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

Sailing on land aboard Neruda's ship-like homes in Chile
Detroit Free Press, May 23rd

At Isla Negra, built on a rocky cliff over the Pacific Ocean, tourists can "navigate on land," as Neruda would say, taking a journey through a vast collection of ship figureheads, antique maps, compasses and shells of all sizes. His two other nautical...Read more

Made It: iHanna's Spring 2015 Postcard Swap Part One
Holland Sentinel (blog), May 22nd

Here, I used a scrap of altered vintage map (below the owl sticker) and a strip of decorated duck tape (opposite side). I added a previously-stamped bird image and cut out "THE HAPPY WAY" from a vintage book. For the background, I dotted the postcard ...Read more

Several new art exhibits going up at Cedarhurst
The Southern, May 22nd

Dilnot frequently lines the interiors with antique maps and arranges the birds in small flocks, setting them on perpetual cartographic journeys. "Creativity Redefined," designed to encourage a creatively conscious community, will be exhibited in The...Read more

Wordplay: typographic installations from Monotype
Creative Review (blog), May 22nd

Celebrate, on the aptly named Sans Walk, uses archive imagery from the Museum of London, including vintage maps of Clerkenwell and the surrounding area, Festival of Britain artwork, a painting of nearby St Paul's and one of Sidney Paget's Sherlock ...Read more

Creative showcase in Miramar
Sun Sentinel, May 21st

It was created using vintage maps, newspaper clippings about his artwork, photographs of local waterways and a watercolor portrait of the fish's face. "'Blue Fish' was actually experimental," he said. "I like the dimensional quality and the play of the...Read more

Louisiana Quads Add Trails and Survey Data
Spatial News (press release), May 20th

Several of the 812 new US Topo quadrangles for Louisiana now display public trails along with improved data layers. Other significant additions include public land survey system information (PLSS), redesign of map symbols, enhanced railroad information ...Read more

These Online Maps Can Tell You Where Your Wine Came From
Wired, May 18th

The top half, according to Google, is called Digger Bend. That's where the vineyards are. Detail from an illustrated atlas of Sonoma county published in 1898. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. You can see the vineyards in Google's satellite...Read more

Exhibit highlights State Library and Archives' map collection
Business Clarksville, May 11th

In the movies, explorers consult well-weathered maps to aid them in their pursuit of hidden treasures. In historical research, though, the maps themselves often are the treasures.Maps provide clues not only about political boundaries and geographic...Read more