Monday, 10 February 2014

Cartography - Mapping Mundi

Photo by Calsidy Rose


Noun. Also (now rare) chartography. Mid-19th century.
[French cartographie, from carte map: see CARD noun, -OGRAPHY. Spelling with ch- after Latin charta.]

The drawing of maps or charts.

cartographer noun a person who draws maps;
an expert in or practitioner of cartography. M19

cartographic adjective M19

cartographically adverb M20

I spent so much time drawing maps in my childhood that, looking back, it seems incredible that I didn't ever consider cartography as something I'd like to do as a profession. I had folders, sketchbooks and notepads stuffed full of fantastic maps and charts - ancient and exotic lands full of expansive forests and tumbling plains, forbidding mountains and choking swamps. The cities, towns and trade routes would be painstakingly sketched and plotted, and journals filled with notes on the histories and cultures of these imagined kingdoms. Although my interests have become less fantastic in adulthood, my fascination with maps and cartography has never subsided, and sitting in my office as I write I have no less than seven maps displayed in front of me, from the modern to the antique, and displayed for reasons both practical and aesthetic. Thinking about cartography, it's difficult not to be humbled by the majesty of what is truly an art and a science, as there can be few human artifacts that so seamlessly unite both utility and beauty.

Historic maps are often humorously inaccurate by modern standards, with whole continents put in the wrong place and liberally adorned with cautionary images of monsters and serpents.
(Carta Marina, 1539)
Are you a cartographer or otherwise versed in the art-science of cartography?

Do please plot your most chart-felt comments in the box below.


  1. It truly is a combination of art and science. I cannot interpret maps into reality so I'm thankful for gps.

    Also, thanks for tweeting "venustraphobia" the other day. It came in handy in yesterday's post.

    1. Ooh ... I love map reading!

      And you're very welcome - 'venustraphobia' isn't in the OED, but if enough of us use it, maybe it will become mainstream. It's too good a word to let slip away.

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