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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Worth the Drive: Downtown PittsburghPittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 27th
If you're looking for a unique gift or something for your walls, check out the antique maps and prints — with or without custom framing — as well as vintage and costume jewelry. They have American landscapes, world views, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh...Read more
What to buy your boss this Christmas: classy Secret Santa gifts perfect for ...Telegraph.co.uk, November 26th
Not On The High Street has a wide range of both retro and classic flasks, including this vintage map flask for £15, designed by Posh Totty Designs Interiors. The vacuum flask was devised by Sir James Dewar, a Scot at Oxford University in 1892 who...Read more
CNN map replaces 'Israel' with 'Palestina'Ynetnews, November 25th
A company spokesperson later said HarperCollins "regretted" the omission and ended the sale of the HarperCollins Middle East Atlas, promising to destroy remaining copies of the offending map collection. Tweet ...Read more
Frontispiece antique map and framing celebrates 20 years in east LondonThe Wharf, November 24th
From Fleet Street photographer to firefighter to founder of Canary Wharf's antique map and framing shop Frontispiece , Reginald Beer has experienced a varied career. That's not including the time he spent teaching at east London high school, St Paul's...Read more
Looking at maps at the MHS and AthenaeumThe Boston Globe, November 8th
A map collection provides a window on the institution that owns it — in the case of the Massachusetts Historical Society, with “Terra Firma: The Beginnings of the MHS Map Collection,” the institution's past — and with “Collecting for the Boston...Read more
Anniversary antique map collection opensMacau Daily Times, November 3rd
02 The Central Library and the University of Science and Technology (MUST) are jointly launching an exhibition of antique maps of Macau, exploring the transition, growth and development of the territory. To mark the 120th anniversary of the Central...Read more
Confusing Geography Terms (Somewhat) Clarified on this Beautiful Vintage MapVisual News, September 5th
If you've ever pondered the difference between a headland and a point, this wonderful antique map from about 1870 is for you. Featured over at the David Rumsey Collection, it highlights geographical terms while letting the image itself do the talking...Read more
Morton Grove Historical Museum to feature antique map collectionChicago Tribune, August 31st
If you have forgotten what a paper map looks like, the Morton Grove Historical Museum will have plenty on display as a refresher of times before GPS and smartphones. Opening Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. the new exhibit entitled Morton Grove Maps will feature a ...Read more