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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Pre-Digital Cartography Is Still Key To 'Mapping' Human HistoryForbes, October 11th
“We want to be grounded in a place with which we are familiar,” John Hessler, curator of the world's largest map collection at the Library of Congress and a consulting editor and contributor for the book, told me. “Maps give us the illusion that...Read more
Hispanic genealogy research in Fort Worth Genealogy CalendarExaminer.com, October 11th
There is an antique map component as well. Genealogists are encouraged to learn about this free software. Mark your calendar: Texas author, historian and archaeologist William E. Moore will talk about the role that calabooses, small buildings used for...Read more
Discoveries: X marks the spot for unique San Francisco map shopSacramento Bee, October 10th
To call Schein & Schein merely an antique map and print shop fails to capture the scope of its breadth and appeal. What spouses Jimmie and Marti Schein sell are history and memories, guides to where we came from and, perhaps, where we're going...Read more
New University of Oregon Pioneer Uniforms Ignore Oregon TribesIndian Country Today Media Network, October 10th
A silhouette of Lewis and Clark, along with The Duck, appears as a decal on the helmet of the new University of Oregon uniforms. Wrapping both sides of the headwear, it features Lewis looking through a telescope and The Duck pointing west, a nod to the ...Read more
Some of Chicago's oldest maps discoveredCrain's Chicago Business, October 6th
A hand-drawn 1850s copy of an 1835 map is the showpiece in a portfolio of 39 antique maps of Chicago that Berk calls the Ogden Archive. "Basically, these maps show Chicago being born," Berk said ... Unearthed at an estate sale earlier this year by a...Read more
Journey across India's spiritual history with vintage mapsInquirer.net, September 14th
A collection of 72 ancient Indian maps of pilgrimage routes and temples chronicles the art of map-making and its relevance in the contemporary world of technically–aided aesthetic. The scale does not matter because the work of art is a map. The focus...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