Great Maps (Review)

I think that maps can reveal much about the people who draw them and use them.  In my opinion, this holds true whether the map was drawn by a child, a Cro-magnan hunter, a later explorer, or a Web map. In most cases, someone has developed a concept about their surroundings and wishes to communicate, in visual form, their knowledge to other people.GreatMaps-cover

I don’t know the scholarly name for the large group of people, like me, who are captivated by maps. Maybe we’re cartophiles?  Whatever we’re called, maps are a good way to find directions to our hearts. Bring out some maps, and we’ll be engrossed for hours. This is one reason I needed to bring home a copy of Great Maps–The World’s Masterpieces Explored And Explained by Jerry Brotton.

The book is published by DK Smithsonian, so I expected peerless quality. I certainly was not disappointed. Each of the more than 60 maps is not only a feast for the eyes, it is food for the intellect. The book is not just a pretty knock-off for the coffee table. The contents of Great Maps will satisfy the curious mind of the explorer within.


To get the most, distraction-free knowledge and pleasure from Great Maps, I recommend that you page through the book on a table or desk. Its size and weight do not favor assuming the usual book-reading posture in an easy chair, even though the casual reader may do so anyway. This book is beautifully printed and is of the appropriate size to showcase maps that you will want to spend a lot of time studying.

Some of the maps are approximately life-size; others are greatly down-scaled versions of huge originals. Each of the maps is accompanied by another couple of pages of details to help in the description and explanation of the map. The uninitiated reader will obtain a compelling overview of the history of map-making and the motivations behind the various types of maps.

I was not tempted to flip around the book at all. My intention was to savor each page in the order it appears. Even though I’m a self-identified history buff and “cartophile”, I knew this book would teach me some valuable lessons. It did so. Brotton lays out the maps in roughly chronological order.  The book presents works spanning from prehistory up to some of today’s digitally created maps.

GreatMaps-CassiniI particularly enjoyed the “New Map of France” by César-François Cassini de Thury. It illustrates a quantum leap in proportion and accuracy of presentation. France pioneered the use of precise surveying techniques so as to represent geographical facts. In the late 1600s, the scientific Cassini family was tasked with mapping the entire kingdom of King Louis XIV. Cassini and his team completed the survey and published the map in 1744. The “Carte de Cassini” is the first map that looks like a familiar, contemporary national map. This is the map that compelled me to bring out my magnifying glass in order to study detail.

I am certainly satisfied with the appearance and quality of Great Maps. Jerry Brotton did a great job of increasing my simmering curiosity about antique maps. I also appreciate the information given about the latest types of maps we can find on the World Wide Web. This book is certainly worth my valuable quality reading time.

{ Great Maps by Jerry Brotton; Published by Dorling Kindersley August 18, 2014; 256 pages; ISBN: 978-1-4654-2463-1 }

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness thinks that maps not only illustrate a landscape; they link people between there and here. They give us an outline of what we wish to explore.


About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in art, Books, History, Science, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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