I love maps

I’ve always loved maps. It doesn’t matter what type – street maps, road atlases, historical maps – I find them all fascinating. I’m not alone. A BBC TV programme in the Timeshift series of documentaries looked at the history of Britain’s Ordnance Survey (OS) but also included collectors talking about their obsession.

It isn’t surprising therefore that maps feature prominently in the shop. My favourites are probably the Fisk maps, from 1944 showing how the route of the Mississippi has changed over time. These combine scientific rigour with an aesthetic sense that elegantly illuminates thousands of years of historic change. This is just one from the full set of 15 available.


Map making also represents one of the high points of the engravers art. Examples are these tiny plans of various cities in Britain and Ireland published in 1726 by Pieter van der AA in Leiden.


Another beautiful example is this plan of London after the Great Fire of 1666.


Maps don’t have to be also plans. Look for example at this panoramic view of Leominster, Massachusetts. The level of detail is astonishing, with named streets and depictions of individual buildings.


As the Fisk series demonstrate maps don’t have to show a specific moment in time. This copy of a map from c1680 shows the journeys of the Apostle Paul.


This one shows the various battles of the American Civil War.

Some maps we may not even recognise as such. This one is from China about 1855.


Are these maps? They show specific buildings and could be used to navigate around the city in ways the map from China never could.


I haven’t really touched on uses of mapping – commercial, political, military, statistical purposes all lend themselves to map use. Nor have I covered their production – engraving, lithography etc. Another post or posts perhaps.


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