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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
David Rumsey Map Collection
U. Texas Map Collection
Maps: Finding Our Place in the World
Harvard University Collections
The American Memory Project
New York Public Library
Ephemera Society of America
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Maps
Source: Google News
Astronomical sleuth reveals the timing of the iconic 1945 'Kiss'Los Angeles Times, 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
Mapping the Census Like It's 1870Atlas Obscura, June 30th
The small selection of maps showed everything from how rainfall was distributed across the nation to how much woodland remained in the country, all described in the elegant language of vintage maps. Following the publication of the initial Statistical...Read more
Collecting Guide: MapsChristie's, June 30th
Although the family weren't well-known for their map collection, their status gives the atlases more gravitas since they are from a good library. Then there are maps owned by famous explorers: we sold a manuscript map of Livingston's Zambezi...Read more
1200 jobs affected as Microsoft shifts display-ad work to AOLThe Seattle Times, June 29th
Separately on Monday, Microsoft confirmed it had sold some map-collection technology to ride-service company Uber. That deal, the terms of which weren't disclosed, affects about 100 Microsoft employees, and was reported earlier Monday by news site ...Read more
China urges Japan to stay away from South China Sea disputesThe Japan Times, June 29th
One good example is the antique map Chancellor Merkle gave President Xi. It clearly showed China's claims to historical ownership of the Senkakus and South China Sea to be false. Beijing promptly redrew the antique map to agree with its claims...Read more
Hay fever: a reader's highlights of the literary festivalThe Guardian, June 28th
After this we went to a variety of book shops including a vintage map shop. It was more interesting than it sounds! James Dawson and HGirl1000 at the Hay Festival 2015. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. James Dawson and HGirl1000 at the Hay Festival 2015...Read more
Visitors crowd town for annual BHA tourCarolinacoastonline, June 27th
William Carwood, owner of Fine and Rare Antique Maps, traveled from Rome, Ga., to participate in the show, and learned about the antique show from another dealer. The turnout for the opening day of the antiques show was one of the best ones yet ...Read more
Vintage Map Paperweights & Magnets Make Great GiftsTAPinto.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