a map of beauty is a joy for ever

Source. Usage rights: Free to use or share.

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?

Leave a comment


  1. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away free. I love seeing website that understands the value of providing a quality resource for free.

  2. Maps always fascinated me especially the old maps of European cities, so artistic and then the maps of the sea farers.

  3. rynnasaryonnah

     /  October 31, 2012

    I’m horrible at reading maps! Never met someone so passionate about them.

  4. Lola

     /  October 31, 2012

    Yes! I’ve always loved old globes, but my appreciation for maps came from you and learning to enhance mixed media art with them. I love traveling and those maps show me that others have cared about that all through time :)

  5. I love the feeling of control and ownership that making a map gives me. it is a way of collating everything I know about a place with my own experience of it. I also love mind-maps of particular subjects and emotional;maps representative of my own life – Imaginary sepia coastlines with such places as lakes of youth, mountains of despair, plains of hope and gardens of delight. As I create these places on paper, I am aware of them within myself and am able to manipulate, change and redeem them.


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