Book of Maps: A Journey Through History and Geography
Maps are more than just tools for navigation. They are also works of art, expressions of culture, and records of history. Maps can reveal how people have explored, understood, and shaped the world over time. In this article, we will look at some of the most fascinating and influential maps ever created, and how they reflect the changing views and values of their makers and users.
One of the earliest known maps is the Babylonian Map of the World, dating from around 600 BC. It shows a circular landmass surrounded by a ring of water, with eight triangular regions representing different countries. The map is oriented with east at the top, and depicts Babylon as the center of the world. The map reflects the cosmology and geography of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, which believed that the earth was flat and circular, and that Babylon was the most important city in the world.
Another ancient map that has influenced many later ones is the Ptolemaic World Map, based on the work of the Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. It shows a spherical earth divided into three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. The map uses a grid system of latitude and longitude to locate places, and incorporates information from various sources, such as travelers, traders, and astronomers. The map reflects the scientific and mathematical knowledge of the Greco-Roman world, as well as its cultural and political interests.
One of the most famous maps in history is the Hereford Mappa Mundi, a medieval map of the world created around 1300 AD. It shows a circular earth with Jerusalem at its center, and depicts various biblical scenes, historical events, mythical creatures, and exotic lands. The map is oriented with east at the top, following the Christian tradition of facing Jerusalem when praying. The map reflects the religious and moral worldview of medieval Europe, as well as its curiosity and imagination about the unknown.
One of the most influential maps in history is the Mercator World Map, created by the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It shows a cylindrical projection of the earth, with parallel lines of latitude and longitude. The map preserves angles and shapes, making it useful for navigation and sailing. However, it also distorts sizes and distances, making areas near the poles appear larger than they are. The map reflects the technological and commercial developments of the Age of Exploration, as well as its colonial ambitions.
One of the most innovative maps in history is the Peters World Map, created by the German historian Arno Peters in 1973. It shows an equal-area projection of the earth, with parallel lines of latitude and longitude. The map preserves areas and proportions, making it more accurate and fair than other projections. However, it also distorts shapes and angles, making continents appear stretched or squashed. The map reflects the social and political concerns of the 20th century, such as human rights, environmental issues, and global equality.
These are just some examples of how maps can tell us stories about history and geography. There are many more maps to explore and learn from, each with its own perspective and purpose. If you are interested in discovering more about maps and their makers, you might want to check out these books:
Great Maps: The World’s Masterpieces Explored and Explained by Jerry Brotton. This book showcases 64 maps from different times and places, and explains how they were created and what they reveal about their contexts.
The Book of Maps: A Novel by Ernest Thompson . This book tells the story of a father-son road trip across America in 2002, following a 1930s travel guide that features maps of various states.
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