Archived entries for maps

London, 1560 – 1693


Braun and Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum I A. Anonymous engraving circa 1560.


Norden’s map of Westminster, surveyed and published 1593.


John Norden & Pieter Van den Keere, 1593


London. 1616. Visscher.

A Plan of the City and Liberties of London after the Dreadful Conflagration in the Year 1666

“This is an engraving of Wenceslaus Hollar’s map of London after the fire. The white area shows the extent of the ruins – 436 acres in total (373 acres within the City walls and 63 outside). This was about one-third of the total size of London at the time. Over the winter this area became the haunt of thieves. They looted the destroyed buildings and dragged passers-by into cellars, robbing them and leaving them for dead. People were afraid to go there at night. The rebuilding started in a piecemeal fashion as and when people found the money. Samuel Rolle commented in 1668 ‘Is London a village that I see, the houses in it stand so scatteringly?’ He also noticed that people were reluctant to move into their new, isolated, homes: ‘they refrain to go to them till their neighbourhood be increased’.”See more


London, 1695 Robert Morden (detail from Middlesex in Camden’s Brittannia)


Londini Angliae regni metropolis delineatio accuratissima / autore F. de Witt; ca. 1:13.000; Amsterdam : F. de Witt, c. 1693


Here Be Monsters

The word “monster” encloses a memory of monstrare, to show, as in “demonstrate,” and monsters were interpreted as revealing in many different ways: as in the Arabian Nights, the sea gave evidence of the plenitude and infinite variety of creation and the maps enriched understanding of the Book of Nature and its mirabilia. Artists working for the mapmakers portrayed elements of monstrosity with wonderful ingenuity, shuffling tusks, horns, fins, flippers, flukes, blowholes, tentacles, gills, scales, spikes, tails, and limbs to produce a catalog of jumbled creatures with eyes on their bodies and jaws on their tails and so forth. Many of these are “Poetical Animals,” as Thomas Browne called griffins, but others approximate whales and sharks, polyps and crabs, and in the view of these studies, the mappers were fumbling toward an empirical grasp, and trying to guide and protect navigators.An echo of monere, to warn, may also sound in the word “monster,” and while sea monsters may have embodied physical dangers, they were also frequently taken to be divine portents—Leviathans to punish the wicked or prophesy doom. Olaus Magnus was facing both ways, backward to medieval allegory, forward to empirical inquiry; but ancient fears still suffuse Melville’s vision of the white whale and Ahab’s pursuit, while recently, when two dead oarfish were discovered in California, one eighteen feet long, the other fourteen feet, they were immediately connected, rather shiveringly, with a local legend that such colossal snaky deepwater fish only surface when an earthquake is pending.

via Here Be Monsters by Marina Warner | The New York Review of Books.

Hermann Bollmann: Manhattan, 1948


Pearsall’s London A-Z project was intended to make the city legible for everyday life. We might contrast it with an entirely different but contemporary mapping of the modern metropolis of the German, Hermann Bollmann. Armed with a technique known to 19th-Century artist-cartographers as Vogelschaukarten, which dates back at least to Jacopo de’ Barbari’s 1500 map of Venice, Bollmann confronted modernity’s most demanding urban landscape: Manhattan Island. Using 67 ,000 photographs, 17,000 taken from the air, he created in 1948 a hand drawn map image that captures precisely the soaring quality of New York’s skyline, while rendering streets and buildings with remarkable accuracy.

“Carto-city” by Denis Cosgrove,
Else/Where: Mapping


One of the greatest cartographic feats of all time, this 1963 axonometric (‘bird’s eye view’) map of New York City was the first such since 1866. The technique dates back to the 15th century, and developed in Germany into a fully flowered cartographic art form called Vogelschaukarten in Germany in the 1800s. This particular map was prepared by Herman Bollmann for the 1864 New York World’s Fair, where it was sold at information and tourist kiosks.

In making the map in the 1950s, Herman Bollmann and his staff faced a seemingly insurmountable problem, one never before encountered by his few predecessors in axonometric cartography: how to show New York’s many and densely concentrated skyscrapers from the same angle and relative height, while not obscuring most of the city behind them?

He and his team designed and built special cameras to take 67,000 photos, 17,000 from the air. Using these photos as a base, they then began to hand draw the entire city. Using then-secret cartographic techniques, Bollmann and team managed to depict the smallest details while simultaneously conveying the city’s soaring, vertiginous beauty.

The viewer is thus placed in the position of an Olympian God, a perspective that no other technologic and artistic form offers, even in the Internet age: with this map spread out before you, you have the ability to look upon any part of the city at will, down to its smallest detail, without waiting for a camera to pan or zoom or cut, without waiting for the next web page to load or zoom.

via Geographicus

Mercator by Nicholas Crane

The great sixteenth-century cartographers, of whom Mercator would become the greatest, required two very different skills. They had to be able to garner, assimilate, adjudge and co-ordinate the geographical information provided by explorers and sailors who frequented the margins of the known. They also had to be able to imagine themselves suspended in the air, to achieve the visionary perspective of gods, gazing down on to the world from the amplitudes of heaven.Mercators name is most familiar to us because of the Mercator Projection: the solution he devised to represent the spheroidal surface of the globe on a two-dimensional plane. It is less well known that Mercator was the first man to conceive of mapping the entire surface of the planet or that he pioneered the idea of presenting multiple maps in bound books, to which he gave the name Atlas.

via Observer review: Mercator by Nicholas Crane | Books | The Observer.

Regards politiques sur les territoires

La carte peut ainsi faire l’objet de toutes sortes de manipulations, des plus grossières aux plus discrètes. Elle est éminemment politique, et considérée comme un efficace outil de propagande par le pouvoir. Prenons quelques exemples dans le monde arabe. M. Saddam Hussein, au lendemain de l’invasion du Koweït par ses troupes en août 1990, apparaît à la télévision avec la nouvelle carte officielle de l’Irak intégrant le Koweït – qu’il présente alors comme sa nouvelle province. La géographie, prétend-il, lui donne raison : le Koweït, situé au débouché du Tigre et de l’Euphrate, fait « naturellement » partie de l’Irak… Pour sa part, Rabat a pendant longtemps censuré toutes les publications dans lesquelles les cartes distinguaient le Maroc du Sahara ex-espagnol. Un trait, même tireté, entre les deux territoires, et la diffusion était interdite. Dans les pays du monde arabe, la simple représentation ou mention du nom d’Israël sur une carte équivalait à l’interdiction pure et simple de la publication. Soit on remplaçait le mot Israël par celui de Palestine et Israël disparaissait de l’index, soit on plaçait judicieusement un graphique en lieu et place du pays. La question était à ce point sensible que les services commerciaux des éditeurs scolaires français intervenaient directement auprès des responsables de collection pour imposer une représentation acceptable du Maroc et du Proche-Orient, et éviter ainsi de perdre d’importants marchés dans les pays francophones d’Afrique du Nord.

via Regards politiques sur les territoires, par Philippe Rekacewicz (Le Monde diplomatique).

Petrochemical America: Richard Misrach + Kate Orff (SCAPE)


Introducimos por primera vez en el blog un libro-investigación de enorme interés, Petrochemical America, no sólo por centrarse en el paisaje del río Mississippi, uno de los intereses fundacionales de este blog, sino por la propuesta y las personas que la desarrollan. Richard Misrach, fotógrafo norteamericano conocido en España sobre todo por sus fotografías del desierto norteamericano en la serie de los Desert Cantos, inicia el camino con un recorrido fotográfico por el tramo final del Mississippi, en Louisiana, donde los antiguos terrenos de las plantaciones se han convertido en una sucesión de industrias petroquímicas y alimentarias que han llevado a bautizar esta zona como Cancer Alley. Al igual que en obras anteriores Misrach busca el diálogo con otra mirada, en este caso con la arquitecta norteamericana Kate Orff, directora de la oficina SCAPE de NY. Juntos desarrollan una conversación en forma de ir y venir entre fotografías y cartografías que define un formato de investigación novedoso y de gran profundidad, cuyo mayor valor sin embargo es utilizar con la mayor honestidad y claridad las herramientas propias de cada disciplina, fotografía y arquitectura del paisaje, para expresar toda la complejidad de la situación presentada sin por ello rechazar ninguna de sus dimensiones ni abrumar al espectador con un trabajo excesivamente técnico. Al contrario, el recorrido a lo largo de sus más de doscientas páginas va dibujando progresivamente la situación envolviendo al lector con la fuerza expresiva de sus imágenes y la claridad expositiva de sus temas, acabando además con un interesante “esto debe continuar” en forma de caja de herramientas de la oficina SCAPE.




“Petrochemical America features Richard Misrach’s haunting photographic record of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor, accompanied by landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas—a series of “throughlines,” speculative drawings developed through research and mapping of data from the region. Their joint effort depicts and unpacks the complex cultural, physical, and economic ecologies along 150 miles of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, an area of intense chemical production that first garnered public attention as “Cancer Alley” when unusual occurrences of cancer were discovered in the region.

This collaboration has resulted in an unprecedented, multilayered document presenting a unique narrative of visual information. Petrochemical America offers in-depth analysis of the causes of decades of environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America. Even more critically, the project offers an extensively researched guidebook to the way in which the petrochemical industry has permeated every facet of contemporary life. What is revealed over the course of the book is that Cancer Alley—although complicated by its own regional histories and particularities—may well be an apt metaphor for the global impact of petrochemicals on the human landscape as a whole.”

See more at:

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

“Americans know what the oil and gas and coal landscape looks like – but do we really? There is a hidden side to America’s material prosperity. Most of its harmful manifestations are literally invisible – benzene and dioxins “disappear” into the air, while waste chemicals are pumped underground into injection wells. PCBs, Mercury, and Lead, toxic in the most imperceptible but potentially devastating amounts, persist in our bodies, in river sediment, in soils. Commonly used petrochemicals that are all around us and seemingly impossible to avoid have the potential to re-wire our bodies’ endocrine systems. Carbon dioxide, which has precipitated the global climate crisis, is largely invisible. We all seemingly benefit from fast-flowing oil, and cheap consumer goods and foodstuffs, but the profound negative effects and associated wastes remain localized, often in poor communities. On a regional scale, especially along the Louisiana coast, thousands of miles of canals, pipes, and oil platforms criss-cross the gulf and reach deep into the countryside, blocking animal migration paths. These channels cut for oil and gas pipelines lead to erosion and provide direct routes for salt-bearing tides, killing freshwater wetlands, which are disappearing at the rate of a football field every thirty-eight minutes, transforming inland communities into coastal towns. Even the mighty and mythical Mississippi River has been transformed in its lower reaches into a de facto waste pipe, receiving massive quantities of farm chemicals, sewage, and industrial waste, creating an eerie, temporarily lifeless expanse of water off the coast of Louisiana called the “dead zone.”"

via Kate Orff: Petrochemical America: Toward a New Energy Landscape

Detail of the map Americae 1562 (the Americas) by Diego Gutiérrez and Hieronymus Cock (engraver) via LoC and Wikimedia, via Charting The Unknown « The Dish.


Our relation with the “known unknowns”

One of cartography’s most persistent myths: mapmakers of yore, frustrated by the world beyond their ken, marked the blank spaces on their maps with the legend Here be monsters.

It’s a pleasing hypothesis. For to label a cartographic vacuum with the stuff of nightmares solves two problems at once. It explains why the fringes of contemporary knowledge didn’t match the outer limits of the entire world – monsters were keeping us out! And, by being equal parts fantastic and horrific, those monsters symbolise our fascination with the known unknowns [1] just out of our reach. What keeps us out is also what draws us in.

via 600 – Münster’s Monster Mash | Strange Maps | Big Think.

Melville’s Voyages


Map of Melville’s voyages and the voyage of the Pequod taken from the Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick, ed. by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford
via Moby-Dick Big Read, Day 44 | patell dot org.

Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Whale Chart

Whale Chart Maury

“This chart divides the ocean into districts of five degrees of latitude by five degrees of longitude; perpendicularly through each of which districts are three lines; one to show the number of days that have been spent in each month in every district, and the two others to show the number of days on which whales, sperm or right, have been seen.”

Herman Melville

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