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
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First coin'authentication service' founded in 1962 | Coin WorldCoin World, April 30th
Breen was convicted of child molestation, and died in prison. Taxay became an acolyte of the “Love Guru,” Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and disappeared to India in 1980. Glaser became a dealer in antique maps, and was repeatedly arrested and convicted for ...Read more
Hanging out at home: the art of the matterIrish Times, April 29th
One US customer requested a number of animal artworks for her jungle- themed den and another purchaser is creating a collage of antique maps. “Buyer requests can spark ideas too: an enquiry from an Australian mum for small-scale prints for her ...Read more
Mapping Texas Opens at the Witte MuseumSan Antonio Magazine, April 28th
Bruce Shackelford, the museum's South Texas curator, collaborated with the Texas General Land Office and the Houston-based Frank and Carol Holcomb map collection to put together the collection and says this may be the only time history buffs can see...Read more
New Maps for Texas and Oklahoma ReleasedUnited States Geological Survey (press release), April 27th
New US Topo maps for Texas and Oklahoma are now available in the USGS Store for free download. One of the main improvements is the inclusion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) road ...Read more
Antique Maps Inspired Orlebar Brown's Capsule Collection of Swim TrunksRobb Report, April 26th
Orlebar Brown is expanding its ready-to-wear offerings with a capsule collection that is inspired by 19th-century maps and made in collaboration with Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes. Photo by Lisa Charles Watson, Styling by Charles W. Bumgardner...Read more
Stanford Is About to Have the Dopest Map Collection on EarthWIRED, April 19th
When you visit the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University's Green Library, if you can, take the stairs. Yes, you'll have to spiral up three flights, but the wallpaper will give you plenty of excuses to take a break. Like: a Grand Canyon...Read more
New York collector of antique maps claims to have original plat of Salt Lake CityDeseret News, April 7th
A New York dealer in antique maps and rare books claims to have found the first map of Salt Lake City. Paul Cohen, of Cohen and Taliaferro, recently obtained the original sheepskin plat map of the "Great City of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake" and...Read more
Inside the Packed Showrooms of a Prolific Map CollectorAtlas Obscura, March 28th
In the warmer months of 1964, Murray Hudson was taking a summer course at Oxford University. Every day on the way to class he would pass by Sanders, an antique maps and prints shop. One day, right near the end of his course, he walked in. That was the ...Read more