Mapping Book Charts Row with Critics and Author Alike

Article excerpt

A ROW has erupted over errors - almost one a page - in a new SA book punted as a "landmark" publication that tells the story of the history of maps and map-making in southern Africa.

Critics, mainly experts in mapping, have said the errors have rendered the book, Mapping South Africa by Andrew Duminy of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, nothing more than "an attractive picture book".

The publishers, Jacana Media Pty Ltd, say the critics have not shown them all the errors and have behaved fairly aggressively, while the author, Duminy, has called the critics "disgraceful".

The publisher's blurb says the book "begins with the Portuguese voyages of exploration in the late 15th century, and proceeds to discuss the attempts of the Dutch and then of the British to chart and lay claim to the vast and expanding landscape" of southern Africa. Throughout the book, illustrated with many old maps, the author "reveals a close appreciation of the relations between science, exploration and cartography".

However, Richard Wonnacott, chief director of National Geospatial Information in Mowbray (formerly known as Trig Survey), disagrees, and says the book is "closer to fiction than to fact".

In a letter to the press, Wonnacott wrote that there are more than 150 errors, mistakes and "strange statements" which had been identified by a number of experts in the fields of map-making, surveying and astronomy.

Many of the references in the reading list were incomplete or incorrect, he said.

Wonnacott said yesterday that the errors ranged from technical mistakes to historical inaccuracies.

"For instance, he says a rhumb line indicates wind direction. It has nothing to do with wind. And he attributes things to the wrong people. …