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

Ornamental gourds make the list of Texas farmer's favorite crops
CultureMap Dallas, July 5th

Some people leave them with their natural coloration, which can look like an antique map, but Allee has enjoyed creating unique, hand-painted items such as a doll in the likeness of artist Frida Kahlo. Decorating and using ornamental gourds dates back ...Read more

Alaska literacy advocates honored
Juneau Empire (subscription), July 5th

The shop is known for its vast historical map collection and books focused on Alaska. Her fascination with Alaska's history led her to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and the opportunity to present papers at conferences worldwide...Read more

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The Guardian, July 4th

Covered with antique maps and tiny drawings, references to Baedeker and the museums of Berlin, it amounts to a souvenir of places that Cornell would never see. There is an air of nostalgia and yearning to his art; a love of what he called “the light of...Read more

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Roanoke Times, July 4th

In the summer of 2013, E. Forbes Smiley III was released from a minimum-security federal prison after serving 42 months for slicing maps from old books at a slew of prestigious libraries. He admitted to stealing almost a hundred maps — he may actually...Read more

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Post-Bulletin, July 4th

Today it is all on computers — electronic maps on GPS software. Antique maps don't always offer an accurate picture of the world, but they are documents of history and works of art. Much of their appeal is storytelling with a blend of scientific...Read more

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Military.com, July 2nd

He consulted vintage maps of Manhattan as well as blueprints of the buildings that were there at the time. His first guess was that the shadow was cast by a water tower on the top of the Hotel Astor, which was just west of the Loew's building. A water...Read more

Vintage Map Paperweights & Magnets Make Great Gifts
TAPinto.net, June 8th

Here is the perfect graduation or Father's Day gift ... a vintage map paperweight or set of magnets of the Westfield, Scotch Plains or Plainfield areas. The sets of magnets are also available in other subjects besides the area maps. Don't forget ... we...Read more