Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Good Old Maps

Good news for anyone who enjoys flipping through or zooming in on freaky medieval maps (everyone, right?):

Three of my great fascinations — cartography as art, propaganda design, and antique maps — converge in Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art. The lavish tome collects cartographic curiosities from the golden age of display maps — the period between 1450 and 1800, when maps were as much a practical tool for navigation as they were works of art and affirmations of cultural hegemony or social status — culled from the formidable collection of the British Library.

That's Brain Picking's wonderful Maria Popova, who today features several excerpts from the map collection (it's $24.95), and then here's the zoomable website, where I now live. Magnificent.

18 Comments / Post A Comment

The Lady of Shalott


I love these old antique maps so much I have one on my wall. But one day I am going to get a nice copy framed rather than the cheap one I have tacked up.


@The Lady of Shalott Same here! I adore maps (especially old ones) and globes and anything geography related. I would totally be a collector if I had kajillions of dollars.


@olivebee I have had a map on the wall of every house I have ever lived in. Usually the Peter's Projection, because we were that kind of family (that xkcd comic was too close to home.) Except not this house, for some reason? GET ON IT, ME. MORE MAPS!

Edit: hyperlink disappeared: http://xkcd.com/977/


Looove maps. I'm going to have a map room in my new house.


i loveses maps. especially pirate maps. do they make a poster of a lotr or game of thrones map? *off to google*


@LeafySeaDragon I don't know if the make a GOT map but as a kid I definitly had maps of Middle Earth and Narnia on my walls! I also had a map showing the moon's surface, so I think it's fair to say I was a pretttty cool kid.


@Decca The coolest, clearly. (I suddenly have an intense urge for a map of Middle Earth on my wall. I do have a map of online communities!)


@Verity EEEEeee! I do have a map of Middle Earth on my wall. And a flag of Rohan on the other.

I also bought a smallish map of the London Underground to match my shower curtain.

I am definitely going to need this book, though.


UGH, I love old maps! Especially ones with sea serpents.


Ooh, I went to this exhibition when it was at the British Library! It was great. I wanted to take ALL THE MAPS home. One of my favourites was Tea Revives the World (pictured in the first link) which was a world map with illustrations and captions about how tea relates to the lives of people around the world. Sadly, the captions are too small to read online.

oh well never mind

@Verity I went to this too! Did you go and see the Illuminations exhibition more recently? That was pretty spectacular as well.


@moosette Sadly, no. I will keep an eye out for other cool stuff there, though!

the angry little raincloud

Yay, maps!
I wish I had oodles and oodles of money, because I would buy all of Grayson Perry's most awesome maps. They're not old (in fact, from 2008), but they capture the spirit and he is beyond awesome. I am an old, so do not know how to shorten the URL and make it look fancy:

Total aside, you know that ridiculous overpriced British leathergoods store, Smythson? They have atlases (atlanten? I think there's some fancy plural...) bound in that delicious, ridiculous, overpriced Smythson leather. The atlas itself is nothing special, but oh, the binding.


I took an actual semester-long class on medieval maps in college because a) I'm a supernerd and b) Sarah Lawrence!


In Manhattan, Argosy Bookstore on 59th between Lexington & Park is a great shop for old maps and prints. I have a set of prints called Wildflowers of New York that I got there, and each one was either $3 or $10. The framing cost more than the prints. I also got a friend a great vintage map of Ohio for her birthday.

Julee Johnson

Argosy Bookstore is one of our customers! A great place for books of all kinds, including travel books, and our reproductions of antique maps. Over 400+ world maps, city plans, sea charts (including monsters and sailing ships!) and birds-eye views can be found at www.HistoricUrbanPlans.com. Medieval (c.1400s) to early 20th century, maps of the New World, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceana. Of course, don't miss the map displays at the British Library - the originals are spectacular!

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