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

Huron Public Library acquires historygeo.com award-winning database
Plainsman, September 3rd

Beyond the First Landowners Project, comes HistoryGeo's Antique Maps Collection, which likewise focuses on landowner maps of old. These are not limited to the central and western U.S. They include hundreds of counties along the eastern seaboard and ...Read more

All those confusing geography terms, explained in a gorgeous antique map
Vox, September 1st

You can see the original map, circa 1870, at the David Rumsey Collection (we've upped the contrast on this digital version to make it slightly more readable). A few of the more confusing terms merit some clarification, so we referred to the Oxford...Read more

Rare Cartography and Exploration Coming up at PBA Galleries
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, September 1st

He contributed articles to such publications as Terra Cognita (newsletter of the Society for the History of Discoveries), The Map Collector, Mercator's World, and the newsletter of the California Map Society. He edited, and largely wrote, California 49...Read more

Morton Grove Historical Museum to feature antique map collection
Chicago Tribune, August 31st

20 at 2 p.m. the new exhibit entitled Morton Grove Maps will feature a presentation by George and Mary Ritzlin of Evanston's George Ritzlin's Antique Maps & Prints. cComments. Got something to say? Start the conversation and be the first to comment...Read more

The New York Public Library is digitizing its collection of 435000 maps
Crain's New York Business, August 26th

How the New York Public Library digitizes its vast map collection. The library system received a $380,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to help with the extensive project. Aaron Elstein By Aaron Elstein. 0 Comments Email Print. ×. Photo: Associated...Read more

Vintage Maps Show by Hyderabad-based Curator
The New Indian Express, August 12th

An exhibition on the human quest for accurate physical depiction of the earth over the centuries by city-based Kalakriti Archives is on in Delhi. The expo also throws light on depiction of geographies of the Indian subcontinent. The two-month...Read more

Seeing the sub-continent through vintage maps
The Hindu, August 9th

Vintage maps provide a unique insight into how cities and countries evolved over time and how the world looked like without the modern day boundaries that define the way we are used to seeing the world. The Indian subcontinent has looked very different ...Read more

Frankie Meyer: Oklahoma group digitizes map collection
Joplin Globe, August 9th

The Oklahoma State Historical Society has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the state since 1893. The staff of the research division recently embarked on another ambitious project: The society has decided to digitize its collection...Read more