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.


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Recent News: Maps

Source: Google News

Killing time in Waterloo: five great places near Waterloo station
Time 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 Reservation
Poughkeepsie 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 Phone
Daniel 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 Bar
The 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

At Home with Tracy Martin Taylor: Finding the Perfect Piece of Art
D Magazine, April 14th

For the couple who met at Baylor University, we framed an antique map of Waco. Another family adopted a child from Russia, so we included a very old map of the area where he was born. Vintage fashion prints line the hallway of one of my most glamorous ...Read more

Where to buy Mischa Barton's map print suitcase
handbag.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

SCAD student shoots for winning watch company design
Savannah Morning News, April 13th

Calafiore describes her entry, which incorporates vintage maps, an old picture, antique automobile and road sign, as “old school classic.” “I wanted things to be a little scattered and collage,” she said. “I went with the more vintage road trip vibe...Read more

Erstwhile vintage maps and charts at Achica
Retro 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