Mapmaking dates to at least the late 15th century, just a few decades after Gutenberg’s introduction of the first moveable type printing press. By the time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign during the second half of the 16th century, people were already collecting these documents, which were usually bound in books, making them important additions to any self-respecting library.
Some of the most desirable early maps are the colorful engravings from the 1500s, which were quick to integrate, as best they could, the intelligence gleaned from voyages by such explorers as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Giovanni Caboto, an Italian whose name is frequently shortened to Cabot. The first of these was Johann Ruysch’s 1507 map showing the New World, which was produced more than a decade before Ferdinand Magellan’s crew completed their late-captain’s circumnavigation of the world.
Gerard Mercator’s “Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio,” which was reproduced by his son Rumold in 1587 and published in numerous books and atlases after his death in 1594, gave viewers an equatorial azimuthal equidistant projection (in other words, the equator is the only non-curving latitude in the map) of the world divided into two hemispheres, depicting what we now call North and South America on the left and Africa, Europe, and Asia on the right.
By 1627, the famous London cartographer John Speed produced a decorative, double-hemisphere map of his own, which is notable for showing the state of California as an island. More than 100 years later, in 1750, Emanuel Bowen’s Mercator projection world map, in which all the latitudes and longitudes are parallel, got Baja California correct, but left the northwest corner of North America empty and unmapped.
If the geography depicted on world maps was occasionally a bit fuzzy, cartographers did a better job capturing more familiar places such as cities and towns. Sebastian Munster’s 1552 map of London used the woodblock printing technique to show streets to scale, outsize ships in the Thames, and noblemen and women in the foreground as a decorative touch. By comparison, John Rocque’s 1746 map of the same city almost looks like a satellite photograph—visitors to the city today could probably use it and not get too lost.
Some of the earliest regional maps of North America and the United States were produced by Europeans. Henry Hondius of The Hague created a map of Virginia in 1633 based on an original provided by Captain John Smith, who settled Jamestown. Amsterdam-based cartographer Jan Jansson created definitive maps of the northeast in 1666, and Francis Lamb engraved a decorative map of the Carolina coastline for Londoner John Speed in 1676.
As with Rocque’s 1746 map of London, Robert Sayer and John Bennett’s 1776 map of Florida looks surprisingly contemporary. And Joseph Colton’s large 1854 wall map of the United States is extremely accurate, with states, territories, and topographical features captured in loving detail.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
David Rumsey Map Collection
U. Texas Map Collection
Maps: Finding Our Place in the World
Harvard University Collections
The American Memory Project
New York Public Library
Ephemera Society of America
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Maps
Source: Google News
Chesapeake Energy's Aubrey McClendon gets $53M severanceShreveport Times, April 17th
Starting in 1989, McClendon built Chesapeake into the nation's second-largest producer of natural gas, amassing wealth to become part owner of the Oklahoma Thunder basketball team and a renowned collector of antique maps and rare wines...Read more
Killing time in Waterloo: five great places near Waterloo stationTime Out London, April 17th
The rows of trestle tables bearing stacks and stacks of second hand books, annuals, posters and antique maps are an almost permanent fixture under Waterloo Bridge, and are ready and waiting for your perusal. Ashleigh Arnott. Tags: Ashleigh Arnott, bars ...Read more
Dateline: Kids enjoy fresh air at Sharpe ReservationPoughkeepsie Journal, April 15th
“We did research at the Poughkeepsie library years ago and identified through vintage maps that there were 13 farm sites that once existed on the reservation land,” Moy said. The land occupied by Sharpe Reservation was known for its beaver streams and...Read more
Offline Map data updated for Windows PhoneDaniel Rubino, April 14th
Our tipster is seeing updates for the entire U.S. map collection and we've been able to confirm updates for New York. It does appear that the updates are for devices running Windows Phone 8.1. My Lumia 1020 is still running Windows Phone 8 and no ...Read more
Marou Chocolate Treasure Island BarThe Dieline (blog), April 14th
Rice Creative approach the packaging was to maintain the primary elements of the brand, but introduce a different, more adventurous graphic language, with a vintage map of the area, and drawn calligraphy. "We hoped to convey the spirit of discovery and ...Read more
Where to buy Mischa Barton's map print suitcasehandbag.com, April 14th
The label has a whole Travel collection, dedicated to bags, pouches, wheely cases, holdalls and so on, all decked in the glorious vintage map print. We're currently lusting after the Geo Classic Travel Bag, perfect for following you around the whole...Read more
Your Road Trip, Reimagined as a Glorious 16th Century MapThe Atlantic Cities, April 11th
That's not to say she's lives completely in a cartographic past: she consults David Rumsey's digitized map collection for contemporary details, and plots the basic skeleton of most maps using Google Maps. Still, the Age of Discovery guides most of her...Read more
Erstwhile vintage maps and charts at AchicaRetro To Go, March 28th
Interestingly, we featured an Erstwhile map at the end of 2013. The downside being that it was only available in Australia (unless you happen to live in Australia, obviously). However, we've just noticed the Erstwhile vintage maps and charts at Achica...Read more