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Why do I love old maps so much?
It’s partly about the colours, partly the typography. There’s also a sense of wonderment that these maps were charted with simple instruments — compass, telescope, sextant, parchment and ink — long before satellite photographs, laser range-finders, and GPS. And they were hand engraved in copper — in mirror image — before being printed.
Beyond that, there’s just a fascination with the two-dimensional representation of space. It’s not just ancient maps that appeal to me, modern (especially topographic) versions float my boat, too. There’s something about orienting myself in my physical environment, or imagining myself into a distant land, that connects me with the earth and reality. I can’t really explain it.
The map above was engraved by Benjamin Baker (1766-1841), of Islington, London, a prolific producer of engraved maps from the late 18th century onwards. It was published by William Faden (1750 – 1836) “Geographer to the King and to the Prince of Wales”.
I’ve done my share of map reproduction. The easy way: in Adobe Illustrator, with scans to trace, right-reading. Given their limited technology, the navigators, cartographers and engravers of the past have my utmost respect. Their maps truly are a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Do you love maps (ancient and/or modern)? If so, why do they appeal to you?