, but here one can see that he was part of a Dutch tradition that used maps in an iconic as well as practical fashion. In From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism, Chandra Mukerji discusses the map of the early capitalist period as both a consumer good and a capital good, an item for display and an item for business use. An ongoing series by Günter Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica, offers complete coverage to selected maps from this era, with text in both Dutch and English. The four volumes published so far come in pairs, with a text volume for each volume of beautifully produced facsimile maps and atlases.

Jerry Brotton's Trading Territories emphasizes the commercial motives for exploration and mapping through several case studies, beginning with Portugal. The book opens with an analysis of a tapestry made to commemorate the wedding of Catherine of Austria to João III of Portugal in 1525. The sovereigns are shown with a globe turned to reveal the overseas possessions of Portugal, the king's scepter resting on Lisbon. This book also emphasizes the role of the Ottoman Turks in the evolution of sixteenth-century maps.

Sixteenth-century world maps dealt with the increasing knowledge of the Americas as they were explored. Many books cover this interesting phenomenon, showing how the now-familiar geographical shapes of the Western hemisphere emerged from the fog of the unknown. Worthy of special mention is Philip D. Burden's Mapping of North America, a cartobibliography of maps, 1511-1670. A projected second volume will include maps from 1671 to 1700. Seymour I. Schwartz and Ralph E. Ehrenberg's The Mapping of America is less inclusive but covers the entire period from 1500 to the present. This is an excellent general overview. A more specialized work, William P. Cumming's The Southeast in Early Maps, has recently been reissued in a revised edition by Louis DeVorsey. This book, with 450 maps, covers the period from discovery to the American Revolution and the area between the northern border of Florida and the southern border of Virginia. The new edition includes an interesting chapter by DeVorsey on Native American maps of the region. Dora Beale Polk's The Island of California: A History of the Myth examines the perennially interesting problem of mapping the California coast. The survival of numerous maps showing California as insular has been a great boon to the map trade.

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Maps and the Early Modern State

Governments began to use maps as tools not only for foreign conquest and economic exploitation but to establish control at home and for purposes of national defense. Monarchs, Ministers and Maps: The Emergence of Cartography as a Tool of Government in Early Modern Europe, edited by David Buisseret, is a collection of articles dealing with England, France, Spain, Austria, Italy, and Poland. This is the published version of the 1982 Nebenzahl Lectures, held annually at the Newberry Library in Chicago. The essays explore, as the subtitle indicates, the increasing use of maps for political purposes. Josef W. Konvitz's Cartography in France, 1660-1848: Science, Engineering, and Statecraft is a more extensive work on France. Konvitz traces the state sponsorship of cartography from the administration of Colbert under Louis XIV, through the eighteenth century, when France completed the first national mapping project in Europe, conducted by successive members of the Cassini family. Konvitz shows how maps began to be used for military purposes, for designing canals and roads, and for economic and social programs. As governments took over the making of maps, the maps became secret documents, forbidden to fall into the hands of the enemy. Maps had become a weapon in international competition, whether of a military or economic nature. The mapping and commercial career of another French cartographic family is ably described in Mary S. Pedley's Bel et Utile: The Work of Robert de Vaugondy Family of Mapmakers.

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Before Columbus: Medieval Maps

The maps that preceded the age of discoveries have been treated as curiosities, studied originally for their distortion of the world as we now perceive it. In the works of Raymond Beazley, George Kimble, and John Wright (mentioned above), medieval maps were ridiculed for their simplicity and religiosity. More recently, the same maps have been analyzed in their own terms and found to be eloquent expressions of a worldview that might inform our own. Chapters by David Woodward, Paul D.A. Harvey, and Tony Campbell in volume 1 of The History of Cartography, edited by Harley and Woodward, are a good place to start. Paul Harvey also wrote Medieval Maps and Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map, which are brief, well-illustrated essays that provide a good overview. The new encyclopedia Trade, Travel and Exploration in the Middle Ages, edited by J. B. Friedman and others, includes many map-related entries. Evelyn Edson's Mapping Time and Space covers the early period to 1300, examining the way medieval maps are often constructed to represent time (historical, theological) as well as space. A general work on the subject of measurement is Alfred W. Crosby's The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600. Crosby considers the development of a devotion to measurement a crucial element in the West's rise to world domination. Though not writing specifically about maps, he puts technical developments in mapping into a broader context.

Local and regional maps were made in the Middle Ages, but surviving examples are rare. In Imaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille, Daniel Smail laments that the medieval archive of Marseille contains not a single image even remotely like a map. He goes on to describe, however, the development of a mental ("imaginary") cartography that becomes more uniform as the centuries progress. His work is based on the records maintained by notaries who recorded deeds, wills, and other property-related documents. He shows how local identifications of place were originally based on neighborhoods or landmarks but were eventually replaced by the image of the city as a network of streets, leading to the standardized street address of modern times. Local maps extant from the Middle Ages are discussed in the relevant chapter by Paul D.A. Harvey in The History of Cartography, volume 1.

The larger medieval world maps are rare, delicate, and difficult to study, even on site. To remedy this problem some are now being reproduced on CD-ROMs. The Bibliothèque Nationale of France has issued the multilingual Mapamondi: Une carte du monde au XIVe siècle, featuring the Catalan Atlas, a large world map made in Majorca in 1375, reputedly by Abraham Cresques. The visuals are good, but the CD-ROM is difficult to navigate. Essays on various topics are unattributed, and there is no index of place-names. It is more suitable for browsing than research, and dedicated students would do well to seek out the deluxe book by the fourteenth-century Abraham Cresques, Mapamundi, the Catalan Atlas of the Year 1375, edited by Georges Grosjean. The Hereford Cathedral map of c.1290 is the subject of Naomi Kline's A Wheel of Memory, a CD-ROM of the Hereford Mappamundi, from the University of Michigan. Rumor has it that the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice will soon issue a CD-ROM on their treasure, the Fra Mauro world map of 1450.

Jeffrey Burton Russell takes on one of the most common misconceptions about the Middle Ages: that most people subscribed to the flat earth theory. His book, Inventing the Flat Earth, proves convincingly that the earth was viewed as a sphere from the 6th century BCE forward. He traces the flat earth idea to Washington Irving's hagiographical treatment of Columbus in 1828, Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. Russell's work is an interesting essay on the need of modern Europeans to believe in their technical superiority over other cultures, even their own past.

The appearance of the Vinland map, which has produced so much controversy in the last 35 years, provided the impetus for some excellent scholarship. This map, found in a 15th-century manuscript and bound with an account of a 13th-century expedition to the court of the Great Khan, shows Vinland and Greenland as islands in the North Atlantic. Although the Norse discovery of Vinland about the year 1000 is not in doubt, no early maps by these seafarers have ever been found. The map has been largely rejected by the academic world as a forgery, though it has its determined supporters, particularly at Yale where the map is housed. R.A. Skelton, Thomas E. Marston, and George D. Painter's The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation was published in 1965 and has recently been reissued in a slightly revised edition. Skelton's lengthy essay on the map and its antecedents is a fine introduction to medieval cartography. The book contains a good facsimile of the disputed map.

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Greek and Roman Maps

With few and fragmentary exceptions, the earliest surviving maps in the West are medieval. Hence there has been great speculation over the nature of the maps that preceded these, the maps of Greek and Roman civilization, and to what extent their form and content were reflected in medieval maps. Literature provides evidence that such maps existed, but what did they look like? Claude Nicolet, in Space, Geography, and Politics in the Early Roman Empire, has argued that the Roman Empire needed maps in order to administer its wide-ranging domains. At issue here are maps of large areas, such as the "Agrippa map," a public monument erected in Rome during Augustus's reign. This work is described with tantalizing vagueness by Pliny (in his Natural History, 1469), with little indication of its physical appearance. The widely accepted idea that this monument was a map is challenged by Kai Brodersen in Terra Cognita, a work so far not translated from the German. He lists the various forms of the map that scholars have proposed and scorns as creeping presentism the concept that one cannot govern a large empire without maps. In question is not whether the Romans were capable of surveying smaller areas, as evidenced by the surviving surveyor's manuals the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanum, but whether this facility extended to wider horizons. For more on Roman surveyors, see Oswald A.W. Dilke's The Roman Land Surveyors.

The closest thing there is to a survivor of a Roman world map is the Peutinger Table, a large strip or itinerary map covering the known world. There is, in the National Library of Vienna, a twelfth-century copy of a fourth-century copy of a first-century original. The Tabula has been discussed by O.A.W. Dilke in Greek and Roman Maps, but for a set of good color illustrations, one should pore over the volume of plates accompanying Tabula Peutingeriana: Codex Vindobonensis 324 with commentary by Ekkehard Weber. Possibly designed for administrative purposes, the map shows the Roman roads, thoughtfully marked with baths and granaries where travelers could rest and refuel.

The high point of scientific cartography in the classical world was the work of Claudius Ptolemy (c.90-160 CE). In his Cosmographia he discussed various methods of map projection and gave instructions for making a map based on a grid of latitude and longitude lines. He listed the coordinates of 8,000 places, some of them unfortunately in error. No maps survive from his day, but the maps were reconstructed in the late medieval period, both in Constantinople, where his work had survived, and in the Latin West to which it was imported and translated in the early fifteenth century. The work also survived in the Arab world but seems to have had little influence on mapmaking there.

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Renaissance Cartography

Ptolemy's work had a profound impact on Renaissance cartography, revolutionizing mapmaking and pointing it toward the more physically oriented maps of the future. A translation of his Geographia, as The Geography, is available with black-and-white reproductions of the maps in an edition by Edward L. Stevenson. For color reproductions (without the text) there is Ptolemy's Geographia: Tabulae, Claudii Ptolomaei (Cosmography: Maps from Ptolemy's Geography) with an introduction by Lelio Pagani. Both of these editions are based on fifteenth-century manuscripts. Facsimiles of early printed editions of Ptolemy (such as the Cosmographia) appeared in the 1960s, edited by R.A. Skelton. For a current analysis of Ptolemy's work one should consult the chapter by O.A.W. Dilke in volume 1 of The History of Cartography, edited by Harley and Woodward.

Cartography became a hobby of Renaissance statesmen and artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci. The rulers of Italian and German cities were particularly interested in pictorial maps of their own cities. Between 1572 and 1618 a collection of 530 city maps was published in Cologne by George Braun and Frans Hogenberg. A selection of these maps is nicely reprinted by John Goss in George Braun's City Maps of Europe: 16th Century Town Plans from Braun & Hogenberg. The British Library's The City in Maps: Urban Mapping to 1900, by James Elliott, offers a more general overview of city maps, including those of Braun and Hogenberg. One spectacular product of Renaissance cartography is the gallery of maps in the Vatican, designed by Egnazio Danti in 1580. Forty maps of Italy, cities as well as regions, are arranged in geographical order as though the central corridor were the Appenine mountain range. Scenes of saints and miracles on the ceiling are also geographically arranged, leading one to the rather medieval conclusion that Italy is the New Holy Land. Lucio Gambi ably describes these murals in The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican, which is illuminated by luscious photographs. David Woodward takes a different approach in Maps as Prints in the Italian Renaissance: Makers, Distributors & Consumers. He is interested not only in how maps were made but in who sold them and who bought them and why.

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The Non-Western World

The maps of the non-Western world are the subject of the books making up volume 2 of The History of Cartography, edited by Harley and Woodward. The Western mapping tradition, with its emphasis on measurement, rapidly came to dominate the cultural dialogue over the representation of space during the imperial era. Some extremely interesting recent works examine this process. In her book The Mapping of New Spain, Barbara Mundy studies a survey ordered in 1580 by the Spanish Viceroy of New Spain, an area covering central Mexico. A wide-ranging questionnaire was sent out to local officials, who were also asked to provide maps of their territory. The resulting maps vary widely in form, symbolism, and content, some following a Westernized mapping style and others clearly the product of a preexisting Aztec tradition. Mundy's analysis is supported with good illustrations. Another important work is Thongchai Winichakul's Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation, which describes the intersection of traditional Thai with Western colonial concepts of nationhood in the nineteenth century, resulting in a delineation of Siam's boundaries and the formation of what the author calls the "geo-body" of Thailand. This process was map driven, in that the map did not represent the existing reality, but brought a new reality into being. The traditional idea of Siam was based on a hierarchy of rulers rather than a delimited territory. The kingdom was focused on the center with vaguely determined edges. Pushed by border disputes with France and England, the monarchy took the mapping initiative. In the process of redefining Siam, the victims were the small semiautonomous border states with shifting and multiple allegiances. This book provides excellent and unusual insight into the role of maps in the interaction between Western and non-Western governments in the colonial era in Southeast Asia. Better illustrations, in color, of the Thai maps can be found in Thomas Suárez's Early Mapping of Southeast Asia. Although European maps are the primary focus of Suárez's book, there is a brief introductory section on native Asian maps. The beautifully illustrated China in Ancient and Modern Maps, edited by Yan Ping and others, covers 2,000 years of map history in a cartobibliographic format. Richard J. Smith's Chinese Maps: Images of All under Heaven is produced in a very small format and the illustrations are almost impossible to see, but the text is extremely interesting. Smith's text and Yan's pictures are a good introduction to the field, more fully covered in The History of Cartography, volume 2, book 2.

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Colonial Mapping

Matthew H. Edney's Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843 deals with imperialist issues from the European side. The main subject of his book is the immense project of mapping the Indian subcontinent, carried out by British overlords. Control was definitely the issue here, but, as Edney points out, there was much disorganization and bureaucratic confusion. He also puts the mapping project in the context of the Enlightenment, with its positivist approach to knowledge of the physical world, a subject treated more extensively in Geography and Enlightenment, edited by David Livingstone and Charles Withers. In conjunction with Edney's book, one might watch "Measuring India," the eighth segment in the film series Shape of the World from the 1991 production by Granada TV. Simon Berthon and Andrew Robinson wrote a book based on the film series. Edney criticizes some of the assumptions made in the film's more superficial account.

The mapping of Europe's colonies inspired similar projects at home. Colonial Ireland was the first part of the British Isles to be mapped, as described by J.H. Andrews in A Paper Landscape: The Ordnance Survey in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, followed by England's admirable Ordnance Survey maps. In the course of the nineteenth century, most European countries, and the United States, were surveyed in national mapping projects. At the same time, new types of maps that were useful to reforming governments were emerging. Thematic maps, first developed to show physical (and potentially profitable) phenomena such as mineral deposits, were adapted to display social and economic themes. Maps became an effective way to present the data gathered by census takers. Arthur H. Robinson's Early Thematic Mapping in the History of Cartography is the rather pedestrian title of a most interesting and readable book. The author argues that the development of thematic mapping in the early nineteenth century was a revolution in the history of cartography comparable to the rediscovery of Ptolemy in the fifteenth century. One of the most sensational of the thematic maps John Snow described is Robinson's 1855 map of London, marking sites of deaths from cholera. Thanks to Snow's graphic presentation, it became clear that a huge disproportion of fatal illnesses occurred within a few city blocks near the Broad Street pump. This work led directly not only to the closing of the offending pump but also to the understanding of the role of contaminated water in spreading the disease. Since the nineteenth century, the subject matter for thematic maps has continued to expand. Such maps are used to illustrate the geographical distribution of various phenomena, such as religions, languages, employment, plant species, earthquakes, and zoning regulations.

By the eighteenth century, new surveying techniques made it possible to produce accurate relief maps for the first time, showing the earth's surface in three dimensions. A dispute arose over the most effective way of presenting this information, whether with some type of shading (intuitively comprehensive) or by the use of contour lines (more accurate). P.D.A. Harvey's The History of Topographical Maps: Symbols, Pictures and Surveys presents developments from early pictorial maps through the various technical changes. Besides the expected coverage of European maps, he includes examples from Mexico, India, China, and Japan. Infinite Perspectives, a recent book by brothers Brian M. Ambroziak and Jeffrey R. Ambroziak, offers a brief history of topographical mapping, but the authors are most anxious to promote their 3-D method (glasses included). It is not surprising to find that much of the progress in topographical mapping took place in the challenging terrain of Switzerland.

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The 19th Century: Education and Literacy

The expansion of public education in the nineteenth century and the consequent increase in literacy led to greater familiarity with and use of maps. Whereas a map in the Middle Ages would have been a relatively rare document, seen by few people, a map now became a common item, seen and used by many. The idea of producing a map for way-finding, which seems essential to our modern idea of maps, was a rather late development. Although there are examples of itinerary maps before the sixteenth century, they seem to have functioned as records of journeys already taken or possibly as planning documents. The invention of printing, however, was soon followed by the production of small, folding maps that could be carried in one's saddlebag, and eventually one's glove compartment. In 1996, the Nebenzahl Lectures at the Newberry Library featured "Maps on the Move," and a book of the lectures, offered by James Akerman, is slated to appear in the coming year. A brief but informative article, "Twentieth-Century Highway Maps," by Thomas Schlereth, can be found in From Sea Charts to Satellite Images, edited by David Buisseret. Douglas A. Yorke and John Margolies's Hitting the Road: The Art of the American Road Map examines the art work that appeared on road maps, with numerous colored illustrations.

Maps were apparently used in schools from ancient times, and several geographical texts from the Middle Ages seem to have been lectures delivered while standing in front of a map. Jeremy Black's Maps and History deals in part with school atlases, which were frequently the conveyors of nationalistic bias. Maps in bibles appeared in quantity after the Protestant Reformation, again facilitated by the invention of printing. These woodcut maps educated their readers on the subject of the travels of Paul, the disposition of the ancient kingdoms of Israel, and the possible location of the Garden of Eden. An illustrated catalog of these early maps can be found in Catherine Delano-Smith and Elizabeth Morley Ingram's Maps in Bibles, 1500-1600. Walter Ristow's American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the 19th Century surveys the business of making and selling maps. Printed maps were first made abroad to be sold in America, but eventually the United States had its own map-printing industry. Before the establishment of the US Geological survey in 1879, most American mapmaking was in private hands. Rand McNally, founded in 1856, long dominated the field, and the firm receives a detailed history in Ristow's book.

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Distortions and Fantasies

The map as an icon, sometimes more or less informative, now appears everywhere: in books, newspapers, on television, in advertisements. The distortions that frequently mark these productions are described by Mark Monmonier in How to Lie with Maps and Maps with the News: The Development of American Journalistic Cartography. Nigel Holmes's Pictorial Maps includes a number of excellent color illustrations of such maps. This interesting book not only traces the history of cartography but gives many examples of maps in jokes, books, tourist literature, and postcards. The text is brief, but the pictures are well chosen. J.B. Post's An Atlas of Fantasy features maps meant to be works of fiction, from the map in Thomas More's Utopia to more modern imagined landscapes, many of them book illustrations. Peter Gould and Rodney White's Mental Maps discusses how maps of real places are shaped by ideas and experiences, which affect distance, detail, and direction. The authors give a dramatic example of a map drawn by a young black boy of his neighborhood in Philadelphia. Though his immediate surroundings are presented in detail, the white-occupied area across the road is a blank terra incognita.

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Extraterrestrial Maps

Celestial maps are at least as old as terrestrial ones. Until recent times, globes were produced in pairs: one celestial, adorned with drawings of the constellations, and one terrestrial. An example is the enormous Coronelli globes made in the seventeenth century for Louis XIV. Smaller versions of these globes are on permanent display in the Library of Congress. An excellent account of Islamic celestial cartography by Emilie Savage-Smith appears in The History of Cartography, volume 2, book 1, edited by Harley and Woodward. Peter Whitfield's The Mapping of the Heavens offers an overview of the development of celestial maps with colored illustrations. Terrestrial globes were not commonly made in the West until the sixteenth century, but they soon became a staple of both the philosopher's study and the schoolroom. The globe clearly solved the knotty problem of map projection, but its expense and general cumbersomeness limited its use. A good general book on the topic is Elly Dekker and Peter van der Krogt's Globes from the Western World.

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Technology and Mapping

There seems to be no single book on the development of mapping techniques from the impressionistic views of the Middle Ages to the introduction of latitude and longitude in the fifteenth century and the invention of triangulation for use in surveying in the sixteenth century. Longitude has recently attracted attention thanks to Dava Sobel's best-selling book Longitude on the drama of John Harrison and his lifelong quest for a clock that would keep perfect time at sea. Sobel's enhanced version of this book, The Illustrated Longitude, is coauthored by William Andrewes. The intelligent captions-and pictures-add a great deal to the work. Andrewes is also the editor of the papers from the Longitude Symposium (1993), The Quest for Longitude. Mapmaking tools were refined in succeeding centuries, up through the twentieth-century explosion of new technology. Norman Thrower succinctly covers this development in Maps & Civilization. He states that the introduction of aerial photography (first balloons, then airplanes) produced dramatic changes in mapping, enabling mapmakers to extend their vision to remote, inaccessible areas of the world. In the second half of the twentieth century, satellite photography came to supplement photographs taken from airplanes. Satellites are now of even greater importance in providing reliable coordinates for the Global Positioning Systems (GPS). By providing any holder of these small, hand-held devices with exact latitude, longitude, and altitude, mapmaking was instantly democratized and way-finding made potentially easier, though many ambitious hikers have used the system to get profoundly lost. Thomas M. Lillesand and Ralph W. Kiefer's Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation describes these developments.

The drawing of maps has been revolutionized by the use of computers. Indeed, the leading journal in the field, The American Cartographer, has changed its name to Cartography and Geographic Information Systems. Using the appropriate software, the mapmaker can change projection, scale, or text, and print the results with ease. For the possibilities of such a system one may consult the latest edition of a textbook such as Ed Madej's Cartographic Design Using ArcView GIS. The opening chapter describes the rapid advances in computer cartography in the last decade but warns, "You can make maps rapidly with the software, which means that you can also produce a lot of bad maps quickly." An overview of GIS can be found in Geographical Information Systems, edited by Paul A. Longley et al. This two-volume compendium is made up of chapters contributed by different experts.

At the present, mapmaking is going in two diametrically opposed directions: the increasing, even finicky, accuracy of physical maps, and the quirky, cartoon-like maps that accompany advertising, journalism, and other popular media. The map is now such a familiar image that it is hard to imagine a time when most people had never seen one. The daily weather map is an example of the widespread modern use of maps, whether one sees the colored version in the newspapers with its cryptic array of signs or the animated version on television with its simulated swirling air masses. It is easy to see why most histories of cartography end in 1900 or even earlier, as the explosion of new technologies, new uses for maps, and their universality in contemporary culture raise numerous questions, difficult to resolve. By studying the maps of the past, one is led to reflect on how each period and culture has drawn maps to suit itself, and then our obsession with physical accuracy is placed in its proper perspective.

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Works Cited

{Note: 'CH' at the end of an entry, followed by a date, refers to a review in CHOICE}


Abraham Ortelius and the First Atlas: Essays Commemorating the Quadricentennial of his Death, 1598-1998, ed. by Marcel van den Broecke, Peter van der Krogt, and Peter Meurer. Houten, Netherlands: HES Publishers, 1998.

Akerman, James. "Maps on the Move." Newberry Library (forthcoming).

Ambroziak, Brian M., and Jeffrey R. Ambroziak. Infinite Perspectives: Two Thousand Years of Three-Dimensional Mapmaking. Princeton Architectural Press, 1999 (CH, Apr'00).

Andrews, J.H. A Paper Landscape: The Ordnance Survey in Nineteenth-Century Ireland. Oxford, 1975.

Art and Cartography: Six Historical Essays, ed. by David Woodward. Chicago, 1987.

Bagrow, Leo. History of Cartography. Rev. and enl. by R.A. Skelton. Harvard, 1966.

Beazley, C. Raymond. The Dawn of Modern Geography. P. Smith, 1949. Original ed., London, 1901. 3v.

Berthon, Simon, and Andrew Robinson. The Shape of the World: The Mapping and Discovery of the Earth. Rand McNally, 1991. The Shape of the World video produced by Granada TV (CH, Jun'91).

Black, Jeremy. Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past. Yale, 1997 (CH, Nov'97).

____. Maps and Politics. Chicago, 1997 (CH, Jul'97).

Braun, Georg. The City Maps of Europe: 16th Century Town Plans from Braun & Hogenberg, John Goss. Rand McNally, 1992

British Library. The City in Maps: Urban Mapping to 1900, [by] James Elliott. London: British Library, 1987.

Brodersen, Kai. Terra Cognita: Studien zur römischen Raumerfassung. Hildesheim: G.Olms, 1995. London: Reaktion Books, 1997.

Brotton, Jerry. Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World. Cornell, 1998 (CH, Sep'98).

Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America: A List of Printed Maps, 1511-1670. Rickmansworth, Herts.: Raleigh Publishers, 1996.

Campbell, Tony. The Earliest Printed Maps, 1472-1500. California, 1987 (CH, Oct'88).

Cartographical Innovations: An International Handbook of Mapping Terms to 1900, ed. by _Helen M. Wallis and Arthur H. Robinson. Tring, Herts, UK: Map Collector Publications, 1987.

China in Ancient and Modern Maps, Yan Ping et al. London: Sotheby's, 1998.

Conley, Tom. The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France. Minnesota, 1996 (CH, May'97).

Cresques, Abraham. Mapamundi, the Catalan Atlas of the Year 1375, ed. and with commentary by Georges Grosjean. Dietikon-Zurich: Urs Graf; distrib. by Abaris Books, 1987.

Crosby, Alfred W. The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600. Cambridge, 1997 (CH, May'97).

Cumming, William P. The Southeast in Early Maps. 3rd ed. Rev. and enl. by Louis DeVorsey. North Carolina, 1998. Orig. ed., 1958.

Dekker, Elly, and Peter van der Krogt. Globes from the Western World. Zwemmer, 1993.

Delano-Smith, Catherine, and Elizabeth M. Ingram. Maps in Bibles, 1500-1600: An Illustrated Catalogue. Libraririe Droz, 1991.

Delano-Smith, Catherine, and Roger J.P. Kain. English Maps: A History. British Library, 1999.

Dilke, O.A.W. Greek and Roman Maps. Cornell, 1985.

____. The Roman Land Surveyors: An Introduction to the Agrimensores. Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1971.

Edney, Matthew H. Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843. Chicago, 1997 (CH, Dec'97).

Edson, Evelyn. Mapping Time and Space: How Medieval Mapmakers Viewed Their World. London: British Library, 1997.

Five Centuries of Map Printing, ed. by David Woodward. Chicago, 1975. Nebenzahl lectures of 1972.

From Sea Charts to Satellite Images: Interpreting North American History through Maps, ed. by David Buisseret; introd. by J.B. Harley. Chicago, 1990 (CH, Jun'91).

Gambi, Lucio. The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican, tr. by Paul Tucker. George Braziller, 1997.

Geographical Information Systems: Principles, Techniques, Applications, and Management, ed. by Paul A. Longley et al. 2nd ed. Wiley, 1999.

Geography and Enlightenment, ed. by David N. Livingstone and Charles W.J. Withers. Chicago, 1999 (CH, Apr'00).

Gould, Peter R., and Rodney White. Mental Maps. 2nd ed. Allen & Unwin, 1986.

Harley, J. Brian. Maps and the Columbian Encounter. Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin, 1990.

Harvey, P.D.A. The History of Topographical Maps: Symbols, Pictures and Surveys. Thames & Hudson, 1980.

____. Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map. Toronto, 1996 (CH, Dec'96).

____. Medieval Maps. Toronto, 1991.

The History of Cartography, ed. by J. Brian Harley and David Woodward. 2v. Chicago, 1987 et seq. 2v., 2nd vol. in 3 books (CH, Mar'93). Volume 3 (forthcoming).

Holmes, Nigel. Pictorial Maps. Watson-Guptill, 1991.

The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design, and Use of Past Environments, ed. by Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels. Cambridge, 1988.

Irving, Washington. A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. A. and W. Galignani, 1828.

Jacob, Christian. "The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography Through History"; tr. by Tom Conley. Chicago, forthcoming. Translated from L'empire des cartes: approche théorique de la cartographie à travers l'histoire. Albin Michel, 1992.

Karrow, Robert W., Jr. Mapmakers of the Sixteenth Century and Their Maps: Bio-Bibliographies of the Cartographers of Abraham Ortelius, 1570. Speculum Orbis Press, 1993.

Kimble, George H.T. Geography in the Middle Ages. London: Methuen, 1938.

Kline, Naomi Reed. A Wheel of Memory: The Hereford Cathedral Map. CD-ROM. Michigan, 2000.

Konvitz, Josef W. Cartography in France, 1660-1848: Science, Engineering, and Statecraft. Chicago, 1987.

Lillesand, Thomas M., and Ralph W. Kiefer. Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation. 3rd ed. Wiley, 1994.

Longitude Symposium (1993: Harvard University). The Quest for Longitude: The Proceedings of the Longitude Symposium, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, November 4-6, 1993, ed. by William J.H. Andrewes. Harvard, 1997 (CH, Apr'97).

Madej, Ed. Cartographic Design Using ArcView GIS. Albany, NY: OnWord Press, 2001.

Mapamondi: Une carte du monde au XIVe siècle. CD-ROM facsimile of Atlas Catalan in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Coédition Bibliothèque nationale de France/ Opus Species; Montparnasse Multimédia (1998).

Mappings, ed. by Denis Cosgrove. London: Reaktion Books, 1999.

Mercator, Gerhard. The Mercator Atlas of Europe: Facsimile of the Maps by Gerardus Mercator Contained in the Atlas of Europe, circa 1570-1572, ed. by Marcel Watelet. 2v. Walking Tree, 1998.

Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization. Michigan, 1995 (CH, Mar'96).

Mollat du Jourdin, Michel, and Monique de la Roncière with Marie-Madeleine Azard, Isabelle Raynaud-Nguyen, and Marie Antoinette Vannereau. Sea Charts of the Early Explorers: 13th to 17th Century, tr. by L. Le R. Dethan. Thames and Hudson, 1984.

Monarchs, Ministers and Maps: The Emergence of Cartography as a Tool of Government in Early Modern Europe, ed. by David Buisseret. The Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr. Lectures on the History of Cartography. Chicago, 1992.

Monmonier, Mark. Drawing the Line: Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversy. Henry Holt, 1995.

___. How to Lie with Maps. Chicago, 1996.

___. Maps with the News: The Development of American Journalistic Cartography. Chicago, 1989 (CH, Feb'90).

Mukerji, Chandra. From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism. Columbia, 1983 (CH, May'84).

Mundy, Barbara E. The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas. Chicago, 1996 (CH, Apr'97).

Nicolet, Claude. Space, Geography, and Politics in the Early Roman Empire. Michigan, 1991. Transl. from L'Inventaire du Monde: Géographie et politique aux origines de l'empire Romain. Paris: 1988.

Pedley, Mary Sponberg. Bel et Utile: The Work of Robert de Vaugondy Family of Mapmakers. Tring, Herts, UK: Map Collector Publications, 1992.

Polk, Dora Beale. The Island of California: A History of the Myth Nebraska, 1996.

Post, J.W. An Atlas of Fantasy. Mirage Press, 1973.

Ptolemy. Cosmographia. Bologna, 1477, introd. by R.A. Skelton. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1964.

____. Geographia: Tabulae, Claudii Ptolemaei, introd. by Lelio Pagani; [tr. by Simon Knight]. Leicester, England: Magna Books [1990?].

____. The Geography, Claudius Ptolemy; tr. and ed. by Edward Luther Stevenson. New York Public Library, 1932. Reissued by Dover, 1991.

Ristow, Walter W. American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the 19th Century. Wayne State, 1985.

Robinson, Arthur H. Early Thematic Mapping in the History of Cartography. Chicago, 1982.

Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. Praeger, 1997.

Schilder, Günter. Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica. 4v., 1 each text and atlas. Aalphen aan den Rijn: Canaletto, 1986-92.

Schwartz, Seymour I., and Ralph E. Ehrenberg. The Mapping of America. Abrams, 1980.

Shirley, Rodney W. The Mapping of the World: Early Printed World Maps, 1472-1700. London: Holland Press, 1983.

Skelton, R.A. Explorers' Maps: Chapters in the Cartographic Record of Geographical Discovery. Praeger, 1958.

Skelton, R.A., Thomas E. Marston, and George D. Painter. The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation. Yale University Library, 1965.

Smail, Daniel Lord. Imaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille. Cornell, 2000.

Smith, Richard J. Chinese Maps: Images of "All under Heaven." Oxford, 1996.

Snyder, John P. Flattening the Earth: Two Thousand Years of Map Projections. Chicago, 1993 (CH, Feb'94).

Sobel, Dava. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Walker, 1995 (CH, Mar'96).

Sobel, Dava, and William J.H. Andrewes. The Illustrated Longitude. Walker, 1998.

Stommel, Henry. Lost Islands: The Story of Islands That Have Vanished from Nautical Charts. Vancouver: British Columbia, 1984.

Suárez, Thomas. Early Mapping of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Periplus Editions, 1999.

Tabula Peutingeriana: Codex Vindobonensis 324, vollst. Faks.-Ausg. Im Originalformat, commentary by Ekkehard Weber. Graz: Academ. Druck- und Verlagsanst, 1976.

Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Hawaii, 1994.

Thrower, Norman J.W. Maps & Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society. Chicago, 1996. Revised edition ofMaps and Man (CH, Sep'96).

Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia ed. by John Block Friedman, . . . [et al.]. Garland, 2000 (CH, Feb'01).

Whitfield, Peter. The Image of the World: 20 Centuries of World Maps. Pomegranate Artbooks in association with the British Library, 1994.

____. The Mapping of the Heavens. London: British Library, 1995.

____. New Found Lands: Maps in the History of Exploration. Routledge, 1998 (CH, Dec'98).

Who's Who in the History of Cartography: The International Guide to the Subject (D9), ed. by Mary Alice Lowenthal. Tring, Herts, UK: Map Collector Publications, 1998.

Wood, Denis with John Fels. The Power of Maps. Guilford Press, 1992.

Woodward, David. Maps as Prints in the Italian Renaissance: Makers, Distributors & Consumers. London: British Library, 1996.

Wright, John K. The Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades: A Study in the History of Medieval Science and Tradition in Western Europe. American Geographical Society, 1925; Dover, 1965.

Yorke, Douglas A., and John Margolies. Hitting the Road: The Art of the American Road Map. Design by Eric Baker Design Associates. Chronicle Books, 1996.

Zandvliet, Kees. Mapping for Money: Maps, Plans and Topographic Paintings and Their Role in Dutch Overseas Expansion during the 16th and 17th Centuries. Amsterdam: Batavian Lion International, 1998.

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The American Cartographer. Falls Church, VA: American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, 1974-1989.

Cartography and Geographic Information Systems Bethesda, MD: American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, 1990-1998.

Imago Mundi. Berlin: Selbstverlag des Bibliographikon, 1935- . Annual.

The Map Collector. Tring, England, UK: Map Collector Publications, 1979-1996. Absorbed by Mercator's World.

Mapline. Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library, Chicago, 1976- .

Mercator's World: The Magazine of Maps, Atlases, Globes, and Charts. Eugene, OR: Aster Publishing Company, 1996- . Absorbed The Map Collector in 1996. Six issues annually.

The Portolan. Silver Spring, MD: Washington Map Society, 1984- . Three issues annually.

Terrae Incognitae. Annals of the Society for the History of Discoveries. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1969- .

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Cartography, or mapmaking, has been an integral part of the human history for thousands of years. From cave paintings to ancient maps of Babylon, Greece, and Asia, through the Age of Exploration, and on into the 21st century, people have created and used maps as essential tools to help them define, explain, and navigate their way through the world. Maps began as two-dimensional drawings but can also adopt three-dimensional shapes (globes, models) and be stored in purely numerical forms.

The term cartography is modern, loaned into English from French cartographie in the 1840s, based on Middle Latincarta "map".

Earliest known maps[edit]

The earliest known maps are of the stars, not the earth. Dots dating to 14,500 BC found on the walls of the Lascaux caves map out part of the night sky, including the three bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair (the Summer Triangle asterism), as well as the Pleiades star cluster. The Cuevas de El Castillo in Spain contain a dot map of the Corona Borealis constellation dating from 12,000 BC.[1][2][3]

Cave painting and rock carvings used simple visual elements that may have aided in recognizing landscape features, such as hills or dwellings.[4] A map-like representation of a mountain, river, valleys and routes around Pavlov in the Czech Republic has been dated to 25,000 BC,[5] and a 14,000 BC polished chunk of sandstone from a cave in Spanish Navarre may represent similar features superimposed on animal etchings, although it may also represent a spiritual landscape, or simple incisings.[6][7]

Another ancient picture that resembles a map was created in the late 7th millennium BC in Çatalhöyük, Anatolia, modern Turkey. This wall painting may represent a plan of this Neolithic village;[8] however, recent scholarship has questioned the identification of this painting as a map.[9]

Ancient Near East[edit]

Maps in Ancient Babylonia were made by using accurate surveying techniques.[10]

For example, a 7.6 × 6.8 cm clay tablet found in 1930 at Ga-Sur, near contemporary Kirkuk, shows a map of a river valley between two hills. Cuneiform inscriptions label the features on the map, including a plot of land described as 354 iku (12 hectares) that was owned by a person called Azala. Most scholars date the tablet to the 25th to 24th century BC; Leo Bagrow dissents with a date of 7000 BC.[page needed] Hills are shown by overlapping semicircles, rivers by lines, and cities by circles. The map also is marked to show the cardinal directions.[11]

An engraved map from the Kassite period (14th–12th centuries BC) of Babylonian history shows walls and buildings in the holy city of Nippur.[12]

In contrast, the Babylonian World Map, the earliest surviving map of the world (c. 600 BC), is a symbolic, not a literal representation. It deliberately omits peoples such as the Persians and Egyptians, who were well known to the Babylonians. The area shown is depicted as a circular shape surrounded by water, which fits the religious image of the world in which the Babylonians believed.

Examples of maps from ancient Egypt are quite rare. However, those that have survived show an emphasis on geometry and well-developed surveying techniques, perhaps stimulated by the need to re-establish the exact boundaries of properties after the annual Nile floods. The Turin Papyrus Map, dated c. 1160 BC, shows the mountains east of the Nile where gold and silver were mined, along with the location of the miners' shelters, wells, and the road network that linked the region with the mainland. Its originality can be seen in the map's inscriptions, its precise orientation, and the use of colour.

Ancient Greece[edit]

Early Greek literature[edit]

In reviewing the literature of early geography and early conceptions of the earth, all sources lead to Homer, who is considered by many (Strabo, Kish, and Dilke) as the founding father of Geography. Regardless of the doubts about Homer's existence, one thing is certain: he never was a mapmaker.[citation needed]

The depiction of the Earth conceived by Homer, which was accepted by the early Greeks, represents a circular flat disk surrounded by a constantly moving stream of Ocean,[13]:22 an idea which would be suggested by the appearance of the horizon as it is seen from a mountaintop or from a seacoast. Homer's knowledge of the Earth was very limited. He and his Greek contemporaries knew very little of the Earth beyond Egypt as far south as the Libyan desert, the south-west coast of Asia Minor, and the northern boundary of the Greek homeland. Furthermore, the coast of the Black Sea was only known through myths and legends that circulated during his time. In his poems there is no mention of Europe and Asia as geographical concepts.[14][full citation needed] That is why the big part of Homer's world that is portrayed on this interpretive map represents lands that border on the Aegean Sea. It is worth noting that even though Greeks believed that they were in the middle of the earth, they also thought that the edges of the world's disk were inhabited by savage, monstrous barbarians and strange animals and monsters; Homer's Odyssey mentions a great many of them.

Additional statements about ancient geography may be found in Hesiod's poems, probably written during the 8th century BC.[15] Through the lyrics of Works and Days and Theogony he shows to his contemporaries some definite geographical knowledge. He introduces the names of such rivers as Nile, Ister (Danube), the shores of the Bosporus, and the Euxine (Black Sea), the coast of Gaul, the island of Sicily, and a few other regions and rivers.[16] His advanced geographical knowledge not only had predated Greek colonial expansions, but also was used in the earliest Greek world maps, produced by Greek mapmakers such as Anaximander and Hecataeus of Miletus, and Ptolemy using both observations by explorers and a mathematical approach.

Early steps in the development of intellectual thought in ancient Greece belonged to Ionians from their well-known city of Miletus in Asia Minor. Miletus was placed favourably to absorb aspects of Babylonian knowledge and to profit from the expanding commerce of the Mediterranean. The earliest ancient Greek who is said to have constructed a map of the world is Anaximander of Miletus (c. 611–546 BC), pupil of Thales. He believed that the earth was a cylindrical form, like a stone pillar and suspended in space.[17] The inhabited part of his world was circular, disk-shaped, and presumably located on the upper surface of the cylinder.[13]:24

Anaximander was the first ancient Greek to draw a map of the known world. It is for this reason that he is considered by many to be the first mapmaker.[18]:23 A scarcity of archaeological and written evidence prevents us from giving any assessment of his map. What we may presume is that he portrayed land and sea in a map form. Unfortunately, any definite geographical knowledge that he included in his map is lost as well. Although the map has not survived, Hecataeus of Miletus (550–475 BC) produced another map fifty years later that he claimed was an improved version of the map of his illustrious predecessor.

Hecatæus's map describes the earth as a circular plate with an encircling Ocean and Greece in the centre of the world. This was a very popular contemporary Greek worldview, derived originally from the Homeric poems. Also, similar to many other early maps in antiquity his map has no scale. As units of measurements, this map used "days of sailing" on the sea and "days of marching" on dry land.[19] The purpose of this map was to accompany Hecatæus's geographical work that was called Periodos Ges, or Journey Round the World.[18]:24Periodos Ges was divided into two books, "Europe" and "Asia", with the latter including Libya, the name of which was an ancient term for all of the known Africa.

The work follows the assumption of the author that the world was divided into two continents, Asia and Europe. He depicts the line between the Pillars of Hercules through the Bosporus, and the Don River as a boundary between the two. Hecatæus is the first known writer who thought that the Caspian flows into the circumference ocean—an idea that persisted long into the Hellenic period. He was particularly informative on the Black Sea, adding many geographic places that already were known to Greeks through the colonization process. To the north of the Danube, according to Hecatæus, were the Rhipæan (gusty) Mountains, beyond which lived the Hyperboreans—peoples of the far north. Hecatæus depicted the origin of the Nile River at the southern circumference ocean. His view of the Nile seems to have been that it came from the southern circumference ocean. This assumption helped Hecatæus solve the mystery of the annual flooding of the Nile. He believed that the waves of the ocean were a primary cause of this occurrence.[20] It is worth mentioning that a similar map based upon one designed by Hecataeus was intended to aid political decision-making. According to Herodotus, it was engraved upon a bronze tablet and was carried to Sparta by Aristagoras during the revolt of the Ionian cities against Persian rule from 499 to 494 BC.

Anaximenes of Miletus (6th century BC), who studied under Anaximander, rejected the views of his teacher regarding the shape of the earth and instead, he visualized the earth as a rectangular form supported by compressed air.

Pythagoras of Samos (c. 560–480 BC) speculated about the notion of a spherical earth with a central fire at its core. He is sometimes incorrectly credited with the introduction of a model that divides a spherical earth into five zones: one hot, two temperate, and two cold—northern and southern. This idea, known as the zonal theory of climate, is more likely to have originated at the time of Aristotle.[21]

Scylax, a sailor, made a record of his Mediterranean voyages in c. 515 BC. This is the earliest known set of Greek periploi, or sailing instructions, which became the basis for many future mapmakers, especially in the medieval period.[22]

The way in which the geographical knowledge of the Greeks advanced from the previous assumptions of the Earth's shape was through Herodotus and his conceptual view of the world. This map also did not survive and many have speculated that it was never produced. A possible reconstruction of his map is displayed below.

Herodotus traveled very extensively, collecting information and documenting his findings in his books on Europe, Asia, and Libya. He also combined his knowledge with what he learned from the people he met. Herodotus wrote his Histories in the mid-5th century BC. Although his work was dedicated to the story of long struggle of the Greeks with the Persian Empire, Herodotus also included everything he knew about the geography, history, and peoples of the world. Thus, his work provides a detailed picture of the known world of the 5th century BC.

Herodotus rejected the prevailing view of most 5th century BC maps that the earth is a circular plate surrounded by Ocean. In his work he describes the earth as an irregular shape with oceans surrounding only Asia and Africa. He introduces names such as the Atlantic Sea and the Erythrean Sea. He also divided the world into three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. He depicted the boundary of Europe as the line from the Pillars of Hercules through the Bosporus and the area between Caspian Sea and Indus River. He regarded the Nile as the boundary between Asia and Africa. He speculated that the extent of Europe was much greater than was assumed at the time and left Europe's shape to be determined by future research.

In the case of Africa, he believed that, except for the small stretch of land in the vicinity of Suez, the continent was in fact surrounded by water. However, he definitely disagreed with his predecessors and contemporaries about its presumed circular shape. He based his theory on the story of Pharaoh Necho II, the ruler of Egypt between 609 and 594 BC, who had sent Phoenicians to circumnavigate Africa. Apparently, it took them three years, but they certainly did prove his idea. He speculated that the Nile River started as far west as the Ister River in Europe and cut Africa through the middle. He was the first writer to assume that the Caspian Sea was separated from other seas and he recognised northern Scythia as one of the coldest inhabited lands in the world.

Similar to his predecessors, Herodotus also made mistakes. He accepted a clear distinction between the civilized Greeks in the centre of the earth and the barbarians on the world's edges. In his Histories we can see very clearly that he believed that the world became stranger and stranger when one traveled away from Greece, until one reached the ends of the earth, where humans behaved as savages.

Spherical Earth and meridians[edit]

Whereas a number of previous Greek philosophers presumed the earth to be spherical, Aristotle (384–322 BC) is the one to be credited with proving the Earth's sphericity. Those arguments may be summarized as follows:

  • The lunar eclipse is always circular
  • Ships seem to sink as they move away from view and pass the horizon
  • Some stars can be seen only from certain parts of the Earth.

A vital contribution to mapping the reality of the world came with a scientific estimate of the circumference of the earth. This event has been described as the first scientific attempt to give geographical studies a mathematical basis. The man credited for this achievement was Eratosthenes (275–195 BC). As described by George Sarton, historian of science, "there was among them [Eratosthenes's contemporaries] a man of genius but as he was working in a new field they were too stupid to recognize him".[23] His work, including On the Measurement of the Earth and Geographica, has only survived in the writings of later philosophers such as Cleomedes and Strabo. He was a devoted geographer who set out to reform and perfect the map of the world. Eratosthenes argued that accurate mapping, even if in two dimensions only, depends upon the establishment of accurate linear measurements. He was the first to calculate the circumference of the Earth (within 0.5 percent accuracy) by calculating the heights of shadows at different points in Egypt at a given time. The first in Alexandria, the other further up the Nile, in the Ancient Egyptian city of Swenet (known in Greek as Syene) where reports of a well into which the sun shone only on the summer solstice, long existed. Proximity to the Tropic of Cancer being the dynamics creating the effect. He had the distance between the two shadows calculated and then their height. From this he determined the difference in angle between the two points and calculated how large a circle would be made by adding in the rest of the degrees to 360. His great achievement in the field of cartography was the use of a new technique of charting with meridians, his imaginary north–south lines, and parallels, his imaginary west–east lines.[24] These axis lines were placed over the map of the earth with their origin in the city of Rhodes and divided the world into sectors. Then, Eratosthenes used these earth partitions to reference places on the map. He also divided Earth into five climatic regions: a torrid zone across the middle, two frigid zones at extreme north and south, and two temperate bands in between.[citation needed] He was also the first person to use the word "geography".

Claudius Ptolemy (90–168) thought that, with the aid of astronomy and mathematics, the earth could be mapped very accurately. Ptolemy revolutionized the depiction of the spherical earth on a map by using perspective projection, and suggested precise methods for fixing the position of geographic features on its surface using a coordinate system with parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude.[4][25]

Ptolemy's eight-volume atlas Geographia is a prototype of modern mapping and GIS. It included an index of place-names, with the latitude and longitude of each place to guide the search, scale, conventional signs with legends, and the practice of orienting maps so that north is at the top and east to the right of the map—an almost universal custom today.

Yet with all his important innovations, however, Ptolemy was not infallible. His most important error was a miscalculation of the circumference of the earth. He believed that Eurasia covered 180° of the globe, which convinced Christopher Columbus to sail across the Atlantic to look for a simpler and faster way to travel to India. Had Columbus known that the true figure was much greater, it is conceivable that he would never have set out on his momentous voyage.

Roman Empire[edit]

Pomponius Mela (c. 43)[edit]

Main article: Pomponius Mela

Pomponius is unique among ancient geographers in that, after dividing the earth into five zones, of which two only were habitable, he asserts the existence of antichthones, inhabiting the southern temperate zone inaccessible to the folk of the northern temperate regions from the unbearable heat of the intervening torrid belt. On the divisions and boundaries of Europe, Asia and Africa, he repeats Eratosthenes; like all classical geographers from Alexander the Great (except Ptolemy) he regards the Caspian Sea as an inlet of the Northern Ocean, corresponding to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea on the south.

5th-century Roman road map[edit]

In 2007, the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 12th-century replica of a 5th-century map, was placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register and displayed to the public for the first time. Although well preserved and believed to be an accurate copy of an authentic original, the scroll media it is on is so delicate now it must be protected at all times from exposure to daylight.[26]


Main article: Chinese geography

See also: Early Chinese cartography

Earliest extant maps from the Qin State[edit]

The earliest known maps to have survived in China date to the 4th century BC.[27]:90 In 1986, seven ancient Chinese maps were found in an archeological excavation of a Qin State tomb in what is now Fangmatan, in the vicinity of Tianshui City, Gansu province.[27]:90 Before this find, the earliest extant maps that were known came from the Mawangdui Han tomb excavation in 1973, which found three maps on silk dated to the 2nd century BC in the early Han Dynasty.[27]:90, 93 The 4th century BC maps from the State of Qin were drawn with black ink on wooden blocks.[27]:91 These blocks fortunately survived in soaking conditions due to underground water that had seeped into the tomb; the quality of the wood had much to do with their survival.[27]:91 After two years of slow-drying techniques, the maps were fully restored.[27]:91

The territory shown in the seven Qin maps overlap each other.[27]:92 The maps display tributary river systems of the Jialing River in Sichuan province, in a total measured area of 107 by 68 km.[27]:92 The maps featured rectangular symbols encasing character names for the locations of administrative counties.[27]:92 Rivers and roads are displayed with similar line symbols; this makes interpreting the map somewhat difficult, although the labels of rivers placed in order of stream flow are helpful to modern day cartographers.[27]:92–93 These maps also feature locations where different types of timber can be gathered, while two of the maps state the distances in mileage to the timber sites.[27]:93 In light of this, these maps are perhaps the oldest economic maps in the world since they predate Strabo's economic maps.[27]:93

In addition to the seven maps on wooden blocks found at Tomb 1 of Fangmatan, a fragment of a paper map was found on the chest of the occupant of Tomb 5 of Fangmatan in 1986. This tomb is dated to the early Western Han, so the map dates to the early 2nd century BC. The map shows topographic features such as mountains, waterways and roads, and is thought to cover the area of the preceding Qin Kingdom.[28][29]

Earliest geographical writing[edit]

In China, the earliest known geographical Chinese writing dates back to the 5th century BC, during the beginning of the Warring States (481–221 BC).[30]:500 This was the Yu Gong or Tribute of Yu chapter of the Shu Jing or Book of Documents. The book describes the traditional nine provinces, their kinds of soil, their characteristic products and economic goods, their tributary goods, their trades and vocations, their state revenues and agricultural systems, and the various rivers and lakes listed and placed accordingly.[30]:500 The nine provinces in the time of this geographical work were very small in size compared to their modern Chinese counterparts. The Yu Gong's descriptions pertain to areas of the Yellow River, the lower valleys of the Yangtze, with the plain between them and the Shandong Peninsula, and to the west the most northern parts of the Wei River and the Han River were known (along with the southern parts of modern-day Shanxi province).[30]:500

Earliest known reference to a map, or 'tu'[edit]

The oldest reference to a map in China comes from the 3rd century BC.[30]:534 This was the event of 227 BC where Crown Prince Dan of Yan had his assassin Jing Ke visit the court of the ruler of the State of Qin, who would become Qin Shi Huang (r. 221–210 BC). Jing Ke was to present the ruler of Qin with a district map painted on a silk scroll, rolled up and held in a case where he hid his assassin's dagger.[30]:534 Handing to him the map of the designated territory was the first diplomatic act of submitting that district to Qin rule.[30]:534 Instead he attempted to kill Qin, an assassination plot that failed. From then on maps are frequently mentioned in Chinese sources.[30]:535

Han Dynasty and period of division[edit]

The three Han Dynasty maps found at Mawangdui differ from the earlier Qin State maps. While the Qin maps place the cardinal direction of north at the top of the map, the Han maps are orientated with the southern direction at the top.[27]:93 The Han maps are also more complex, since they cover a much larger area, employ a large number of well-designed map symbols, and include additional information on local military sites and the local population.[27]:93 The Han maps also note measured distances between certain places, but a formal graduated scale and rectangular grid system for maps would not be used—or at least described in full—until the 3rd century (see Pei Xiu below).[27]:93–94 Among the three maps found at Mawangdui was a small map representing the tomb area where it was found, a larger topographical map showing the Han's borders along the subordinate Kingdom of Changsha and the Nanyue kingdom (of northern Vietnam and parts of modern Guangdong and Guangxi), and a map which marks the positions of Han military garrisons that were employed in an attack against Nanyue in 181 BC.[31]

An early text that mentioned maps was the Rites of Zhou.[30]:534 Although attributed to the era of the Zhou Dynasty, its first recorded appearance was in the libraries of Prince Liu De (c. 130 BC), and was compiled and commented on by Liu Xin in the 1st century AD. It outlined the use of maps that were made for governmental provinces and districts, principalities, frontier boundaries, and even pinpointed locations of ores and minerals for mining facilities.[30]:534 Upon the investiture of three of his sons as feudal princes in 117 BC, Emperor Wu of Han had maps of the entire empire submitted to him.[30]:536

From the 1st century AD onwards, official Chinese historical texts contained a geographical section (Diliji), which was often an enormous compilation of changes in place-names and local administrative divisions controlled by the ruling dynasty, descriptions of mountain ranges, river systems, taxable products, etc.[30]:508 From the time of the 5th century BC Shu Jing forward, Chinese geographical writing provided more concrete information and less legendary element. This example can be seen in the 4th chapter of the Huainanzi (Book of the Master of Huainan), compiled under the editorship of Prince Liu An in 139 BC during the Han Dynasty (202 BC–202 AD). The chapter gave general descriptions of topography in a systematic fashion, given visual aids by the use of maps (di tu) due to the efforts of Liu An and his associate Zuo Wu.[30]:507–508 In Chang Chu's Hua Yang Guo Chi (Historical Geography of Szechuan) of 347, not only rivers, trade routes, and various tribes were described, but it also wrote of a 'Ba June Tu Jing' ('Map of Szechuan'), which had been made much earlier in 150.[30]:517

Local mapmaking such as the one of Szechuan mentioned above, became a widespread tradition of Chinese geographical works by the 6th century, as noted in the bibliography of the Sui Shu.[30]:518 It is during this time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties that the Liang Dynasty (502–557) cartographers also began carving maps into stone steles (alongside the maps already drawn and painted on paper and silk).[30]:543

Pei Xiu, the 'Ptolemy of China'[edit]

In the year 267,Pei Xiu (224–271) was appointed as the Minister of Works by Emperor Wu of Jin, the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty. Pei is best known for his work in cartography. Although map making and use of the grid existed in China before him,[30]:106–107 he was the first to mention a plotted geometrical grid and graduated scale displayed on the surface of maps to gain greater accuracy in the estimated distance between different locations.[30]:538–540 Pei outlined six principles that should be observed when creating maps, two of which included the rectangular grid and the graduated scale for measuring distance.[30]:539–540 Historians compare him to the Greek Ptolemy for his contributions in cartography.[30]:540 However, Howard Nelson states that, although the accounts of earlier cartographic works by the inventor and official Zhang Heng (78–139) are somewhat vague and sketchy, there is ample written evidence that Pei Xiu derived the use of the rectangular grid reference from the maps of Zhang Heng.[32]:359

Later Chinese ideas about the quality of maps made during the Han Dynasty and before stem from the assessment given by Pei Xiu, which was not a positive one.[27]:96 Pei Xiu noted that the extant Han maps at his disposal were of little use since they featured too many inaccuracies and exaggerations in measured distance between locations.[27]:96 However, the Qin State maps and Mawangdui maps of the Han era were far superior in quality than those examined by Pei Xiu.[27]:96 It was not until the 20th century that Pei Xiu's 3rd century assessment of earlier maps' dismal quality would be overturned and disproven. The Qin and Han maps did have a degree of accuracy in scale and pinpointed location, but the major improvement in Pei Xiu's work and that of his contemporaries was expressing topographical elevation on maps.[27]:97

Sui and Tang dynasties[edit]

In the year 605, during the Sui Dynasty (581–618), the Commercial Commissioner Pei Ju (547–627) created a famous geometrically gridded map.[30]:543 In 610 Emperor Yang of Sui ordered government officials from throughout the empire to document in gazetteers the customs, products, and geographical features of their local areas and provinces, providing descriptive writing and drawing them all onto separate maps, which would be sent to the imperial secretariat in the capital city.[30]:518[33]:409–10

The Tang Dynasty (618–907) also had its fair share of cartographers, including the works of Xu Jingzong in 658, Wang Mingyuan in 661, and Wang Zhongsi in 747.[30]:543 Arguably the greatest geographer and cartographer of the Tang period was Jia Dan (730–805), whom Emperor Dezong of Tang entrusted in 785 to complete a map of China with her recently former inland colonies of Central Asia, the massive and detailed work completed in 801, called the Hai Nei Hua Yi Tu (Map of both Chinese and Barbarian Peoples within the (Four) Seas).[30]:543 The map was 30 ft long (9.1 m) and 33 ft high (10 m) in dimension, mapped out on a grid scale of 1-inch (25 mm) equaling 100 li (unit) (the Chinese equivalent of the mile/kilometer).[30]:543 Jia Dan is also known for having described the Persian Gulf region with great detail, along with lighthouses that were erected at the mouth of the Persian Gulf by the medieval Iranians in the Abbasid period (refer to article on Tang Dynasty for more).

Song Dynasty[edit]

During the Song Dynasty (960–1279) Emperor Taizu of Song ordered Lu Duosun in 971 to update and 're-write all the Tu Jing in the world', which would seem to be a daunting task for one individual, who was sent out throughout the provinces to collect texts and as much data as possible.[30]:518 With the aid of Song Zhun, the massive work was completed in 1010, with some 1566 chapters.[30]:518 The later Song Shi historical text stated (Wade-Giles spelling):

Yuan Hsieh (d. +1220) was Director-General of governmental grain stores. In pursuance of his schemes for the relief of famines he issued orders that each pao (village) should prepare a map which would show the fields and mountains, the rivers and the roads in fullest detail. The maps of all the pao were joined together to make a map of the tu (larger district), and these in turn were joined with others to make a map of the hsiang and the hsien (still larger districts). If there was any trouble about the collection of taxes or the distribution of grain, or if the question of chasing robbers and bandits arose, the provincial officials could readily carry out their duties by the aid of the maps.[30]:518

Like the earlier Liang Dynasty stone-stele maps (mentioned above), there were large and intricately carved stone stele maps of the Song period. For example, the 3 ft (0.91 m) squared stone stele map of an anonymous artist in 1137, following the grid scale of 100 li squared for each grid square.[30]:Plate LXXXI What is truly remarkable about this map is the incredibly precise detail of coastal outlines and river systems in China (refer to Needham's Volume 3, Plate LXXXI for an image). The map shows 500 settlements and a dozen rivers in China, and extends as far as Korea and India. On the reverse, a copy of a more ancient map uses grid coordinates in a scale of 1:1,500,000 and shows the coastline of China with great accuracy.[35]

The famous 11th century scientist and polymath statesman Shen Kuo (1031–1095) was also a geographer and cartographer.[30]:541 His largest atlas included twenty three maps of China and foreign regions that were drawn at a uniform scale of 1:900,000.[36] Shen also created a three-dimensionalraised-relief map using sawdust, wood, beeswax, and wheat paste, while representing the topography and specific locations of a frontier region to the imperial court.[36] Shen Kuo's contemporary, Su Song (1020–1101), was a cartographer who created detailed maps in order to resolve a territorial border dispute between the Song Dynasty and the Liao Dynasty.[37]

Ming and Qing dynasties[edit]

The Da Ming hunyi tu map, dating from about 1390, is in multicolour. The horizontal scale is 1:820,000 and the vertical scale is 1:1,060,000.[35]

In 1579, Luo Hongxian published the Guang Yutu atlas, including more than 40 maps, a grid system, and a systematic way of representing major landmarks such as mountains, rivers, roads and borders. The Guang Yutu incorporates the discoveries of naval explorer Zheng He's 15th century voyages along the coasts of China, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.[35] The Mao Kun map published in 1628 is thought to be based on a strip map dated to the voyages of Zheng He.[38]

From the 16th and 17th centuries, several examples survive of maps focused on cultural information. Gridlines are not used on either Yu Shi's Gujin xingsheng zhi tu (1555) or Zhang Huang's Tushu bian (1613); instead, illustrations and annotations show mythical places, exotic foreign peoples, administrative changes and the deeds of historic and legendary heroes.[35] Also in the 17th century, an edition of a possible Tang Dynasty map shows clear topographical contour lines.[30]:546 Although topographic features were part of maps in China for centuries, a Fujian county official Ye Chunji (1532–1595) was the first to base county maps using on-site topographical surveying and observations.[39]

The Korean made Kangnido based on two Chinese maps, which describes the Old World.

People's Republic of China era[edit]

After the 1949 revolution, the Institute of Geography under the aegis of the Chinese Academy of Sciences became responsible for official cartography and emulated the Soviet model of geography throughout the 1950s. With its emphasis on fieldwork, sound knowledge of the physical environment and the interrelation between physical and economic geography, the Russian influence counterbalanced the many pre-liberation Western-trained Chinese geography specialists who were more interested in the historical and culture aspects of cartography. As a consequence, China's main geographical journal, the Dili Xuebao (地理学报) featured many articles by Soviet geographers.[40] As Soviet influence waned in the 1960s, geographic activity continued as part of the process of modernisation until it came to a stop with the 1967 Cultural Revolution.

Mongol Empire[edit]

In the Mongol Empire, the Mongol scholars with the Persian and Chinese cartographers or their foreign colleagues created maps, geographical compendium as well as travel accounts. Rashid-al-Din Hamadani described his geographical compendium, "Suvar al-aqalim", constituted volume four of the Collected chronicles of the Ilkhanate in Persia.[41] His works says about the borders of the seven climes (old world), rivers, major cities, places, climate, and Mongol yams (relay stations). The Great KhanKhubilai's ambassador and minister, Bolad, had helped Rashid's works in relation to the Mongols and Mongolia.[42] Thanks to Pax Mongolica, the easterners and the westerners in Mongol dominions were able to gain access to one another's geographical materials.[43]

The Mongols required the nations they conquered to send geographical maps to the Mongol headquarters.[44][45]

One of medieval Persian work written in northwest Iran can clarify the historical geography of Mongolia where Genghis Khan was born and united the Mongol and Turkicnomads as recorded in native sources, especially the Secret History of the Mongols.[46]

Map of relay stations, called "yam", and strategic points existed in the Yuan Dynasty.[43] The Mongol cartography was enriched by traditions of ancient China and Iran which were now under the Mongols.

Because the Yuan court often requested the western Mongol khanates to send their maps, the Yuan Dynasty was able to publish a map describing the whole Mongol world in c.1330. This is called "Hsi-pei pi ti-li tu". The map includes the Mongol dominions including 30 cities in Iran such as Ispahan and the Ilkhanid capital Soltaniyeh, and Russia (as "Orash") as well as their neighbors, e.g. Egypt and Syria.[47]


Main article: Cartography of India

Indian cartographic traditions covered the locations of the Pole star and other constellations of use.[48]:330 These charts may have been in use by the beginning of the Common Era for purposes of navigation.[48]:330

Detailed maps of considerable length describing the locations of settlements, sea shores, rivers, and mountains were also made.[48]:327 The 8th century scholar Bhavabhuti conceived paintings which indicated geographical regions.[48]:328

Italian scholar Francesco Lorenzo Pullè reproduced a number of ancient Indian maps in his magnum opusLa Cartografia Antica dell'India.[48]:327 Out these maps, two have been reproduced using a manuscript of Lokaprakasa, originally compiled by the polymath Ksemendra (Kashmir, 11th century), as a source.[48]:327 The other manuscript, used as a source by Pullè, is titled Samgrahani.[48]:327 The early volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica also described cartographic charts made by the Dravidian people of India.[48]:330

Maps from the Ain-e-Akbari, a Mughal document detailing India's history and traditions, contain references to locations indicated in earlier Indian cartographic traditions.[48]:327 Another map describing the kingdom of Nepal, four feet in length and about two and a half feet in breadth, was presented to Warren Hastings.[48]:328 In this map the mountains were elevated above the surface, and several geographical elements were indicated in different colors.[48]:328

Islamic cartographic schools[edit]

Arab and Persian cartography[edit]

The Fra Mauro map, one great medieval European map, was made around 1450 by the Venetian monk Fra Mauro. It is a circular world map drawn on parchment and set in a wooden frame, about two meters in diameter
Clay tablet with map of the Babylonian city of Nippur (ca. 1400 BC)
The Yu Ji Tu, or Map of the Tracks of Yu Gong, carved into stone in 1137,[34] located in the Stele Forest of Xian. This 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map features a graduated scale of 100 li for each rectangular grid. China's coastline and river systems are clearly defined and precisely pinpointed on the map. Yu Gong is in reference to the Chinese deity described in the geographical chapter of the Classic of History, dated 5th century BC.


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