How Do People Use The History of Cartography ?

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A clear introduction to the field

“As a late comer to the history of cartography, I find this project of tremendous help. The History of Cartography volumes have enabled me to get a better grip [on] the full range of the methodologies in the field, both classical and revisionist ones, and have inspired me to embark on my own research project. As it stretches over many research areas––cultural history, art history, historical geography, history of science and technology, history of printing and publishing, to name just a few––the history of cartography scholarship is deeply fragmented. A classically trained historian, such as myself, is usually at a loss in this strange labyrinth, shaped by deeply entrenched scholarly frontiers and by different, sometimes competing, national historiographical traditions. In this rather thwarted and hindered academic milieu, The History of Cartography provides me not only with the most appropriate research tools, but also with a much needed, systematic, clear, and overarching view [of the field].”

Marian Coman, University of Bucharest


A thorough overview

“Anyone with a serious interest in the history of cartography has turned and returned to The History of Cartography from the moment the first volume of this series was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1987. Since then, the coverage has been extended from earliest and medieval mapping to cartographic traditions in various cultures, to the European Renaissance [and Enlightenment], and to the Twentieth Century…

Never have we seen the world elite of map historians joining forces to produce such a prestigious publication, which has rightly been called ‘the most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken.’ Professionals, amateur researchers and map collectors around the world eagerly look forward to the volume covering the complicated 19th Century, a most decisive and also a most complex period in the evolution of cartography. Like no other, this book will unravel the pattern of often incoherent although quite spectacular advances in a discipline that became a science: international cartography.”

Wulf Bodenstein, Royal Museum for Central Africa


Teaching and advising

“In my teaching on twentieth-century historical geography, the sixth volume of The History of Cartography is my go-to reference for preparing lectures on maps, and my top recommendation for students undertaking coursework and dissertations on map-related topics. Its coverage is comprehensive, its treatment is highly accessible, even for non-specialists in technical subjects, and its presentation is rich and engaging. It is not only indispensable, it is a pleasure.”

Nick Baron, University of Nottingham


Supporting public research

“The History of Cartography volumes are essential to the work I do as a map curator and educator at the John Carter Brown Library, working with researchers who range from undergraduate and graduate students to mid-career and senior scholars. There is a tremendous transdisciplinary interest in historical maps but researchers often feel ill equipped to read and understand the maps that interest them: the History of Cartography volumes provide an invaluable service by offering to this range of researchers chapter-length technical, intellectual, and historical explanations that are authoritative, in-depth, and broad-reaching. I have used History of Cartography chapters in my own research and to help researchers understand different map genres, and the conventions that were used in their production, as well as the artistic, scientific, social and political contexts in which they were made.”

Bertie Mandelblatt, Brown University


Personal research

“I consult essays and entries in different volumes of the History on an almost daily basis in the course of my researches. Even where decades have elapsed since publication, they retain their value as starting points, and the series as a whole has become the bedrock for the subject.”

Peter Barber, former Head of Map Collections, British Library


Teaching in related fields

“In classes at Leiden University in which I am involved (history, maritime history, art history) I regularly use chapters from The History of Cartography. For instance, for the classes in maritime history, students have to read the chapters on ‘Maritime Cartography in the Low Countries’ (Volume 3.2) and on ‘Mapping the Dutch World Overseas’ (Volume 3.2). More in general, I always point students to the free available online pdfs of the series, as one of the most important reference works in the field.”

Martijn Storms, Leiden University


Building student interest

The History of Cartography is a crucial resource for my teaching of GIS and cartography. My first order from the library as I built GIS programs at Sarah Lawrence College and then the University of Tampa was the full run of the [series]. It is a dazzling and rich collection that draws students in to the beauty and power of maps like no other works I know of. Absolutely essential.”

Stephen McFarland, University of Tampa


Doctoral research

“In my ongoing doctoral dissertation, a biography of navigator and mapmaker Juan Vespucci, I am studying a portolan chart he made in 1520. For that, two chapters of The History of Cartography are proving to be an invaluable resource: Tony Campbell’s piece on medieval portolan charts (Volume 1), which remains the essential reference on the topic after so many years; and Corradino Astengo’s review of Renaissance portolan charts (Volume 3). Of course, I am checking many other articles of [the History] for other parts of my research, but these two chapters are really key.”

Luis A. Robles Macías, Université libre de Bruxelles


Preparing courses

The History of Cartography book series published by the University of Chicago Press is very relevant for my work as a professor in the history of cartography at the University of Amsterdam, [in] the Netherlands. When I show my students around the university’s map room, I always draw their attention to the physical book series on the shelf. In doing so, I explain to them that it provides a comprehensive, yet thematically, chronologically, and geographically organised overview and hence a good start to get acquainted with the various aspects and topics within the history of cartography. In order to prepare courses and seminars, I regularly ask them to read individual chapters which are available on the [publisher’s] website. And so do I when I am starting a new research or publication project.”

Bram Vanieuwenhuyze, University of Amsterdam


Editing scholarship

“In my editing for Imago Mundi I always look at the author’s references and bibliography expressly to see if they are citing The History of Cartography. If they make no mention of it, I point them to the relevant volume and/or chapter and tell them they cannot publish in IM without showing they are up to date with what is said there or that what they are saying in their article is adding to the scholarship therein.”

Catherine Delano-Smith, Institute of Historical Research, University of London


Cross-cultural research

“My research focuses on the communication between China and Western countries in cartography. For me, it is easy to know Chinese cartography because I live here. However, I need definitive books [on the] history of western cartography to supplement my knowledge. The History of Cartography is useful and helpful, and it plays a crucial role for me to expand my horizon, spread my knowledge.

Thanks to the Project. Thanks to the donors who give me a chance to learn the globe history of cartography. Thanks to the scholars who work hard and share their ideas with everyone.”

Jiajing Zhang, University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences


Beginning projects

“The History of Cartography volumes have become indispensable in the British Library’s Maps Reading Room, so heavily worn that some probably now need replacing. We recommend them as the first port of call for researchers visiting the Map Room for the first time, and so they have become, essentially, the new gateway to the subject.”

Tom Harper, British Library


Gathering sources

“The History is a crucial research tool. Its volumes promote dynamic reading: one moves from one entry-point to another, integrating information, sources, and references that are otherwise so dispersed as to require a great deal of time to locate and synthesis. Conversely, authoring several entries in volumes 4, 5 and 6 and coediting volume 5 have together been one of my most challenging academic experiences.”

Carla Lois, Universidad de Buenos Aires


Trustworthy bibliography

“The History of Cartography volumes are often my first port of call. For many years they have been indispensable for my own work, whether for picking up top-level information of proven reliability or, when engaged in a more probing investigation, to offer leads to the detailed sources.”

Tony Campbell, researcher and former Map Librarian of the British Library


In-depth study

“Volume 2, Book 2 is the indispensable cornerstone for any budding scholar interested in learning about and building a bibliography on East Asian cartography. Cordell Yee’s essays on Chinese map culture, which comprise roughly 200 pages of that volume, have proven especially inspirational over the years, continually provoking readers to question scholarly orthodoxy. I keep my own bound copy close at hand, but am thrilled to be able to refer students to the online site, where they can consult this landmark scholarship in its entirety for free. What an amazing public service.”

Kären Wigen, Stanford University


Accessible teaching materials

“It’s hard to imagine teaching or researching in the history of cartography before the wisdom of two generations of international scholars was collected and distilled into accessible format. While Skidmore College owns the volumes, I am able to dive into and direct students to chapters online, for both teaching and research. When I was curious about the origins of portolan charts, or who in medieval England owned and used maps, the HOC had the answers, as well as the bibliography to send me further. My first year students are reading short essays on medieval maps for this Friday’s class (their first reading assignment) and upper division students range more broadly as they develop research projects. In a word, while there is plenty of excellent work to be found beyond the series (and more work to be done in the field), it’s a benchmark, indispensable starting point.”

Jordana Dym, Skidmore College


Comparing traditions

“I use many essays from the book on East Asian cartography as reading material for my undergraduate classes on East Asian History of Cartography, and also in my graduate class on Chinese cultural history.

As a specialist on Chinese history, I read sections on Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan traditions of cartography, for my own research.

I read selected sections on European (such as essays on portolan charts) for my own edification and for comparative framework in my research writing.”

Linda Rui Feng, University of Toronto


Library consultation

“The volumes of The History of Cartography provide a magnificent overview for understanding the global evolution of the history of cartography. In our map library they are among the books most consulted by our readers.”

Carme Montaner, Cartoteca de Catalunya


Seeing the big picture

“Map history can be bewildering for students as they try to make sense of the broad sweep of human culture, technology, and history across the globe. The History of Cartography series provides indispensable context that can help them understand maps as complex artifacts, grounded in particular moments and places. Those looking at an unfamiliar map for the first can begin to analyze and interpret it alongside history of cartography scholarship that describes who made it, where it came from, and what it reveals about the culture that produced it.”

S. Max Edelson, University of Virginia


During the International Conference on the History of Cartography, held in July 2019 in Amsterdam, we asked our friends and colleagues to share their thoughts about how they use the volumes of The History of Cartography in their teaching and research. We thank all the map scholars who contributed for submitting some brief thoughts and for their permission to share. We welcome your own comments, too; simply email hcart-office@geography.wisc.edu.