Review of Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities
Book by Frank Jacobs
Review by Eva Dodsworth, University of Waterloo
Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities is the print version of a selection of maps collected by Frank Jacobs and posted on his Strange Maps blog. The blog has approximately 500 maps with corresponding descriptions and comments, of which 138 have been selected and published in the atlas.
Unlike traditional geographic and thematic atlases, Strange Maps is comprised of unordinary, remarkable, and eccentric maps that span several centuries, continents, and themes. Accompanying every map is a carefully written description of not only the map itself, but a thorough discussion of the map’s purpose, the atlas author’s interpretation of it, and his remarks on any historical, political, literary and/or geographical influences and contributions that the map may have had in its creation. It is clear that the author has researched many aspects of the maps, providing between one to two pages of insightful descriptions for each of the “cartographic curiosities.”
The author describes his anthology of maps as an anti-atlas, where the maps are clearly not to be used for navigational purposes. It quickly becomes obvious that this atlas is a collection of rare maps that fall under their own category of “light-hearted and strange”; it is filled with cartographic misconceptions, fictitious creations, artistic renditions, humorous works, propaganda, and bias.
The atlas is divided into 18 thematic sections: Cartographic Misconceptions, Literary Creations, Artography, Zoomorphic Maps, (Political) Parody, Maps as Propaganda, Obscure Proposals, Ephemeral States, Strange Borders, Exclaves and Enclaves, A Matter of Perspective, Iconic Manhattan, Linguistic Cartography, Based on the Underground, Fantastic Maps, Cartographs and other Data Maps, Maps from Outer Space, and Whatchamacallit. There are between four and 11 maps for each category, almost all available in color. Essentially every second page features a map, with its description available either on the same or the opposite page, depending on the map size. Examples of some of the types of maps found in this atlas include:
Literary Creations: Many literary works include maps of fictitious places and settings. Frank Jacobs included a few of these maps; for instance, Thomas More’s fictional island of Utopia, situated in the Americas, and The Land of Oz from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Frank Jacobs’ descriptions of the literary maps include a summary of the story, description of the details seen on the maps, and a discussion of why the cartographer/artist may have drawn things the way he did.
I loves me some maps, Taz
... thanks for the post.
I've seen some of these before. Some are nice, others, meh, and some I'm going to need to research more because the sources seem a little sketchy.
I'm currently reading a book about maps called "On The Map." So far it's mostly been about early history of cartography. As far as readability, it's kind of like reading a newspaper (which makes sense as the author is a NY Times columnist), and it is informative, but a bit dry.