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!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Michigan's Gayest Square Mile

Many people think of suburban Ferndale as the gay part of Detroit. Like much of the population, the white LGBT community gradually moved north until they left the city altogether. However in the early 1970's the Palmer Park area was the center of gay culture and there still is a sizable African-American gay community in the area.
The above map via WDET, was originally featured in a 1972 travel magazine. There are some nice pictorial elements but unlike many pictorial maps, the accuracy does not suffer from these details. The radio station's CuriosiD page includes this map along with stories, audio and an interactive map showing the movement of gay culture since 1930.
If the gay community has largely moved to the suburbs then the above map suffers from not including those areas. The only clear pattern is a general spreading out from downtown. There is a cluster of activity in Palmer Park* but it does not stand out from other areas. The color scheme is also not great for visualization.

*Palmer Park is immediately north of the jagged shaped hole in the city that includes the independent cities of Hamtramck and Highland Park.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Human Impact

Via - National Geographic
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications, based on satellite imagery and other data from 1993 and 2009 maps the human footprint in those years. The good news is that the human footprint has not grown in direct proportion to population or the economy. However, some of the most intense pressure on the planet is being felt in places with the highest diversity of plant and animal life.

The above map shows the current footprint with the least impacted areas in blue and the most impacted in yellow and red. The map below shows the change in our impact on the planet between 1993 and 2009. Some of the wealthier areas have seen improvements but many of these are also areas that are already highly impacted.
The National Geographic article discusses how we can help save our biodiversity by focusing protection efforts on species-rich areas such as the Amazon Basin that are seeing significant impact. There are also links to the Wildlife Conservation Society's interactive maps where you can see the current footprint and change for any chosen area.
In the above change map areas of increasing pressure on the environment are in red and decreasing pressure is in blue. Areas not colored have seen little change. Much the Midwestern farming areas have seen decreasing pressure while the red areas include outer suburbs and areas of resource exploitation such as natural gas fracking. Africa has seen a great increase in pressure in the semi-arid Sahel region. Europe has a bit of and east/west split with the east seeing increasing pressure.
The other interactive map includes a slider where you can compare the human impact in 1993 and 2009 as shown here in southern Brazil and Uruguay.
These maps can be explored further by clicking on them or at this link.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mapping Drug Research in South Africa

Professor Anne Pollock created Mapping iThemba, an interactive map for a research project on health issues based at iThemba Pharmaceuticals, a start-up company based on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Pollock wrote the text while the map was illustrated by J. Russell Huffman.  The lack of a traditional mapping background of the map's creators makes for a unique visual presentation. It does not look like a typical GIS or Google-based map though there are Google-y teardrop-shaped icons to click for more information.
The non-strict locational accuracy allows the highlights to be shown more clearly and frees up a more artistic interpretation. The map shows relevant details, leaving out many other details of the Pretoria-Johannesburg area, most notably the sprawl.
Except where needed-surrounding the medial campus. 
There are many other interesting details and side stories such as the historic dynamite factory, now a museum.
Those of us who make maps professionally often complain about maps made by non-cartographers but in the hands of the right people the results can be pretty nice.