Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Favorite Maps-Part 3

 Swiss topographic maps have set a standard for cartographic excellence since 1838.

Since the early 1960's these maps have been based on the pioneering relief shading of Eduard Imhof.
Imhof employed the concepts of natural vision where colors of nearby objects are brighter than more distant objects. In the case of a map (from an overhead perspective) the higher elevations get the brightest colors, while the lowest elevations are a grayish blue tint. The map is illuminated obliquely from the left side and is enhanced by contour lines and rock drawings.

 The online interactive version seamlessly integrates raster information (scanned paper maps) with vectors (geodata) to the extent that it is often unclear which you are seeing. As you zoom out, the map seemlessly changes scale, while retaining its beauty.

I am also fascinated with the way they generalize features - as you zoom out buildings and other shapes simplify, merge and eventually disappear. Click below for a more legible image.
You can wander through the Swiss mountains here and/or purchase paper maps here.

Note - this is the last of the "Favorite Maps" series for now but I may have additional installments in the future.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Favorite Maps-Part 2

Erwin Raisz - Landforms of the United States, 1957
Raisz was a Hungarian civil engineer. When he came to the United States he began working for the Ohman Map Company in New York City where he also taught one of the nation's first cartography classes at Columbia University. Eventually he ended up at Harvard University where he also curated their excellent map collection. His artistic talent, memory, eye for detail and scientific knowledge combined to make a remarkably detailed and beautiful map.
I first encountered this map in 1991 when working on the Historical Atlas of Massachusetts. We used the map as a backdrop for the a graphic showing the geology and ecology of the northeastern United States.
 I've been fascinated with this map ever since. Here are some nice details.
He uses some gorgeous hand lettering-especially for the water features. Note the ancient glacial lake shoreline at the western edge of this section. I'm also intrigued by his space saving labeling of smaller cities ("S" for Sandusky, "Y" for Youngstown, etc.) This is one example of the kind of unconventional techniques that make me uncomfortable, but in a good (teaching moment) kind of way.
Another unconventional technique - where the landforms were either less well explored or not available, he created a mostly empty space with the text "Laurentian upland of low hills and many lakes." I find it curious that Mexico is mostly empty, except a small area along the California and Arizona boundaries, while Canada is mostly filled in.
The legend showing multiple features in one box - another unconventional but very successful approach.

 Dramatic landscapes look great...
...but even in mostly flat areas, such as this part of Kansas, he still managed to keep the features interesting.
You can browse this map from the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Raisz created similar maps for regions around the world.
A list of his and purchase prices can be found at the Raisz Landform Maps web page.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Favorite Maps-Part 1

People often ask me what my favorite map is. For whatever reason I don't do well with favorites. I don't have a favorite map, or song, book, etc. In attempt to answer I will post three separate maps (possibly more if they come up) that are among my favorites over the next few weeks. The order of these map does not reflect preference. If anything they will be ordered from closest to farthest away.

The first map is the one that appears in the header image of this blog. It also appears on my dining room wall. I've discussed this map before in public so some of you have heard my spiel before - sorry in advance for repeating myself.
A PLAN OF THE CITY AND ENVIRONS OF PHILADELPHIA. Surveyed by N. Scull and G. Heap. Engraved by Willm. Faden 1777

Having spent much of my childhood in Philadelphia, this map resonates with me. I like looking at very urban areas I know fairly intimately and seeing them as farms or quaint villages. I realize they were probably not as quaint as they look on the map but it's fun to entertain that fantasy. There are many nice details such as...
The quaint, industrial village of Frankford, now sitting under an elevated subway line. A similar map is shown on a mural underneath the tracks as highlighted in a previous post. As seen throughout the map, homesteads are listed by family name. Many of these names are still prevalent in area place names.
Elevation of the State House (now Independence Hall)
The entanglements laid across the river to disrupt navigation and protect the city in wartime. Also notice the nice flow lines in the river and around the islands. Those of us familiar with the city will also appreciate how much land has been filled in. The river is much narrower now and many of these islands are now part of the mainland. Many of the rivers and channels here are now underground. Also, I like that Red Bank shows up. I was born in Red Bank, New Jersey - a different (much larger) one.
I'm pretty sure that the shaded blocks are what was actually settled and the unshaded blocks were laid out but not yet built.
Point No Point!

Other nice details include forts, swamps. ferries, America's first paper mill, the calligraphy in the title block, and the table of distances to the "moft remarkable PLACES."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Joan Blaeu's Remarkable World Atlas

Joan Blaeu produced a remarkable 11 volume atlas between 1662 and 1665. It was the largest book published during the 17th Century. 
These volumes were meant to be the first part of a larger series. The title translates to "Grand Atlas or Blaeu's Cosmography, in which are most accurately described earth, sea, and heaven" with a second part about the oceans and a third about the stars. However, he did not live long enough to publish those volumes.

This summer I went to the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine to see their Pictorial Maps exhibit (see my previous blog post for a review.)  The first map in the exhibit though not "American" or part of the "Golden Age" was from this atlas and meant to show an early use of pictorial decorations on maps.
While I was there, they let me look at a volume of this atlas. I chose the first volume and took pictures of various pages, including the map above (though the image from Osher shown above is much better than my photo.) It was an amazing experience to hold a volume of this atlas in my hands. Unfortunately between the lousy notes I took and my lack of knowledge of Latin, I don't have much to add to the photos I took - here they are.
From the Introduction - the orbit of the known planets, going out as far as Saturn.
The first volume is mostly focused on the Arctic regions. Above is the island of Spitsbergen, below is the adjacent island of Jan Mayen with some great (and probably very exaggerated) details.
More easily recognizable to most people, Iceland.
In addition to maps, the atlas has some great pictorial details including this Walrus illustration,
and whatever this totem is. If I could read Latin, I might be able to figure it out. Note: see comments for a good explanation.
There are also details of buildings and other public and religious spaces. Again, I don't know what we're looking at here.
UPDATE: Reader Ted Kottler has identified this as Tycho Brahe's observatory on the island of Hven (aka Ven), Sweden in the Oresund, the strait between Sweden and Denmark. 

I'll finish up with one more map. After much curiosity and digging around, I figured out that the map below is part of the Nordfriesland district in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany along the border with Denmark. I'm still not sure what the underwater streams are - some elaborate planned land reclamation, ocean drainage project?
Once again, I would like to thank the kind and helpful staff at the Osher Map Library for allowing me to see and hold this atlas. Though the pictorial map exhibit is over, there are still lots of great things to see there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Map Your Mind

Map Your Mind collects personal stories and memories of Utrecht in the Netherlands. People are encouraged to sign up, create a hand drawn card and share it with others.
Maps are annotated with personal observations and artistic or local details
Most are geographical representations with varying degrees of abstraction. The map above focuses on artistic representations of the Oudegracht Canal and various streets. The map below is a fairly accurate geographic representation of the canals, streets and railroads of central Utrecht. User Hannet has a good sense of geography.
Whereas De Map van Debbie is just an annotated Google map.

On the other hand some cards are not maps at all.
Contributors are encouraged to put a short legend below explaining the locations. The stories and explanations really help give life the maps.
 Some users like Jaap, however, prefer to let the map speak for itself.
These are fun to look at - the list of "mappen" can be found here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Bridges of Allegheny County

The Evolution of Pittsburgh's River Bridges is an interactive map companion to the book, Pittsburgh's Bridges, from the "Images of America" series
Bridges are color coded by type and the slider in the upper left corner lets you see what bridges existed over the last 200 years. You can pan and zoom and click on a bridge for details from the book.
Yes many of them are yellow!
Where photos are not available there are diagrams of the bridges.
The map was produced by Lauren Winkler, who also made a nice map poster for the book.

Bonus map - Pittsburgh's bridges in 1902-animated birds-eye view!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Seven Hills of Everywhere

Rome was built on seven hills. Here they are (the ones inside the city walls):

Many other cities decided that they wanted a piece of Rome's glory and created their own seven hills legends. Here is Wikipedia's extensive list of cities claiming to have seven hills. Of course the nature of hills make it easy to cherry pick various topographical features to come up with seven hills, and also to dispute those claims. Cincinnati seems like a good example of a city that's trying too hard to arrive at exactly seven hills.
Also cities tend to expand to include more hills and many of the original ones have been leveled. Here is a collection of various seven hills maps for your reading pleasure.

Jerusalem - they had seven hills long before Rome. Here is a sketch showing seven hills within the old (third) city wall

One of the first cities to jump on the seven hills bandwagon was Constantinople (Istanbul) - here is a map from the Hebrew wikipedia. The hills are numbered but not named.

Rome, Georgia - if you're going to name your city Rome, it might as well have seven hills.,_Georgia#/media/File:Rome_Georgia%27s_7_Hills_and_3_Rivers.png

Richmond, Virginia took the extra step of listing their seven hills in a 1937 ordinance. The goofy colored triangles represent "official" hills. Several other gray triangles shown are "unofficial" hills. The far west hill is called "Oregon" because that's how far west it seemed to the rest of the city at the time. The complete list is here. You can explore them interactively here.

St. Paul, Minnesota - they can only agree on five of them, and some of them are really just bluffs rising up from the river. A full accounting of them can be found here.

Here is a nice map and description of Seattle's seven hills...
... except maybe there are really twelve?

In Africa, Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon is known as La Ville aux Sept Collines (city of seven hills)  - all of them are on the west side of the city.

Thiruvananthapuram-capital of Kerala Province India
Maybe not. The Hindu (souurce for this graphic) says "if we start counting the hills in the city, it becomes confusing. Hills there are, but to decide on the seven that the city rests on, is near impossible. The really high hills are outside the city."

Near me Somerville, Massachusetts claims seven hills and has a park devoted to them with cute towers marked for each hill.
I was unable to find a good map of the seven hills so I made my own hand drawn one. Enjoy!