Review of Talking Maps

Rhiannon Jakopak
2020 Cartographic Perspectives  
In Talking Maps, Jerry Brotton and Nick Millea set out with the ambitious goal of exploring how maps function as a conversation between the mapmaker and user, through a recounting of the origin stories of several selected maps. The authors use in-depth research to situate maps in the historical and cultural milieus in which they were produced, while encouraging the reader to question whether these examples (and by implication, all maps) serve primarily as cultural artifacts-reflecting the time
more » ... eflecting the time and place of their making-or as strictly unbiased scientific documents depicting the world. Talking Maps is an accessible, engaging, and casual read that would be most appropriate for readers who are relatively new to cartography and wish to know more about the cultural connotations that accompany any map. Talking Maps walks its readers through multiple categories, functions, and styles of maps, using examples of both well-known and sometimes-overlooked maps from around the world and across centuries. The book features high-quality images of nearly 100 maps that are accompanied by detailed descriptive texts discussing specific elements of the map, why it might have been produced, what it suggests about the time and culture of its origin, and more. The 10 chapters of the book cover a range of topics, including the changing conventions of map orientation through time, the rise of qibla maps-which show the devout the direction of the Kaabah in Mecca, and became ever more important as Muslims moved beyond the Arabian Peninsula-explanations of J. R. R. Tolkien's drawings of the Battle of Helm's Deep in the Lord of the Rings, and how maps were used strategically in World War II. Multiple times throughout the course of reading this book, I found myself excitedly showing whoever happened to be near me an image of a given map and sharing with them the history I had just been reading. The authors have extensive experience with cartography, map curation, and history. Brotton is a Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London and has published numerous books and articles on various topics related to history and cartography. Millea has been Map Librarian at the Bodleian Library since 1992 and has himself published numerous books and articles on cartography. The authors' expertise is on display throughout the book, which offers detailed documentation of the specific historical context of a place a map details, anecdotes about the predilections of the mapmakers, and more. These same gentlemen also curated the Talking Maps exhibition at the Bodleian's Weston Library (July 2019-March 2020). The Bodleian, at the University of Oxford, holds over 1.5 million maps, of which only a select few are featured in this book. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Talking Maps is the high-quality reproduction of such an impressive range of maps-from twelfth-century world maps to modern human population cartograms. The page layouts allow the reader to reference both the descriptions of the maps and the maps themselves with ease, without being
doi:10.14714/cp96.1659 fatcat:paob6umkyrbhzlnri2k3k3hd4u