Maps and Their Makers: An Introduction to the History of Cartography

Maps and Their Makers: An Introduction to the History of Cartography

Maps and Their Makers: An Introduction to the History of Cartography

Maps and Their Makers: An Introduction to the History of Cartography

Excerpt

The purpose of a map is to express graphically the relations of points and features on the earth's surface to each other. These are determined by distance and direction. In early times 'distance' might be expressed in units of time, or lineal measures --so many hours' march or days' journey by river, and these might vary on the same map according to the nature of the country.

The other element is direction, but for the ordinary traveller, whose main concern was "Where do I go from here, and how far away is it?" the accurate representation of direction was not of primary importance. Partly for this reason, written itineraries for a long time rivalled maps, and throughout the centuries from the Roman road map to the thirteenth-century itinerary from London to Rome of Matthew Paris and even to the Underground and similar 'maps' of today, no attempt is made to show true direction. Similarly, conspicuous landmarks along a route were at first indicated by signs, realistic or conventional, and varied in size to indicate their importance. Clearly the conventions employed varied with the purpose of the map, and also from place to place, so that in studying early maps the first essential is to understand the particular convention employed.

The history of cartography is largely that of the increase in the accuracy with which these elements of distance and direction are determined and in the comprehensiveness of the map content. In this development cartography has called in other sciences to its aid. Distances were measured with increasing accuracy 'on the ground'; then it was found that by applying trigonometrical principles it was unnecessary to measure every requisite distance directly, though this method required the . . .

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