The art and science of maps

From the University of Chicago Press come two special books about maps. The History of Cartography, Volume 1: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean (629 pp., $100) is the first of six volumes to be published at two-year intervals.

The volumes are intended to fill the void every serious map lover has felt: Cartography, the art and science of making maps, has gone unrecorded. Editors J.B. Harley and David Woodward, both of the University of Wisconsin, present materials from prehistoric (Peking Man) through medieval Europe and Egypt.

The chapters are scholarly, definitive, and sometimes entertaining. The illustrative material is rich and diverse: not only maps, of course, but graphs and anything else that furthers the volume's goal, which is to place maps in their social contexts.

Like most major historiographical endeavors of our time, ``The History of Cartography'' tends to bury the monuments in what hitherto would have been called trivia - which makes the illustrations, including 40 full color plates, that much more important.

One of the editors of the series, David Woodward, has put together a collection of essays called Art and Cartography: Six Historical Essays (250 pp., $65). The book is illustrated with 34 color plates and 193 halftones.

Topics covered include Ptolemaic cartography, maps in Dutch art, mural map cycles, and three general topics: color, ornamentation, and calligraphy. Art lovers and map lovers alike will find food for thought here. So will philosophers - amateur and professional - intrigued by the overlaps between the aesthetic and utilitarian aspects of culture.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.