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Map History / History of Cartography: THE Gateway to the Subject

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Books to get you into the subject

for lists of current and past reference books see 'General Bibliographies'
for introductory texts on the web see Map Collecting: Reading Matter

The following is a selection of general books about the history of cartography, written, for the most part, for the non-specialist. Those that provide a general, English-language, introduction to the subject are preceded by an asterisk (*). Most are printed works. You might be able to find one or two of the more general titles in a local or college library; the others would need a more specialised library.

To learn what one group found relevant see Bert Johnson 'Recommended publications from the personal libraries of Washington Map Society members', The Portolan 75 (Fall 2009) pp.32-42.

To keep up with current publications check out Matthew Edney's 'Map History Books of [the previous year]' on his Mapping as Process blog, and also the Map Room blog's Book Reviews category.

See also Matthew Edney's query of April 2020 to the H-Maps list: ‘What are the single-volume histories of maps/cartography?’ (prompting a number of helpful replies, e.g. about Dutch and German titles)

James R. Akerman & Robert W. Karrow Jr. (eds), Maps: Finding Our Place in the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press [co-published with the Field Museum], 2007). [The volume that accompanied the exhibition, 2007-08.]

J.H. Andrews, Maps in Those Days: Cartographic Methods Before 1850 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009).

Leo Bagrow, History of Cartography, ed. Raleigh A. Skelton, revised 2nd ed. (Chicago: Precedent, 1985).

* Peter Barber, The Map Book (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2005). [A large-format volume, featuring 175 maps, with commentaries by 68 map historians]

* Peter Barber & Christopher Board, Tales from the Map Room: Fact and Fiction about Maps and their Makers, (London: BBC, 1993). [Complements, with much original material, the TV series with the same name].

* Peter Barber & Tom Harper, Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art (London: British Library, 2010).

* Megan Barford, A is for Atlas: Wonders of Maps and Mapping (London, National Maritime Museum, 2022).

Ashley Baynton-Williams, The Curious Map Book (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

* Jeremy Black, Visions of the World: A History of Maps (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2003).

* Jeremy Black, Metropolis: Mapping the City (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

Roberto Borri, L'Europa nell'antica cartografia (Ivrea: Priuli & Verlucca, Editori, 2001).

Edward Brooke-Hitching, The Golden Atlas: The Greatest Explorations, Quests and Discoveries on Maps (Simon & Schuster, 2018)

* Jerry Brotton, A History of the World in Twelve Maps (London: Allen Lane, 2012).

* Jerry Brotton, Great Maps: the world's masterpieces explored and explained (London: Dorling Kindersley [Smithsonian Institution], 2014).

* Jerry Brotton & Nick Millea, Fifty Maps and the Stories They Tell (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2019)

* Lloyd A. Brown, The Story of Maps (New York: Dover Publications, 1979). [Reprint of the original ed., 1949. One of the most accessible and comprehensive accounts, albeit rather dated.]

* Tim Bryars & Tom Harper, A History of the Twentieth Century in 100 Maps (Chicago University Press, 2014).

* Tony Campbell, Early Maps (New York: Abbeville, 1981).

Tony Campbell, The Earliest Printed Maps, 1472-1500 (London: British Library; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

* Gerald Roe Crone, Maps and Their Makers, 5th ed. (Folkestone:Dawson, 1978).

François de Dainville, Le language des géographes: termes, signes, couleurs des cartes anciennes 1500-1800 (Paris: Picard, 1964). [Still a useful illustrated glossary of map terms.]

Surekha Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Catherine Delano Smith & Roger J.P. Kain, English Maps: a History (London: British Library, 1999).

Daniel Dorling and David Fairbairn, Mapping: Ways of Representing the World (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1997) [see Chapter 1, 'History of Cartography']

Matthew Edney, Cartography: the Ideal and its History (University of Chicago Press, 2019). (An historical overview of the history of cartography, rejecting the notion that maps represent an undifferentiated category of objects for study)

Evelyn Edson, Mapping Time and Space. The British Library Studies in Map History, 1 (London: British Library, 1999)

Evelyn Edson, The World Map, 1300-1492: The Persistence of Tradition and Transformation (Baltimore: Johns University Press, 2007)

* Ralph Ehrenberg, Mapping the World: an Illustrated History (National Geographic Books, 2005)

* Simon Garfield, On the Map: Why the world looks the way it does (2012).

Wilma George, Animals and Maps (London: Secker & Warburg, 1969).

* John Goss, The Mapmakers Art: A History of Cartography (London: Studio Editions, 1993). [Very well illustrated.]

Andrew Gow & Jolanta Pekacz. Bibliography. Scholarship on Mappaemundi and Early Printed World Maps'.

Joanne Woolway Grenfell, "A Bibliography of Secondary Texts Relating to Early Modern Literature and Geography" Early Modern Literary Studies 4.2/ Special Issue 3 (September, 1998) 16

J.B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography [ed. Paul Laxton, with an introduction by J.H. Andrews], (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)

Tom Harper, Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library (London: British Library, October 2018).

Tom Harper, Maps and the 20th century: drawing the line (London: British Library, 2017).

* Nathaniel Harris, Mapping the World: Maps and their History (London: Brown Partwork; [U.S.], Thunder Bay Press, 2002). [A 304-page, illustrated, general introduction]

Paul D. A. Harvey, The History of Topographical Maps: Symbols, Pictures and Surveys (London: Thames & Hudson, 1980). [Well-illustrated, detailed and wide-ranging account, along developmental lines, of map history from the Old and New Worlds. Useful bibliographies.]

Paul D. A. Harvey, Medieval Maps (London: The British Library, 1991). [Excellently illustrated overview, by genre, of extant maps from Europe up to the fifteenth century.]

Alan G. Hodgkiss, Understanding Maps: A Systematic History of Their Use and Development (Folkestone: Dawson, 1981). [A systematic survey of map development focusing on the `art and technique' of `using maps as a visual means of communicating'.]

* Alan G. Hodgkiss, Discovering Antique Maps (Princes Risborough: Shire Publications, 1996). [A useful, small guide].

* Nigel Holmes, Pictorial Maps (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1991). [Attractively written and well illustrated].

Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya, Barcelona - a series of lectures (1990-2000) given each year by representatives from a different country. This is the best starting point for mapping from the various European centres. Publication by the Institut followed soon afterwards. In 2010 all the texts [except No.8] were placed online for free viewing on the Institut's site. Be aware that the pdf files are very big and delays in downloading will occur.
      Despite the fact that the titles are in Catalan, several of the contributions are in English or in the language of the country concerned. The course schedule was: 1. `Introducció general a la història de la cartografia' (1990); 2. `La cartografia de la Península Ibèrica i la seva extensió al continent Americà' (1991); 3. `La cartografia italiana' (1992); 4. `La cartografia de los Paises Bajos' (1993); 5. `La cartografia francesa' (1994); 6. `La cartografia dels països de parla alemanya - Alemanya, Austria, Suïssa' (1995); 7. `English cartography: an introduction to its history' (1996); 8. `La cartographie des pays slavs' (1997); 9. `La cartografía iberoamericana' (1998); 10. 'La cartografia catalana' (1999); 11. 'Plantejaments i objectius d'una història universal de la cartografia' [Approaches and challenges in a worldwide history of cartography] (2000).

Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography throughout History. Translated by Tom Conley; edited by Edward H. Dahl. (University of Chicago Press, 2006).

George Kish, La Carte: Images des Civilisations (Paris: Seuil, 1980). [Illustrated selection of maps from prehistoric times to the twentieth century.]

Ingrid Kretschmer, Johannes Dörflinger, and Franz Wawrik (eds), Lexikon zur Geschichte der Kartographie, 2 vols. (Vienna: Deuticke, 1986). [Encyclopaedic presentation with an emphasis on geographical areas, map schools and individual map makers, with bibliographies - an important reference work and useful starting point.]

Ivan Kupcik, Alte Landkarten: von der Antike bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts, 2nd ed. (Hanau a. M: Dausien, 1984). Also French ed: Cartes géographiques anciennes: évolution de la représentation cartographique du monde: de l'antiquité à la fin du XIXe siècle, 2nd ed. (Paris: Gründ, 1984).

* Christopher W. Lane (with D.H. Cresswell), A Guide to Collecting Antique Maps, (Philadelphia Print Shop, 1997).

* Diana Lange & Benjamin van der Linde (eds), Maps and Colours: A Complex Relationship (Brill History, 2024).

Edward Lynam, The Mapmaker's Art (London: Batchworth, 1953). [Not yet entirely superseded.]

* Francis J. Manasek (revised by Marti & Curt Griggs), Collecting Old Maps (Collectingoldmaps.com, April 2015). [Including much useful and unexpected information, e.g. about the physical characteristics of paper, engraving, etc. Originally published by Terra Nova Press, Norwich, VT, 1998].

Map: Exploring the World, ed. Victoria Clarke, et al. (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2015).

Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes, Maps: Their Untold Stories (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). [An introduction to the cartographic collections of The [UK] National Archive].

Michel Mollat du Jourdin and Monique de la Roncière, Sea Charts of the Early Explorers: 13th to 17th Century (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1984). [Well-illustrated].

* Carl Moreland and David Bannister, Antique Maps, 3rd ed. [London: Phaidon, 1993].

Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, Facsimile-Atlas to the Early History of Cartography (New York: Dover Publications, 1973). [Reprint of the original ed., 1889].

Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, Periplus: an Essay on the Early History of Charts and Sailing-Directions (New York: B. Franklin, 1967). [Reprint of the original ed., 1897].

Marjo T. Nurminen. The Mapmakers' World: a cultural history of the European world map (Helsinki: John Nurminen Foundation; Pool of London Press, 2015).

Mike Parker, Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge & the Ordnance Survey (Collins, 2010).

Jan Parmentier (ed.). The world in a mirror: world maps from the Middle Ages to the present day (Schoten: MAS Books, 2015).

Mary Pedley, The Commerce of Cartography: Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth-Century France and England . The Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography (University of Chicago Press, 2005).

* Jonathan Potter, Collecting Antique Maps: An Introduction to the History of Cartography (London: Potter, 2002). [New edition of the work originally issued as The Country Life Book of Antique Maps (Country Life Books, 1988).]

Arthur H. Robinson, Early Thematic Mapping in the History of Cartography (Chicago University Press, 1982).

Alessandro Scafi, The Mapping of Paradise: a History of Heaven on Earth (London: British Library, 2006)

Anne-Rieke van Schaik, Bram Vannieuwehuyze & Marissa Griffioen, Oude kaarten lezen: Handboek historische cartografie (Uitgever: Uitgeverij WBOOKS, 2023).

Susan Schulten, A History of America in 100 Maps (London: British Library, 2018)

* Patricia Seed, The Oxford Map Companion: One Hundred Sources in World History(Oxford University Press, 2014).

Rodney W. Shirley, The Mapping of the World: Early Printed World Maps, 1472-1700, 4th ed. (Early World Press [mapsage.com], Riverside, CT, 2001). [With Corrigenda and Addenda (250 items) to the original ed., 1984. Remarkably comprehensive, well-illustrated catalogue (474 plates) of all known printed maps of the world, including separately printed maps, wall-maps and maps in books.]

* Raleigh A. Skelton, Decorative Printed Maps of the 15th to 18th Centuries (London: Spring Books, 1952). [A well illustrated, useful introduction.]

Raleigh A. Skelton, Explorers' Maps (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958).

Raleigh A. Skelton, Maps: a Historical Survey of their Study and Collecting. The Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography (University of Chicago Press, 1972).

John P. Snyder, Flattening the Earth: Two Thousand Years of Map Projections (Chicago University Press, 1993). [See also his Map Projections: A Working Manual (USGS, 1987 - a pdf of the 385-page book).]

* Sylvia Sumira, The Art and History of Globes (London: British Library, 2014). Alternate title: Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power (University of Chicago Press, 2014). [By a noted globe restorer, based on the British Library's collection.]

Norman J. W. Thrower, Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society. 4th Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2014). [Based on the author's 1972 book Maps & Man].

* Ronald V. Tooley, Charles Bricker, and Gerald R. Crone, Landmarks of Mapmaking: An Illustrated Survey of Maps and Mapmakers (Oxford: Phaidon, 1976).

Bram Vannieuwenhuyze, Marissa Griffioen & Anne-Rieke van Schaik. Oude kaarten lezen | Handboek voor historische cartografie (Zwolle: WBooks, 2023). [An overview of the history of cartography, in Dutch.]

Vincent Virga, Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations (Little, Brown and Company, 2007). ['Drawing on the Library of Congress's 4.8 million maps and 60,000 atlases, this is an overview of cartography in different times and cultures'.]

Helen M. Wallis and Arthur H. Robinson (eds), Cartographical Innovations: An International Handbook of Mapping Terms to 1900 (Tring: Map Collector Publications in association with the International Cartographic Association, 1987). [Each of the 191 entries provides a definition, details of innovation and diffusion, and bibliography.]

Peter Whitfield, The Charting of the Oceans: Ten Centuries of Maritime Maps (London: British Library, 1996).

* Peter Whitfield, The Image of the World: 20 Centuries of World Maps (London: British Library, 1994).

Peter Whitfield, The Mapping of the Heavens (London: British Library, 1995).

* John Noble Wilford, The Mapmakers: The Story of the Great Pioneers in Cartography - from Antiquity to the Space Age, Second Edition (New York: Knopf, 2000).

John A. Wolter and Ronald E. Grim (eds), Images of the World: the Atlas through History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997).

David Woodward (ed), Art and Cartography. Six Historical Essays (The Kenneth Nebenzahl Jr. Lectures in the History of Cartography at The Newberry Library; Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987). [Contains a number of important essays on this rarely-treated aspect.]

David Woodward (ed), Five Centuries of Map-Printing (The Kenneth Nebenzahl Jr. Lectures in the History of Cartography at The Newberry Library; Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1975). [Essential for the understanding of map production processes as a significant determinant of map content.]

The World in a Mirror: world maps from the Middle Ages to the present day (Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp: 2015).

Laurence Worms & Ashley Baynton-Williams, British Map Engravers: A Dictionary of Engravers, Lithographers and their Principal Employers to 1850 (London: Rare Book Society, 2011).

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