Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Urban Cartography and the Mapping of Chicago*

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Urban Cartography and the Mapping of Chicago*

Article excerpt

The mapping of cities probably began shortly after people started to congregate in settlements. A parallel progression in urban development and cartographic representation is documented by a body of city maps that can be traced from prehistory. Popular interest in these maps is nearly as old as the maps themselves, and the number of recent works suggests that their popularity has not diminished. In addition to beautifully illustrated volumes on the cartography of New York (Augustyn and Cohen 1997), Boston (Krieger and Cobb 1999), Detroit (Dunningan 2001), and Washington, D.C. (Reps 1991; I. Miller 2002), a recent exhibition explores several international cities, including Jerusalem, Rome, Paris, and Amsterdam (N. Miller 2000).

In spite of the long history of city mapping, the staggering number of maps produced, and the popular interest in these maps, urban cartography has received surprisingly little scholarly attention (Buisseret 1998; N. Miller 2000). Beyond popular works that explore specific cities, the subject is addressed in the occasional book chapter or journal article, but to my knowledge only three books are dedicated to the general topic of urban cartography: The City in Maps (Elliot 1987), a short monograph written to accompany an exhibition at the British Library nearly two decades ago; Envisioning the City (Buisseret 1998), a collection of somewhat diverse essays; and Mapping the City (N. Miller 2003), an examination of several Ptolemaic codices from the Renaissance. Like most other work on city maps, these publications focus on specific topics and particular genres of maps. What defines urban cartography and makes it unique, beyond subject matter alone, remains somewhat ambiguous and open to question.

My purpose here is to explore how urban cartography is distinctive from other forms of maps and mapping. More specifically, the objectives are to ask if there are general patterns in urban maps that might offer broad cartographic insights and to consider whether representations of the city differ functionally from other maps. Toward these ends, I begin with a brief look at the historical development of city mapping. Because the overwhelming number of maps that starts to emerge in the nineteenth century (Danzer 1990) may obscure general trends and seminal points, I explore the modern age further through the particular example of the mapping of Chicago. Drawing on representations of Chicago, I consider how, why, and under what circumstances these maps were made. Finally, by inference both from the survey of urban cartography and the case of Chicago, I offer some generalizations and frameworks that might be used to understand and investigate city maps. Throughout, the realization that a map is not a neutral representation but an argument with a distinct point of view that can be interrogated textually affords a context in which representations of the city can be explored as interwoven social constructs and as instruments of authority and control without diminishing their value as data sources, illustrative devices, and historical archives (Harley 1988, 1989; Wood 1992).

BEGINNINGS

Although the term "urban cartography" came into use only after World War II (N. Miller 2000), the town plan may well be the oldest form of map. The oldest depiction of a city is a wall painting of Catal Huyuk in central Turkey that dates to 6200 B.P.E. (Elliot 1987), but the first urban maps are arguably the well-known clay tablets from Mesopotamia (Danzer 1990; N. Miller 2000). The construction methods and quality of these tablets suggests that they were produced in quantity, yet, due to the paucity of extant examples and to questions about their specific purpose, their significance in the context of urban cartography must remain somewhat uncertain. With the possible exception of these tablets, town maps probably were not produced in any appreciable quantity until shortly after the Crusades, at which time plans of cities, especially those of the Holy Land, began to appear with some frequency (Harvey 1980; also see Nebenzahl 1986; Tishby 2001). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.