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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McClung Museum accepts collection of centuries-old mapsUTDailyBeacon.com, March 5th
But many antique maps tell the story of how the world was seen before cartographers had mastered the science of creating accurate, correctly scaled images. Thanks to New York gallery owner Graham Arader, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture ...Read more
Antique city map begs questionsYork News-Times, March 5th
Antique map of York. News-Times/Maegan Detlefs - This antique map of York was found in Overton, Neb. by a relative of Paulette Heiden. It is unclear what purpose the map served, but it gives a peek into what pre-1940s York looked like. Posted: Friday ...Read more
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain MGO trailer and special editionsDen Of Geek, March 4th
As for the special editions, they'll be suitably extravagant, with the Collector's Edition featuring a steelbook case, making of Blu-ray, physical map, collection of in-game weapons, cardboard boxes, costumes and Metal Gear Online equipment. The...Read more
Did you know, Omaha's downtown library has a historical map collection?Omaha World-Herald, February 27th
Each month, this space will be dedicated to a library resource or service available free with your Omaha Public Library card. The 10th annual Restore Omaha Conference will take place today at Metropolitan Community College's South Omaha Campus...Read more
Maps at McClung Museum offer glimpse into historyKnoxville News Sentinel, February 23rd
Professor Henri Grissino-Mayer examines the hand-drawn details in an antique map of Spain on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015, at the University of Tennessee Burchfiel Geography Building. Dating from 1740, it is one of almost 200 rare maps recently given to UT's ...Read more
Armstrong Map Collection on displayGeorgia College News, February 16th
Pieces of the Armstrong Map Collection will be on display outside of Special Collections. Donated by former faculty, Dr. Tom Armstrong and his wife, Dr. Janice Fennell Armstrong, 40 maps in total now reside in Special Collections. The eight maps...Read more
Vintage map of the mound complex near Lake MinnetonkaMinneapolis Star Tribune (blog), February 16th
My Sunday column described the disturbance of an Indian mound at the east end of Lake Minnetonka, despite the area having been mapped as an archaeological site as early as 1883. Below is a map of the so-called Shaver Mounds included in a 1911 book, ...Read more
Map collector to give presentationHiawatha World, February 13th
Brown County map collector, Wesley Miller has a well preserved antique collection of Brown and Nemaha County Plat maps. They will be the topic of his presentation, at the 7 p.m. meeting on Thursday, Feb. 19 at the Brown County Genealogical Society, 116 ...Read more