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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Designer Spotlight: Briana Gebauer
Wausau Daily Herald, November 24th

Other accent pieces in the room include a weathered wood table and lamp with a modern rectangular shade, a weathered wood sunburst-styled mirror and a framed vintage map of France. “It's family friendly but has a very artistic flair.” Gebauer said...Read more

Conservative expert on immigration law to pursue suit against executive action
Washington Post, November 22nd

He keeps an oversize dictionary open on a stand by his desk and an antique map collection on the walls. He went from being a champion high school debater, to graduating summa cum laude in his class at Harvard, to rowing for Oxford, to editing the Yale ...Read more

Community Calendar: Nov. 20, 2014
The Daily Star, November 20th

Four County Library System Cybermobile, 2 to 2:30 p.m., First Christian Church of South Valley, State Route 165. For info: 723-8236. Senior Citizen dinner, 3 to 6 p.m., Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School, cafeteria. For info: 264-9332 Ext. 501...Read more

Texas Land Office preserves history with digital maps
Dallas Business Journal, November 19th

High-quality digital reprints of the collection donated by Houston map collectors Frank and Carol Holcomb are now available for as little as $20 each. All proceeds from the sales will go to Save Texas History, a public-private effort to preserve and...Read more

Digitization of rare maps help Save Texas History
Your Houston News, November 18th

AUSTIN — Christmas came early at the historic archives of the General Land Office with a gift Texans worldwide will be eager to share. A private collection of some of the oldest and rarest maps of Texas is now available to the public, thanks to a...Read more

Scarborough is Phl, antique maps show (2)
Philippine Star, October 28th

Thirty-four maps of Asia and the Philippines, made over a span of 304 years, 1636-1940, show Scarborough Shoal as part of the archipelago. This debunks the claim of Beijing's Communist rulers over the entire South China (West Philippine) Sea by virtue...Read more

Scarborough is Phl, antique maps show (1)
Philippine Star, October 26th

Beijing's Communist rulers claim Scarborough Shoal by virtue of “ancient historical facts.” Yet, China's own antique maps and official declarations debunk that line. Made in 1136 to 1933, the 18 old maps consistently show Hainan island-province always...Read more

Artist Creates Work Using Digital Map Collection of New York Public Library
PSFK, August 19th

Electric Objects brings visual objects from the Internet into our homes, a project that received overwhelming support and enthusiasm during a month long Kickstarter campaign. The unique platform displays virtually anything from a web browser onto a...Read more