There’s something intriguing about old maps that can draw the imagination into them. I enjoy seeing and pondering the images. The maps that most interest me are the political maps. That is maps that delineate boundaries of nations, states, provinces, counties, and so forth.
There are atlases, and road maps I’ve accumulated over the years. There’s also a portfolio of loose maps that is stashed away. None of these are probably monetarily valuable, but they do have significance historically.
There is one old map that has been framed and now hangs in a hallway at home. The map of Nebraska, Dakota, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming was published in 1865 by A.J. Johnson. Johnson was a major atlas publisher and cartographer in 19th century America.
The rest of the images come from Barnes’ Complete Geography a school textbook that was printed in 1885. The map of Africa shows the organization of territories, colonies, and the few independent nations of that continent as they existed in the 1880s. If you can zoom in, you’ll see how the borders used to be.
American students are taught very little about the history of Asia in the 1800s. This is probably due to a lingering Eurocentric style of historical education. You can get a quick historical outline by checking out the details of the old map of Southeast Asia.
The European map is a “snapshot” of the often flexible borders of the nations and monarchies of that part of the world as drawn in 1884. These small countries were and continue to be at the heart of major political events that affect the entire world.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer Robert Harbison. “To put a city in a book, to put the world on one sheet of paper–maps are the most condensed humanized spaces of all…They make the landscape fit indoors, make us masters of sights we can’t see and spaces we can’t cover.”