The World Through Maps: A History of Cartography

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9781552978115: The World Through Maps: A History of Cartography
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The history of mapping from prehistoric times to the present.

This book explores how maps were developed and why they reveal as much about the people who created them as they reveal about the world. Throughout the ages, maps have reflected religious beliefs, disseminated propaganda, expressed cultural attitudes, and promoted new theories.

Through accessible text and color images, the book traces the fascinating history of cartography. The ancient Greeks were brilliant cartographers whose mapping skills were honed as a result of the global conquests of Alexander the Great. Their understanding of a spherical Earth and how to depict it on a flat sheet of paper was nearly lost during the Middle Ages.

The book explains why in the 15th century, the value of sea charts rivaled gold as a primary target for buccaneer captains. Later, maps became status symbols among wealthy merchants who built vast fortunes thanks to thriving trade routes made possible by reliable sea navigation.

The World Through Maps is abundantly illustrated with historically important maps to explain the development of cartography. Significant maps include:

  • Aboriginal Dreamtime map
  • Ancient Greek maps including Ptolemy's map
  • Medieval maps of Europe
  • Ortelius's Atlas, World Theatre
  • Early maps of the New World
  • Lewis and Clark's maps of exploration
  • Modern maps in the age of satellites

Contemporary maps are so accurate and plentiful that they are often taken for granted. The World Through Maps is a lively book that tells why this was not always so.

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From the Author:

This beautiful and informative book examines the history of maps and mapmaking. It looks at the full historical range of maps and mapmaking from the earliest maps carved on rocks to satellite images. Maps from around the world are included.

Maps are technical documents and so some of this book is concerned with the technical aspects of maps. But they are also social documents that reveal the impress of power. Maps tell us where things are. But in what they include and exclude, what they emphasize and ignore and how they present information, maps reveal much about the social environment in which maps were produced and consumed.

The World Through Maps is unique in that it covers the full range of historical and geographical range of mapmaking, and is sensitive to questions of power and authority as to technique and design. It carefully deconstructs the social meaning and political implications of maps as well as recording the technical accomplishments of mapmaking.

The book is illustrated with an unmatched range of beautiful and fascinating illustrations. There is no other single volume that contains as many apt and informative color reproductions. Hopefully I've written it in a style that is fresh, informative and engaging.

If you can only have one book on the history of cartography; this is the book.

John Rennie Short

About the Author:

John Rennie Short is a professor of Geography at the University of Maryland, and is a leading authority in geographic studies.

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