Thursday, September 02, 2010

Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art

The wonderful London Island map from yesterday comes from the exhibition at the British Library called Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda, and Art.

It shows 80 maps from 1400 to the present day including (allegedly) the largest and the smallest atlas. It groups them by theme, so there are court maps, explorer maps, propaganda maps from the 20th Century and so on.

What was interesting to me were the maritime maps, those used by sailors to navigate around the old world and to cross the wide oceans to the new worlds. What was interesting to me was how many did not have north at the top. There was a period when most maps traditionally had south at the top, and there was one map of Brazil that I think had west at the top.

Of course many maps weren't that inaccurate, such as above where Terra Australis just about connects to South America. There was a nice globe from William Sanderson from 1592, and apparently the oldest Chinese globe.

I spent some time perusing a large map of London from Charles II around 1680, showing London as just the City, Westminster and Southwark over the river: all around were pastures, and just the one bridge.

As a map lover I certainly enjoyed it, especially as if its free, though it wasn't huge. I'm more into maps as sources of information and tools than subjects of political and propaganda, so some rooms were walk straight throughs.

Anyhow its on until 19th September if you'd like to check it out.

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